For almost all of us, this coronavirus lockdown feels unending. The truth is that the day is coming when we will all be able to go back out into the world. The doors to our home will, figuratively, crack open. The people in our families who we have spent so much time with will likely never be this close, for so long, again. That means that now is the perfect time to have some important conversations with our families.
We’ve all read heartbreaking articles of how people are dying alone fighting this terrible plague. How many of those people are aching to see their loved ones so that they can have conversations they should have had long ago? Thankfully, for most of us, we’ve been sheltering in place and staying safe with the people we love. This time of forced togetherness is a wonderful opportunity to have important conversations with our families. Before the busyness of life resumes, there are three conversations that we need to have with our loved ones.
You Have My Blessing
The first conversation that you need to have with loved ones is the “You have my blessing” conversation. A blessing can be a wonderful way to empower them as they step back out into a world full of challenges. But why is a blessing such a big deal? And what is a blessing anyway?
Many people, perhaps even those who you are sheltering-in-place with right now, have waited all their life to hear from you that they have your blessing. There may not be a better time than right now for you to give a blessing to each of your loved ones. Your loved ones will soon be heading out to face one of the most challenging times our country has ever seen. These times are certainly unlike any other we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. All of us will face a very different struggle to rebuild and regain our jobs and lives.
How to Give a Blessing
Blessing someone means that you find a private place and sit down, face to face, with your child, spouse, parent, or even a close friend. A blessing should include the words, “I want you to know that I love you.” But a blessing is much more than that.
Next, take the time to share some character traits that you see in your loved one’s life. Share those unique, God-given strengths that you believe can help carry them through the tough days ahead. Strengths that you can see, even if they can’t, can help them get through this next season of life.
Giving this person your blessing can be a time to verbalize a special future for them. Even after all the loss, pain, and challenges we’ve gone through, and still will face, a special future lies ahead. Your child or spouse needs you to echo the words that they will have “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). They need to hear that they have strengths that they can use to build up, encourage, and bless others outside of your home.
Your blessing needs to end with you taking their hand or putting your hand on their shoulder. Even though we are all freaked out about any kind of touch right now, it’s okay to put your hand on a child or spouse’s shoulder. Tell them that no matter what, you are genuinely committed to them. You will be there for them, pray for them, and believe in them for as long as you have breath. And remind them that, even then, there is a God who will never leave them nor forsake them. Ever. He will be present during each tough and happy day ahead.
That is how a blessing conversation should happen. It doesn’t have to be written down (but it’s okay to take notes or write down what you want to say). Your blessing is not a formula or magic potion. But it can be one of the most important conversations that the two of you will ever have. This conversation might be something that they may well remember for the rest of their lives. They’ll remember the pandemic, where you were, and what you said to them. Tomorrow is never a guarantee, so have that blessing conversation now.
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Before you and your loved ones head back out into the world and get busy with outside relationships and activities, be sure to say, “I’m sorry.”
In Greek, the word forgiveness means “to untie the knot.” There are some of us who know for a fact that we’ve hurt someone under our roof, or that we’ve hurt a former friend or relative. Those hurts can indeed tie people in emotional knots, and keep us knotted up inside as well.
There has never been a better time to have an “I’m sorry” conversation. Find those people who you know, in your heart of hearts, need an apology from you. It doesn’t mean you have to go back to a grade school friend who you slighted and haven’t talked to in decades. But don’t let this time pass if you need to say something about some tough words or uncaring actions.
Untying the Knots
I remember the conversation I had with my father. He left when I was two months old. The next time I met him, I was in high school. I wished I had never met him. Frankly, I used to hate my father. Even after I became a Christian, I still disliked him. But one day I realized that I was the one who was all tied up in emotional knots over our relationship. I was losing sleep at night because I had so much anger toward him knotted up inside me.
I thought and prayed hard about it. Picking up the phone, I made a tough call and ended up sitting down with him. I told my father that I was sorry for being so angry with him for so long. Keep in mind, I was not expecting him to do the same with me. You can’t force another person to issue an apology or ask for forgiveness. But I could take care of the knots inside of me, and the knots I had caused.
I took responsibility for what I knew I needed to do. My father’s only response to me before he left was, “Well, if you need that, that’s fine.”
That was it. He walked away unchanged. My life has never been the same. I didn’t excuse his actions. No one, including God, asks you to pretend that bad things haven’t happened. But I can choose – and you can too – to have those “I’m sorry” conversations with your loved ones. Put down your pride. Say you’re sorry if you know it’s needed. You will untie your heart and life when you do – no matter how they respond. But you may be untying some knots in their life as well.
What Is the One Thing…
At StrongFamilies.com, we call this conversation the Two Degree Difference. It’s an acknowledgement that small things can begin to change everything.
Pick a night when it’s clear that the restrictions your family has been facing due to the pandemic are being relaxed, and it’s clear that places and events are going to open up. Have your family sit down at the kitchen table. You can do this individually if you need, but what an unforgettable experience to have the whole family gathered together for this conversation. You may even want to use this time for a photo op when your family conversation is finished!
After everyone is sitting down, you are going to go around the table and have every person share two things:
What One Thing Am I Looking Forward to the Most?
Go around the table and have each person share what they are looking forward to the most when things open back up. Is it eating at any restaurant they choose? Is it going to an amusement park or concert? Or traveling? Give each person the opportunity to share that one thing that they’re looking forward to the most.
What Strengths Do I See In Each of You?
Starting with the person who shared first, have everyone at the table share one positive strength that they see in that person. Maybe it’s something they’ve observed while living in such close quarters with them. This conversation can be much like the blessing conversation. It can be a wonderful way to encourage them for the challenging days ahead.
Here are a few ways that you can make the Two Degree Difference work smoothly with your family. First, have the most talkative person in the family go first. This uses their strengths of talking, but also gives the more reflective people in your family time to think through their answer. Next, you may want to have an item, such as a salt shaker, available for each person to hold when they are speaking. It can be a physical symbol that they have the floor. Create a rule that the person holding the salt shaker, or whichever item you choose, is the only one who can talk. When that person is finished sharing, they can pass the salt shaker to the next person at the table.
These three conversations are so important, and now is the perfect time to have one (or all three) with friends and family members. Don’t kid yourself. Tomorrow is never promised. Don’t find yourself in a position where you didn’t have these conversations with your family, but wish you would have! Your opportunity to have those conversations now can have a life-changing impact on a loved one’s heart and future.
© 2020 John Trent and Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.