I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Tough Conversations”. Communication is the key to relationships. Talking about the things we’d rather not talk about is one of the most important things we do. When we disagree and talk about it, it allows for a space to allow God to do the work of reconciliation. When we stay silent we often harbor resentment and hold grudges, it ultimately destroys the relationship that we were trying to protect by not talking about the elephant in the room.
There are good and bad ways to have those difficult conversations, but not having the conversation is worse than having a bad conversation. Sometimes having the conversations reveals something that we would rather keep secret, a failure, a regret, a struggle we are having. Our culture says that we are to be self-reliant, to be independent, to “take care of our business”, that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We’ve also been told that there are subjects that are off limits, religion, politics, money, etc. All of this creates a environment of mistrust and anger, we’re angry that we feel alone in our struggle and yet, we don’t trust even those closest to us to share our struggles. Most importantly, we don’t communicate our feelings to the person who caused them. We’d rather complain to our friends about our neighbor’s dog than walk next door and have a conversation about the dog with its owner.
Franciscan author and priest, Father Richard Rohr says, “Anger that is not transformed is transferred.” It’s transferred on to our families, our jobs, our spouses, our friends, our dog, our kids. We must be willing and able to talk about the hard things, about the things that make us angry, fearful, or resentful and we must be able to talk to those people closest to you or who with whom you are angry, scared, or resenting.
There seems to be a lot of mistrust going on in City Hall right now. There’s a lot of mistrust of City Hall by the citizens of Nebraska City and if you listen you’ll hear a lot of stories about corruption and back dealing and whose fault it is. What we don’t hear is any reason why (other than vague personal jabs) suddenly there is all of this controversy. The Council went on a retreat to, presumably have these conversations and air out their grievances; it doesn’t seem to have worked. There are legal issues at play and there are, obviously, things that do not need to be public knowledge. However, as a citizen who reads the paper ands listens the radio, there is a lot of anger in the air and it’s playing out through sound bites and press conferences. This isn’t helpful if the Council itself wants to have a healthy relationship, even if the members of council don’t agree, this isn’t helpful for the council if it wants to have a relationship with the people who elected them. This isn’t helpful for us as a city moving forward.
There are good and bad ways to have those conversations. Right now it seems as if there are only bad choices being made. Those bad choices are going to lead to bad consequences not for the council members but for the town, there will be a ripple effect that could last decades. It is unacceptable for this town to be held hostage by people not willing to talk honestly and openly about their anger, mistrust, and fear. Those are conversations that need to happen.
My wife and I are very open with our kids, we tell them their actions have consequences. We explain those consequences. We also let them talk about their feelings, they have a right to be mad, sad, angry, scared, they have a right to have emotions. We also after the storm has passed talk to them about why they had that reaction. Sometimes it’s because one of us made a mistake. We own up to those mistakes and try to move forward together.
We do that for our kids, and I think we owe that to our city.
At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.
Favorite: Watching my kids learn and grow, the ways they develop language, and get excited about learning.
Not Favorite: I had a stomach bug this week that laid me low.