01 Mar '18 — listening for once
I spent over an hour listening to my dad. ‘Wow! I’m actually old enough to listen. Back in the day, I would just argue.’
Listening gave me insight that had nothing to do with what he wanted me to hear.
My father was lecturing me about my brother’s video game addiction. My brother can’t find a way to graduate college because he’s so into League of Legends that he can’t finish his classes. It’s been over two years of community college and still his grades aren’t good enough.
During the lecture, my father described how his family was laughing at him. All my uncles and aunts were comparing their children to his. ‘They all think I’m a failure. Like I deserve this.’
His pain was relatable. I also have a desire to prove to everyone that my life strategy is correct. If you’re not winning, there’s a lot of people around to comment on how ‘incorrect’ you are. ‘You shouldn’t have moved there, you shouldn’t have quit that job…’ So many ‘helpful opinions’ but in family dealings, everyone has one goal. Show everyone ‘I was right!’
My dad wants his family to respect him badly. Or rather, the respect he wants from them is much higher than he’s capable of getting. ‘Look how wonderful my children have all turned out! It must be because I did all the right things at all the right times.’
During his lecture, he suggested that I talk to my brother more. Get him out of the house. My brother is 21. He’s no longer a child that’ll follow at my beckoning. He does not want to chat with me.
I did feel pressure to make things better. ‘Maybe I should try to figure out a way to ‘fix’ my brother.’
My brother doesn’t need fixing. But as I found myself wanting to help, I started subscribing to my dad’s reality. It wasn’t my reality.
And why did I feel the pressure to help? I wanted respect from my dad.
He’s unhappy that I’m incapable of influencing my brother so that my brother could be the person he wants him to be.
My father is looking for respect from his family. By ‘fixing’ my brother into a ‘better’ person, he feels that he might be able to get that respect.
Similarly, I am looking for respect from my dad. By obeying his instructions to ‘fix’ my brother, I felt that was a way to get the respect.
I don’t know anyone who respects a person who obeys. As much as the deal is laid out that way, ‘you’ll get my respect if you listen and behave the way I want’, one can never get respect that way.
But beyond attaining respect, why do I need my dad’s respect?
It’s very common to desire. But what do I need it for? Am I not feeling good about myself?
60% of me totally ignores the lecture, but 40% of me has a desire to gain that respect.
There’s only one right answer. I need to sit tight, uneasy with the feeling that I don’t have his respect. If I obey, that 60% of me that respects myself will fall.
I can provide an ear to listen, but I cannot obey my dad’s request. I cannot respond to my own need for respect.