While visiting my son in Chicago, I attended a group where he volunteers as a facilitator. At some point during his talk, he made the comment, “My Mom thinks I’m perfect.” He was making a point about mothers and how they don’t think anyone is good enough for their children.
I refrained from correcting him at the time, but it got me to thinking.
I do not believe that my son is perfect. Stellar, yes. Perfect, no.
He earned his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania. Yes, my son is an Ivy League doctor and the first in his family to earn a college degree.
He’s currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago.
He volunteers as a facilitator with groups who are mastering English as a second language.
He makes weekly visits to a double amputee who is confined to a nursing home.
He also visits a Burmese family of refugees on a weekly basis, helping them to navigate life in a land where they don’t speak the language.
He’s one of the most loving, compassionate, and faithful men I know, and he also has a wicked sense of humor.
All of that doesn’t make him perfect. He’s just as human as the rest of us, though I’d have to say he has worked his own personal growth to a much greater degree than many.
That still doesn’t make him perfect.
When he was in his early teens, we fought over his lack of attention to housekeeping. I would get incredibly frustrated with his claimed inability to see the mess in his own bathroom.
That was my flaw. My perspective has changed.
I love visiting my son. We have the most fantastic conversations, and he’s always introducing me to fascinating people and experiences. There is one constant in my visits; each time I visit, I delight in doing a ‘spring cleaning’ of his apartment. The way I see it, he is a very busy young man, who is very busy making the world a better place for many. It gives me great pleasure to support him in that work. Making sure his home is a nice place to be is one of the ways I enjoy being able to do that.
It is certainly a perspective shift from the ‘shoulds’ that I threw at him all those years ago, and it has created a difference in his behavior, too.
This most recent trip, he announced as we walked through the door, “I cleaned the bathroom.” He was smiling. The love and satisfaction in that statement was evident. He was happy he had made it nice for me.
Dropping my contempt from our relationship and choosing a new perspective gave him the room to shift his energy, too.
Judgment shuts down the human spirit and leads to resistance. Admiration, love, respect, compassion, and all of the positive foci open the spirit and lead to cooperation.
This is true to such a degree that Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink, cites the work of Dr. John Gottman and his Marriage Lab. Dr. Gottman can predict the future success of a marriage with 90% accuracy after observing a couple for only 15 minutes, and there is a single trait that makes it so easy. From the book: “If Gottman observes one or both partners in a marriage showing contempt toward the other, he considers it the single most important sign that the marriage is in trouble.
Contempt, the most aggressive form of negative judgment, is the death knell for relationships, marriage or otherwise.
When I judged my son harshly in his early teen years, we had many battles. Our relationship got so bad that he went to live with his father and we broke contact. It was not a good time for me. I learned later that it was equally difficult for him.
I have been a Life Coach for over 5 years now. He points to the time of my introduction to coaching as the time our relationship began to really shift. As I have moved deeper into the principles of coaching, working through my own issues and into my personal growth, our relationship has grown stronger and sweeter.
No, I really don’t think my son is perfect. I recognize his weaknesses, but choose to focus on his strengths and provide support in the areas where he is not as strong. I look forward to the day when I have a daughter-in-law who holds him in the same regard.
If you would like to experience what it is like to have someone focus on your strengths and support you in the areas where you are not as strong, I would love to talk with you. Coaching is a powerful, proven tool for opening tremendous new horizons in life. I am committed to providing that with an authentically positive focus.