When we talk about our relationships, the word “baggage” can sometimes be tossed around. A catchall word for our emotional histories, experiences, memories, and past relationships, our “baggage” is what makes us human. It’s a record of the people we’ve loved, the people we’ve hurt, the people who’ve hurt us. In short, our baggage makes our relationships what they are. While those histories are so vital to the establishment of new, healthy relationships, our baggage can also keep us from being totally honest and vulnerable with, or committed to friends or partners.
So, in this season of decluttering, let’s talk about how to declutter our relationships. A few weeks ago, we talked about Marie Kondo and her “life-changing magic of tidying up.” As I sat down to write this article, I was reflecting on those words: “life-changing.” At the most basic level, it seems pretty incredible that folding your shirts a different way and getting rid of some old papers could be life-changing. It’s kind of a comforting thought, especially as we walk this crazy path called life.
But Kondo calls us to do more than that. She says that in the process of letting go and tidying, we start to take stock of everything else in our lives, making physical space for the hard mental work that truly can be called “life-changing.” Our relationships get cluttered with jealousy, misunderstandings, and incorrect assumptions, just as our homes get cluttered with old clothes, books, papers, and mementos. Lent is a wonderful time and space to do that hard decluttering work.
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another,” Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians. “If one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14).
Let us take Paul’s words to heart this week as we devote special attention to decluttering our relationships. If a particularly negative person or interaction with a person weighs heavily at some point, sit down with a piece of paper and write about it. Write what happened, and reflect on the situation. Is it a long-term relationship? Is there a history that could explain the person’s actions? Were you partially at fault? Are there extenuating circumstances that could have caused the negativity?
It’s important that this is done on a piece of paper. Putting pen to paper makes it a physical object of commitment, as there is a deep spiritual connection between physical and emotional clutter. End your reflection with a prayer to God for that person, asking that they be relieved of their stressors or given grace in a difficult time, whatever seems opportune for the situation. Then, pray for yourself, that you might have the grace to respond to negativity as Paul asks. Finally, pray for the relationship — giving thanks that it exists, even if that existence isn’t always easy. 99.99 percent of the time, it’s worth it.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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