We have a saying in our household: “our favorite ‘tools’ are a phone and a phonebook.” When something needs a fixn’, we have to call it in. This makes us pretty needy neighbors. We borrow a lot. But, hey, if you need a screw driver or hammer, we’re “here for you.” A couple of years ago, however, I acquired a new “tool” that I use almost everyday. I am still learning to use it properly and skillfully, but nevertheless, I carry it on me like a construction worker wearing a tool-belt. I have learned how to use several new “tools” since I joined a recovery program, but this is the one I keep within my reach; polished and ready to go. It’s called “DETACHMENT”. Even if your only other tools are a screw driver and a hammer-this is a tool worth investing in and figuring out how to use. Here’s what it does: Detachment helps you separate yourself emotionally and spiritually from other people. What an absolutely lovely way to live. One very important instruction that comes with using this tool, is that it MUST be done with LOVE. Detachment is about establishing boundaries, not building walls (rats). It’s easy enough to use this tool with friends or strangers, but detachment becomes much more challenging with our spouse or children or people we are emotionally “attached” to. My tendency is to take on whatever mood my loved ones are experiencing. If my daughter is anxious about a “mean girls” problem or my 15 yr old son is stressed about homework or my college age son is overwhelmed with the pressures of “real life”, isn’t any good mother required to join them in these emotions? If my husband is cranky because the house is a mess, work is intense or more often than not, because his sports team lost, shouldn’t an attentive wife join him in his lamenting?
That’s why DETACHMENT is such a fabulous tool (Personally, I think it should come as a free gift to anyone buying a Christmas Tree, since I am pretty sure most of us lose our relational serenity trying to set this up). It allows me to be loving and compassionate, but not engage in experiencing other people’s emotions. It means that I can still be joyful and happy and free, even if someone else is having a bad day. It gives me permission to live my own life and take responsibility for my own feelings and actions. The other wonderful gift that comes from using this tool, is that when we use it properly, we treat those around us with dignity and respect, allowing them to express themselves honestly and to experience the consequences of their own behavior without our interference. “Detachment allows us to let go of our obsession with another’s behavior and begin to lead happier and more manageable lives, lives with dignity and rights, lives guided by a Power greater than ourselves.”
As I was pondering what to write about this morning, I was all of a sudden reminded of this tool. My spirit was feeling heavy and dis-jointed, when it dawned on me that I was feeling that way because someone I loved was not “ok”. Actually, it was more that I perceived that they were not “ok”, and so my default setting was to take on this frame of mind. When I remembered this tool, my heart leapt. It lost weight. I felt hopeful. I didn’t have to be morose all day. I could choose to be kind and understanding to my loved one, let them feel and experience what God has for them, and still have a good day. I still get to be fully who God made me to be and let them be fully who God made THEM to be. Loving myself, and those around me, enough to master the use of this tool, is one of the greatest investments of my time and energy I can think of. I need a fixn’ in this area, and I can’t call this one in.