Truth-tellers and peacemakers

Joey Garcia

My mom and sister fight all the time. My sister never talks to our parents when something is wrong. How can I get her to trust them with her problems and be more open?

Find out why your sister is so angry. It might be because in the past, if she did open up to your mom or dad, they overreacted. In most cases, it’s a variation on the following script.

Parent: “What’s wrong?”

Teen: “Nothing.”

Parent: “You can tell me. Maybe I can help.”

Teen: “I’m, like, freaking out right now because I just found out that my best friend, Bella, had, like, sex with her boyfriend, and thinks she has an STD, and she might be pregnant!”

Parent: “Are you having sex? Oh my God! You’re having sex, aren’t you?!”

Teenager: “Nooo!”

Parent: “Don’t lie to me!”

The bottom line, of course, is that many adults lack listening skills and love dramatic conflict. For those who are parents, this predilection is particularly damaging to their teenagers. Good communication skills include the ability to hear what is actually being said (and not what one’s fear filter says is being said) and to stay present (noticing one’s emotions and resisting the tendency to embody the worst). Yes, that means your parents must listen to your sister without criticizing her. They must learn how to help her shape a direction for her life that is healthy, affirming and inspired, while being true to the core of her being.

Your sister can only trust your parents if honesty prevails in their relationship. Trust is created on the foundation of truth-telling. So, if your sister lies to herself or if your parents have lied to your sister, their mutual capacity for trust is stunted. Your sister would be better served talking to a counselor and developing skills to manage her emotions during conversations with your parents.

You have adopted the role of the peacemaker in this story, and that might suit you. But any role is ultimately confining and can distract you from your real calling. While I am grateful for your willingness to intervene, I want you to remember that people change because they choose to do so, and not because we know it would be best. Your lesson in this mess might be to remain calm and carry on in the midst of the skirmishes erupting around you.

At some point in college I started repressing my feelings. I actually remember telling myself not to react or feel anything after my girlfriend at the time broke up with me. She was always extreme—she cut, had major mood swings and seemed too needy—so, I was actually cool with the breakup. But the girlfriend I have now always complains that she can’t reach me. How do I open up? I feel like I’m stuck like this, and I can’t change.

Reveal your heart and mind to your girlfriend by pushing yourself every day to invite her a little further into the story of who you are. Self-disclosure is a gradual process of sharing your feelings and introducing the facts that make you the mundane and unique person you are. This is essential to the friendship that is the basis for a romantic relationship. At first, divulging information may make you feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, seen and, perhaps, even judged. Those fear-based feelings are your mind’s way of slowing you down, because you have trained yourself to withhold emotion. Acknowledge worrisome emotions, but try not to be their slave. Instead, stay with the practice of compassionately expressing how you feel. Doing so is an act of self-love. And, yes, you can change. I believe in you, and eventually, you will believe in you, too.

Meditation of the week
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another,” wrote Charles Dickens. What are you doing to transform the lives of orphans in Afghanistan? Widows in Iraq? The impoverished in India?

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