Everyone is under pressure right now. Pressure to make decisions. Pressure to perform in an unknown environment. Pressure to care for people who are sick while putting their own life at risk. Financial pressure. Relationship pressure. And not least of all family pressure.
There is probably no place that is experiencing the effects of this worldwide pandemic like the family unit. Kids are out of school and parents are having to juggle other responsibilities with trying to help their child stay on pace and prepared for next year. Many people are working from home putting more people in the house than normal. Some people have lost their jobs which affects the family unit. Not to mention families that are actually dealing with the infection of a family member and possibly even death.
Crisis causes us to deal with things we were not prepared for while at the same time revealing things we had no idea were there. Each person responds differently to pressure, but even the best responses reveal things that are sometimes ugly and even painful. I am not sure what you are seeing in your family right now, but here are a few of the things people are talking to me about.
Crisis Exposes Our Weak Points
We do not get to choose how we respond in crisis. We respond out of who we are. Response to a crisis is automatic. Whether we know it or not, we have been preparing how we were going to respond for years. It is in those moments of crisis that we are revealed for who we really are. There is no time to prepare or repair at that point. We are just exposed.
All of us have areas of weakness. Whatever those weaknesses are they tend to be front and center during difficult times. Crisis does not make a person as much as it reveals a person. Sometimes we are shocked because we thought we had dealt with certain things long ago. Others can be surprised because they find out things about you that you had been able to keep hidden in times of normalcy. Things that are not defined ahead of time are hard to define in crisis. In battle, a weak point that fails can put the strongest forces at risk. When our weak places are revealed it often invites fear and frustration into our lives and our family.
Normal Roles Are Challenged
Most likely your family has some fairly defined roles. In our home, there are things I focus on and other things my wife focuses on. It does not mean that we do not help each other, but it does mean we depend on one another to carry their weight so the other one does not have to worry about certain things. Almost every organization works this way from businesses to churches to government. We are dependent on everyone else filling their roles for things to operate smoothly.
In a crisis, it is an all-hands-on-deck mode. Roles get fuzzy and responsibilities start to bleed. We are trying to survive. The problem is that we end up doing things that we do not enjoy, things we are not sure how to do or things that we are just not good at. This tends to make us frustrated and irritable which only adds extra pressure to our family unit. Understanding that this is not permanent can help us chip in for the short term to make things work smoothly.
When crisis comes and routines fade one of the first victims is intimacy. Stress is one of the greatest inhibitors to physical intimacy which seems strange because physical intimacy is one of the biggest relievers of stress. In crisis, we tend to use all of our energy trying to keep things together and we forget that we need intimacy with one another. In the current crisis, the lack of intimacy is heightened because the normal hugs, handshakes, and high fives are no longer a good idea while we practice social distancing. People need intimacy. There is never a time you have to be more intentional about intimacy than in crisis.
Grief From Loss
In this crisis, there are people who are grieving from the loss of a loved one. We are all familiar with the grieving associated with death. But in this crisis, there are many things people are grieving about, sometimes without even realizing that is what is going on.
People are grieving the loss of a job. Almost everyone is grieving not being able to gather with others and share the relationships we crave so deeply. We are experiencing a loss of freedoms for a while. We have lost certain pleasures like taking trips or going out to eat at a restaurant. Grief creates sadness and brokenness. Give the people in your house some space to grieve whatever they have lost. Support and encourage one another. Grief should always be temporary.
There are so many other things I could discuss here. Things like how we get defensive when our weaknesses are pointed out or how we can overlook things in small doses but when we are together 24/7 it seems like the worst flaw in the world. Understand that everyone is feeling some pressure right now. You are not alone. Your family is not alone. Your marriage is not the only one. Know what the pressures are. Work at alleviating them and then be intentional to come out of this a better unit than when this started. Crisis does not have to crush you. It can grow you if you allow it.