Throughout our lives each of us experience setbacks and moments of failure. It is one of the things that many of us have in common. We will have similar experiences or make similar mistakes and have similar failures. Occasionally, our responses will look very much like other people’s as well. Our path to failure is similar or our recovery looks the same however, comparison can be dangerous.
Sometimes I think comparison is the enemy. No two people respond the same way to anything. Certain setbacks, problems or failures require people to walk through situations at the same time. Comparison in these circumstances puts pressure on us or others that is unnecessary. Some people cannot or will not respond like you do or like you may want them to.
As I share in my book, The Long Walk Back, Barbara and I were facing similar failures and struggles. We had very similar pain and our circumstances were nearly identical. Over time, both of us found healing and grace, but the pace of the experience was completely different for both of us. Barbara’s healing came at a much different pace than mine. At times it would create tension as I saw her dealing with pain or emotions that I had dealt with previously and wondered why it was so difficult.
There are always a lot of factors that play into the setbacks of life, but just as many variances are present in the recovery from those setbacks as well. Over a number of years it became evident that there are some common differences in people that once we’re aware will help us appreciate their struggles and how they deal with them.
It is not a surprise to anyone that we all have different personalities. However, we probably do not place enough weight on how this affects how we deal with problems or pain. I am an extrovert while Barbara is an introvert. Her public confidence and social aggressiveness has grown over the years, some of which can be attributed to being forced into situations with me. Even now, most would still consider her an introvert, but it was even more so when we walked through the early part of our journey together.
My personality forced me to put myself out there. I got past much of the embarrassment and awkwardness with people. I tend to shake off interactions that are uncomfortable. By doing this, the normalcy of public interactions returned quicker for me. I do not want to pretend it was easy or that there was not this constant fear of having to deal with it again, but I plowed ahead. Barbara on the other hand was not as confident in those public relationships and tended to shy away from confrontation and simple interactions. This made her pace much slower than mine which at times was frustrating for both of us. I sometimes sought out uncomfortable situations whereas she avoided even the most simple interactions for years. Her understanding of my personality and my understanding of hers allowed us to better recognize how the other would respond in certain situations.
She was a mother and I was a father. Those roles probably had the most pronounced effect on how we dealt with issues. Fathers are not often the daily caregivers for their children. Mothers usually are. I was a pastor and a business owner so I was constantly busy. Though I made it a point to be present when something was going on with the children, I was not their constant caregiver day-to-day. Even in divorce I could still attend events and spend time with them. In reality, the time I was with my children then may have been even more intentional than before.
Barbara on the other hand was a stay-at-home mom and was their daily caregiver. She was involved in every facet of their lives. Divorce and separation wreaked havoc on her role and created a great deal of pain and regret that took years to heal. This was probably the place I was also the most inconsiderate, mostly because I did not identify very well. We are often inconsiderate when other’s situations are different from ours. Her very identity was involved in being a mother. Though I had lost some of the things I identified with, there were many other things in my life that stayed the same. Her role, or vocation, changed dramatically. We must be aware that sometimes people’s identity is so wrapped up in one single thing that if it is gone, it can be devastating.
Other People’s Response
This is the one that we have the least control over and sometimes the one that can create the most obstacles for us. Whether we are willing to admit this is relevant or not, our culture views men and women differently, especially in divorce. There was a certain amount discrimination because she was a woman and I was a man. Frankly, many viewed my behavior as normal and her’s as abnormal.
Our life roles also played a part in this. I was a part of many people’s lives while because of her role and personality, her interactions were limited. If you are a significant part of someone else’s life, they tend to offer forgiveness or at least overlook offenses more easily. Another unfortunate part of this is we often feel like we need someone to blame. If we are a part of someone’s life and there is a disaster, we look for someone to blame. She often carried more blame than she deserved. People’s response to both of us had a significant effect on how we healed. Watching how this played out in our lives has made me more intentional when dealing with others facing difficult circumstances.
The question is never if we are going to face setbacks or challenges. It is how will we respond when they come. Response is dictated by many factors. Understanding those factors will allow us to better understand where someone is and how they are progressing. Don’t spend so much time comparing. Spend more time understanding. It will be much more beneficial. I hope that the lessons I have learned and share in The Long Walk Back will be beneficial to you and those around you. I would love to hear from you in the comment section of how you overcame certain difficulties in your own life.