See Others: The Power of Mutuality
In this languid summer season, Kaleid ladies are doing life with power and presence. Specifically, Holy Spirit power and Holy Spirit presence that help us to lean into open-hearted, loving service in the world.
For a woman, “doing life” is nearly always synonymous with loving others. Our lives are full to the brim with people - colleagues, neighbors, children, husbands, in-laws, girlfriends, facebook friends, pool friends, church friends, work friends. You know. People. Who take time. And attention.
I bet we are all familiar with one of the most common power-draining forces in relationship. Shh. Listen for a minute and you might hear it at work. Do you hear the sound of life, joy, and freedom being drained out of women by its force?
What is it, you ask?
Thought bubbles appear: (You: Yikes! Who wants a fancy therapy term on a sunny summer Wednesday?) (Kaleid: Hang tight, you might just appreciate this foray into the collective head of women by the end.)
Quick unofficial definition: codependency is when our happiness rests on another person’s change.*
We hear - we feel - the drain of codependency, and we want to throw you a powerful lifeline for a minute on this full-of-family-and-friends July 4th weekend.
When our efforts in the direction of those we love (and those we serve) gets wrapped up in our expectations of their change, we begin to lose power. We feel drained by the burden of the effort to love and we feel frustrated that our acts of love aren’t producing the change we wish for. Maybe we desire greater intimacy or less rebellion, perhaps we want them to stop making unwise choices, or maybe it’s just that we want the best for someone we love and we think our efforts will effect that change in their life. Any way we slice it, women are famous for putting pressure on the change of another through our “love.”
Where does real power lie? Where is the Holy Spirit power for fortified, strong love that can run for days, weeks, even years without running empty?
Imagine a white piece of paper with two circles drawn on it so that they come close but don’t touch one another. These circles represent two people in relationship. They both have skills, talents, wisdom, and resources. They both have needs, fears, wants, and hurts. In short, they are both human. Between them and around them is white space - space of separation and distinction.
The antidote to the drain of codependency in relationship is mutuality. Mutuality is the recognition that I am distinct from you. I have some things to offer and I have some things that I need. You have some things to offer and some things that you need. We both have choices to make in our current situation, even if one of us has inherently more power than another (say in the case of mother to child or volunteer to person in need). We can give and we can receive. This is one powerful truth of relating to others with mutuality.
The other powerful dynamic at work in mutuality is the white space on the paper. This space between us and around us reminds us that we are not the same as the other in our wishes, hopes, wiring, dreams, or understanding. But the Holy Spirit works in the white spaces. The Holy Spirit works in the spaces where my loving effort toward another leaves off and the other’s will to choose what to do with my loving effort picks up. If the other person never changes, the Holy Spirit still holds me whole - body, soul, and spirit. If the other person needs things I can’t conjur, the Holy Spirit holds them whole - body, soul, and spirit. Mutuality leaves space for the agency and mystery of God. It restores power to us even as it makes space for our weakness.
So today, on this holiday weekend, take a deep breath. Breathe out the overlapping complicated relational spaces and breathe in the white grace of the Holy Spirit’s power to hold us all whole - body, soul, and spirit. Breathe out codependency and breathe in mutuality.
The Kaleid Team