I had dinner with a very wise friend last week. I was talking to her about our new financial paradigm, i.e., David is in charge of providing for the family and I’m in charge of empowering him.
I told my friend about my recent realization that I really don’t like the job of empowerment. My ideal vision of empowerment is me floating around like Grace Kelly dispensing nuggets of wisdom (yes, you’ve heard me say that before), which David accepts graciously and enthusiastically. Instead, empowerment (at least for us) involves a lot of reminders and checklists (boring!), a fair amount of arguing (annoying!) and a lot of discomfort on both sides (uncomfortable [um, redundant!]). I don’t always know when I’m appropriately challenging David and when I’m just nagging or dumping my anxiety. We’re usually able to figure it out eventually, but it can be really messy and painful.
After I described this phenomenon to my friend, she told me that an element of sadism** is absolutely a necessary part of helping someone transform. We don’t like to knowingly or intentionally inflict pain or discomfort on those we love (including ourselves), but we must embrace it with a certain enthusiasm if we’re going to support someone’s growth.
I have spent most of my life doing everything I could NOT to make those around me uncomfortable. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was protecting them or me. But, in fact, I was insulating myself and those around me from feelings, facts and realities that could have led to more understanding, compassion, integrity and intimacy.
I am also realizing that this concept is particularly important when it comes to parenting. I must have some capacity to willingly inflict pain or discomfort in order to let my kids face the difficulties and unpredictability in their world — to tell the truth, even when I know it will cause my kids disappointment or hurt — or to push them to do something even when they’re scared.
[**I really made an effort to only use this word once during this post because I was afraid of what type of traffic might be driven to my blog if I used it multiple times!!]