Letting in the light when the demons collide

Have you ever spent time with someone you care about and walk away thinking, "What was that?" The interaction was awkward or fraught with irritation. Maybe something was interpreted as a personal attack, or one said something that hurt the other but the offender seemed to have no idea of her offense. Or maybe one of you thought you were being helpful, but really the help came across as condescension.

I've thought and written a lot about being kind to one another, which I still believe is important. But in reading Brene Brown and just in being more aware of my surroundings, I've developed a theory:

When demons collide, it can either be catastrophic or constructive to a relationship.

We're all fighting so much of the same things: perfectionism, identity, comparison, emotional hurt, imperfection, unworthiness, etc. But because we are different people with varying viewpoints and ways of dealing with the world, our way of expression is not the same. This is when demons collide, and what we do with it will make or break our relationships.

What I've noticed is that when demons collide - when two mothers are together and both have the demon of comparing, or a romance begins between a man who constantly plays the comparison game and a woman who carries a great amount of emotional hurt - the collision can either do incredible harm or it can change both parties for the better.

If I'm hanging out with a mom and we both have a strong tendency to compare, we could let it get the best of us by pitting our kids against each other and listening to the dark voices that bitterly tell us the other mom is better, that we'll never be enough, and her kid is so dumb anyway. There's no way we could be friends because I'd be silently bad-mouthing her and her kid all day long.

Or, if I'm hanging out with that same mom, we could find companionship in our struggles and lean on one another for support and encouragement to improve our relationship. I could say, "I struggle with that, too. It's not just you." Focusing on the commonality and the fact that we could love each other through the mess would be so much more constructive than writing each other off as a snarky witch who cares only about her super-smart kid.

As you talk and walk through life with the people you love, think about your and their demons. Think about the story you're making up in your head based on the demon you're fighting. Instead of bitterly writing off what could be a strong relationship, look through the muddy waters and tell the other person, "I see you're struggling with ________; me too."

C.S. Lewis said in Four Loves, "Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another, 'What! You too? I thought that no one but myself..." We can unwrap ourselves from thinking we're the only one fighting darkness underneath our "calm and cool" exteriors and jump into a friendship that could bring light where we need it the most.