"What's wrong?" I asked my friend who seemed really sad. Her answer was a long story about her 16-year-old son who'd come home late the previous week. He had been drinking.
Angrily she described how he'd broken the rules, betrayed the family, driven the car under the influence, and how he didn't seem to care. Her criticisms were readily available as though she'd been collecting them... "He's not cleaning his room, not feeding the dog, not communicating with us, he even got a D in one of his classes." Her list went on and on. After a good ten minutes of letting it all out she became quiet. I gently asked...
"What's right with him?"
She looked at me confused so I added, "Do you see anything good or wonderful in him?" She softened a bit and I asked, "Have you gathered a list of his positive characteristics like you've collected your list of what's wrong with him?"
She grappled with the idea awhile before she replied. "Honestly, I've been too mad at him to even consider that. But now that you ask, I feel how much I miss him. A tiny smile appeared as she shared, "His grin always gets me... and those eyes." She was opening up as her attention moved away from criticism. I stayed quiet and let her heart do the work. After a little exploring she spoke softly about how much she loved him. She admitted how often she was thinking and talking about how wrong he is. Teary eyed she told me, "I haven't noticed the good in him in a long time."
To grow a reality... feed it energy and attention.
Many of us have been taught that constantly pointing out what's wrong is the best way to help someone. We do this believing it will create change. If our communication is motivated by wanting them to see how bad and guilty they are, it usually grows rebellion. If we set down our criticism and connect with the intention that they discover what matters to them, solutions appear. When we believe in their goodness they can feel it.
Repeatedly focusing on what's wrong is often more about our need for control or proving how right we are than it is about kindly assisting another.
We did an exercise that allowed her to experience her son through the critical thoughts she'd been having. It was painful for her to admit how often she does this. She realized she was having more of a relationship with her judgment about her son than she was with him. We explored with Catch & Release and as she let go of her fears she was able to experience her son's true nature, his kind heart, and understand that he's learning about life. She also recognized that her idea of motivating him by making him feel bad was ineffective. She knew this deeply because that was how she was raised.
She had an epiphany...
"Noticing what's right with my son is the path to really connecting with him. When I see his goodness, it's easy to believe in him. I know he feels that and it helps him believe in himself! He won't run from me anymore because he won't need to defend himself from my criticism. I can't wait to be with him."
In this sweet space we contemplated how the thoughts we feed our attention to... grow. We loved the idea of offering some kindness to the world simply by noticing what's right.