“There is no beauty in domination. Control is a cheap substitute for partnership.”
Moving toward the goal of using the horses to improve the human capacity for connection is growing me! The principles of Lifemanship include some theoretically sweet concepts:
- If it’s not good for both, it’s not good for either.
- A healthy relationship is a safe place…even for ignoring or resisting.
- Asking clearly aids in building communication–and ultimately connection.
Practicing those theories is HARD WORK.
Gretchen is a good instructor; she ignores me really well. Thankfully, her resistance is not with the full potential of her size and strength. Yet, failing to connect will create an unhealthy–and potentially dangerous situation for both of us. So, I have been investing time in our relationship. Learning what to ask and how to ask with firm gentleness is part of my curriculum. As we work, my conviction for the potential of learning relationship skills with animals grows:
Our world is full of unhealthy, broken relationships. Failing to connect with God has eternal ramifications. Failing to connect with family and friends robs us–and them–of the richness God intends for life. God has given us all things that we might enjoy them…and give honor and praise to the Giver!
HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS – HORSES, HOMES & HEAVEN!
Relationship requires give and take, communication, and sharing. Our world increasingly promotes isolation and self-gratification. Technology simplifies the stuff of life and complicates the connections of life. Abundant living, though, can only be found in connection: first with God and then with others. God created humanity because His nature is love–and love has to have expression and reciprocity. We love because He first loved us…all love that does not originate in Him finds its roots in self-satisfaction.
True relationship involves meeting the needs of both. Before that can happen, there has to be shared communication and respect. The horses help us see the components of healthy connection with greater clarity. In the Lifemanship model, “Ignoring” is described as an attitude that says (in response to a request), “Not really interested, and I can take this amount of pressure all day.” “Resisting” includes any number of behaviors…but there is no doubt that neither cooperation or ignoring are in progress. Relationships require cooperation to reach a connection that benefits both and meets needs.
So, here’s a quick run down of how Miss Gretchen is teaching me to relate more effectively to her, to myself, to others and most importantly to God:
TIME together is a necessity. The fact that I want to connect with her has no bearing on the reality of getting to know one another. Thinking about her while I am busy doing something else does not build our relationship. That same truth applies to marriage, parenting and friendships. It applies to our relationship with God. Relationships require investing ourselves. Establishing priorities that honor our relationship commitments is no easy task. We live in a busy world always calling us to do more. Time connecting deeply–first with God, then with others allows us to enjoy life more abundantly.
AWARENESS is another critical component of relationships–and abundant living. It is so easy to live without awareness. Being ignored is the extreme of no awareness on the part of the one we seek to connect with. But that is just an extreme: a lack of awareness happens all the time! My stress or perceptions of how we are progressing have a direct impact on how I relate to Gretchen. Whether I am afraid, insecure or distracted by something else changes how I interact with her. On her side of the equation, awareness about her signs of stress and confusion are also vital. Tuning in to my part in a relationship–and diligently seeking to look through the eyes of my partner is key to connection. God cared so much about it, He came in human flesh. Jesus knows our struggles; He can relate to us. In Him, our awareness of others and ourselves increases.
COMMUNICATION is individual, and clarity necessary. Gretchen and I are learning one another’s language and misunderstandings happen. Sometimes I am not always certain what I want…and when I am unclear, she will share my confusion. The first guiding principle of Lifemanship helps me here: ‘Whatever I ask must be good for both of us.’ That principle gives me a goal and courage. I’m not as timid about asking for what I believe is best for all. The same is true in our relationship with God and others. Every instruction of God is for our good and His glory. It is a beautiful model for relationships! Learning to speak with consistent clarity is a challenge to aspire toward.
GOALS are a destination to move toward, not a requirement to demand. Building relationship is a journey toward shared goals. What I ask of Gretchen, I ask for the purpose of growing our relationship. The length of time it takes to get where I want to go is part of the journey. In our connections with God and others, the same is true. I want to spend time with the Lord not to gain some new insight that I can share–but to know Him more fully. I want to spend time with my husband…my children…my friends, so I will know more of what is on their heart.
COURAGEOUS HUMILITY is a powerful concept Gretchen teaches me over and over again. I don’t like to be wrong–or ask for what is unreasonable–or do things poorly. But I’m learning right alongside her. I don’t know her well yet; there’s tons I don’t know about horsemanship. BUT relationships don’t require perfection; they do require courageous humility. Being willing to be wrong…willing to be a fool for the purpose of growing your relationship is RIGHT! Forgiving mistakes is part of bonding.
We’re working at compiling all of this into experiential learning and there is more to share in coming weeks. Follow this link if you’d like to read more about the Lifemanship Learning for Relationships.
What one aspect of this can you apply today to your connection with God…with another?