“Truth, according to the Christian faith, is God's love for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore, truth is a relationship.”
– Pope Francis
The start of school is a challenging time for most families. Everyone is getting back into routines, and children are adjusting to outputting different energy, in different settings, with different adults. Despite our best laid plans and new school year resolutions, within days of the first bell ringing, our family usually descends into a hot mess of readjustment that levels off in time for pumpkin spice lattes. This year in particular has felt a little messier with new schools, a ton of work travel, and lots of activities. Emotions have been all over the place in the Cellucci household.
After one long day, I plopped onto the couch next to a mopey teenager curled up under a blanket. This was not a new scenario. There had been several consecutive days of this exhausted parent sitting down on a couch next to this mopey teenager. What was different about this day was my complete lack of empathy and patience. I asked what was wrong in a perfunctory tone. As the string of lamentations poured forth from my daughter, I honestly wasn’t listening because I had heard them all before. At some point, I calmly but firmly challenged her: “You need to get up off the couch, take a walk outside, and count your blessings.” The spirit of my tough Italian grandmother consumed me, and I may have even uttered the quintessential Italian grandmother charge to “just offer it up.”
The next day I recounted my profound parenting to a good priest friend of mine with the sure belief that he would affirm me for cultivating grit in my daughter. “At some point in all this did you give her a hug?” he asked. The answer was no. In fact, since school started, I couldn’t actually remember giving this kid a decent hug. “Dan, maybe before telling her to offer it up, try offering yourself up to her.” As I tried to recover, I reminded the priest that she was a teenager and that it was easier when she was little. He cut me off. “She’s still little, just give her a hug.”
What a difference a hug made. Not only did it bring a smile back that had been lost for several days, but it allowed for a lot more receptivity to the points I had been trying to make about grit and gratitude. As I plopped down on the couch still exhausted, I was grateful for my friend’s challenge. It made me wonder what other opportunities I had in life and leadership to lead with an embrace before an expectation. It may not be a physical hug, but how often do I demonstrate my care for someone before challenging them or calling them to more? Whether with people at home or at work, am I making the necessary investment in relationships in order to speak truth with love?
As the temperature begins to cool outside, I can feel the household emotional temperature lower. So far, I’ve kept the conviction that the most important wisdom all my kids will receive from me is knowing that they’re loved by me and, more importantly, by their Heavenly Father. And, despite whatever proficiency I think I may have with words, they will hear and understand this truth the most when I say nothing at all. Prayers that as you prepare for any difficult conversations you may have this week, that you remember His Truth and His Love go hand in hand.
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