One of my childhood memories was playing school with my dolls and stuffed animals as if they were my students and I was the teacher. I used to dress up my barbie doll in different outfits and played with make-believe scenes of my choosing. Somewhere along the line between my elementary self and my growing adult self, I let go of the fantasy world.
Many adults choose to stop growing in their self awareness and continue to make-believe in real life. Refusing to accept another person’s emotions, opinions, or personhood is like using human beings as wind up toys. Marriages and family relationships are plagued with tension, conflict, and abuse.
It’s easier to judge others who are different. Unspoken rules of “don’t talk, don’t feel, don’t have an opinion if it’s different than mine” are the norm for those who consider family members as objects. Phrases like, “You make me angry” or “It’s all your fault” or “I wouldn’t be this way if you didn’t do that” are all examples of an adult who lives in make-believe. Christian versions may sound like, “God wants you to forgive and forget” or “I’m the head of the house and you’re supposed to submit.”
Accepting responsibility for growth, awareness, and change is missing in one who believes everyone else is to blame for his or her difficult circumstances. Like living as the director of a play, those who manipulate expect individuals to act their part. Family members who express different opinions are seen as obstacles. They are treated as wind-up toys rather than real people with real needs.
I appreciate how Fred Rogers gave young children clarity between his real neighborhood and his neighborhood of make-believe. In one episode of the television show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, his pleasant voice respectfully says, “You see, children can grow up to be adults; outside and inside.”
May you embrace the reality of inside growth. Begin to see your partner’s differences as opportunities for self awareness. Consider the relationships closest to you as gifts from God to align with reality about yourself and others. Embrace the value, worth, and dignity of each person you encounter. Recognize Manipulation. Grow up.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. I Corinthians 13:11