DAVID LALLY: Welcome to “The Brian Buffini Show” where we explore the mindsets, motivation and methodologies of success. I’m the producer David Lally and in this episode we’ll cover part 5 of How to Love and Be Loved with Brian Buffini and Joe Ehrmann discussing how to experience fuller relationships. You’ll discover what it means to love unconditionally inside a healthy relationship. You’ll also learn what you can do to show love to those who may be difficult to get along with. Let’s join Brian and Joe once again.
BRIAN BUFFINI: Well, Joe, we’ve done all this hard work so far. We’ve made a commitment to understand ourselves, to analyze the three wounds of love, to develop empathy for ourselves and for other people. We’ve learned what the process of healing is, and ultimately, what that purpose is, and now the payoff starts to come. Now, we’re going to focus on experiencing full relationships.
Before we delve into this content, I would like to just pass on one piece of encouragement and one piece of advice for our listeners. I’ve had the opportunity to, as I’ve mentioned, to share with more than a million people and to share information that’s been powerful and impactful in people’s lives.
One of the things I always caution people against when they’ve come in contact with information that can be transformational is not to be like Moses coming down the mountain with the tablets of stone and the face shining, and after listening, you’re thinking to yourself, “Man, I need to get these to my husband. Man, my wife really needs to get this. My family member, my brother, my sister.”
Boy, I’ll tell you, you’re in conversation and you’re going– You need to get your wounds taken care of. What I’m going to encourage you is to you need to go take care of business first. You need to become as healthy as you’re capable of being and then worry about somebody else. That’s the first piece of advice I’d give you here, is that this information is impactful. It’s transformational.
It’s had a profound impact on my life, on Joe’s life, and on many people, we’ve had an opportunity to share with, but remember, that the first person for you to go work on is yourself and then model. I believe that my kids don’t listen to a word I’m saying to them. I believe they’re too busy watching what I do. Be a person that people watch your feet, not your mouth, and live this and practice this.
Then you can influence by having a moral authority by being an example as opposed to being a lecture. I wanted to share that with folks, Joe, because we’ve covered some great information here. We’re about to get to the most exciting part of this which is ultimately, how to love and be loved is all about relationships. Let’s spend a few moments talking about how to experience full relationships.
JOE EHRMANN: I think so far in the journey, I think what you’re going to see is you’ll have an increased capacity to love and to be loved. You’re going to increase your energy to give away to other people to be connected to them because you’re not going to be using your own energy to control some unwanted emotion.
I hope you feel free to really develop a deep love relationship with yourself that can then permeate your own household into your community, into your work, into your office, and into this world, but it’s a struggle and it takes work and it doesn’t come easy. Some people are easy to love and some people are going to be very difficult to love.
BUFFINI: You bet. In regards to relationship, some folks believe, “I’m really not good at relationships. Relationships come easy to this person. I’m not that relational.” What’s your opinion on this? Are people designed for relationships in the first place?
EHRMANN: Well, scientifically and biologically, we are created to be in relationship. What we know from neuroscience is that both biologically by our nature that our brains and our bodies are designed to connect with other people. We are hardwired to connect. I read a research paper from Dartmouth Medical School. It was looking at the number of adolescents coming into emergency rooms. They wrote a report. They brought together the whole neuroscience biological, they studied the nature and the nurture of young people in this world.
Their conclusion was this, they titled the paper, Hardwired to Connect. They looked at all of the physiological reasons and why. We know that the brain develops and functions as young babies, according to the amount of attention and affection that it receives. They wrote this paper called Hardwired to Connect and they termed the missing piece in adolescents in the world today and I would say in adults today as well, the missing piece is what they called a social deficit. It was a lack of meaningful interaction and relationships with other people. You’ve got this social deficit and their conclusion was with all of the scientific data, as well as the psychological data that every person needs three basic things.
The first is a sense of belongingness. That every person needs to belong somewhere. That means you have to be honest with who and what you are, make yourself known, and then be accepted for who and what you are. Whenever there is not belonging, there’s all kinds of physical, social, emotional problems and decay taking in the place of people. There’s a belongingness. We’re wired and built that way to be known and to know.
BUFFINI: For who we are and what we are.
EHRMANN: For who we are and what we are. Then they said, the second thing is that every person needs a belief system. They not only need to connect to other people. They need to connect to some kind of moral, spiritual truth, or reality. Now, they’re not talking about religion per se. What they’re talking about is a belief system where they can make sense of the world in which they live. What we’ve done really in many ways has helped develop a belief system. It’s a belief system to understand who and what you are, identify those wounds so that you can make sense of your condition of where you are–
BUFFINI: What your life looks like, what your life patterns have been.
EHRMANN: All of your life patterns into destructive and the positive ones as well. Then they said, the third thing that every person needed was what they called an authoritative structure. This means some kind of home, some kind of workplace, some kind of environment that has moral and ethical parameters to it.
There’s some foundation, some boundaries, and limitations about how you interact and act with other people. Their conclusion was hardwired to connect, social deficit. If we could ever address the lack of meaningful relationships with people in this world, we could deal with most of the social problems in this society.
Think about this for a moment. I read a study, not too long ago, that the average American male over the age 35 has less than one friend. Now, most of us as men have buddies. Buddies are someone that you have an activity with. The relationships are side-by-side around that activity. I played football for 13 years in situations that was almost like going to war in the trenches, in the pits of the NFL.
You’ll work together. You’re showered together. You played together, you laugh together, you cried together, but most of those relationships were built around activities. Once the activity’s gone, once somebody takes your jersey away, once you get traded or cut, there’s no real meaning to that relationship. Those are buddies. Buddies come and go.
BUFFINI: Buddies are the, you play golf on a Saturday morning. You have a foursome. You hang out, you have a giggle, you have lunch, so on and so forth. If they don’t show up the following week for playing golf, that’s it. It’s just, you don’t put in a call. “Hey, are you doing okay?”
EHRMANN: Yes. Is anything the matter? We missed you or any of that kind of stuff.
EHRMANN: You either show up for the activity and then you have a buddy that way. That’s not meaningful. That’s not being known or revealing who and what you are. Our wives know how to have friendships. Friendship means you get face-to-face. You reveal your deepest, most intimate struggles, and who and what you are.
The average American male has less than one friend. Now, if I were to go around all the men that I know, and I would have asked him, why is that? Why don’t you have meaningful relationships? When in fact you’ve been designed to have those kinds of intimacy, they give you two answers.
One is that I’m too busy. I’m just too busy. I’ve got a career. I’ve got families. I’ve got activities that I got to take too. I’m really too busy to have a meaningful, full relationship with someone. The second thing they’d tell you is that I don’t know how. I really feel awkward. I’m not sure how to enter into a full relationship. Now, I think both of these are true to some extent. I think if you look at the life in which we live when you say there’s no time, we always find time for what we value. You always make the time for things you’re really interested in, that our deep passion or commitment that you make to. The second thing is no skills, but you’ll learn the skills of the things that you really want to enter into. Take anybody that plays golf in America, boy, talk about living lives that have no time to do things and you don’t know the skills. If you really want to do it, man, our golf courses are filled with people playing. I think there’s a deeper issue here.
BUFFINI: Yes. It takes four and a half hours around the golf.
EHRMANN: Yes. Who’s got time for that? Life’s frustrating enough without having to learn that game, but we make a commitment to get the lessons to learn how to do that. To make sure we play a certain amount of time because we have a goal and ambition that hit a certain score or a certain goal. When people say, “I don’t know how. There’s no skills, no time,” I think it’s a much deeper issue than that. When you talk about men, why don’t you have these relationships if it’s not about time, and it’s not about skills? I think it goes back to that false concept of masculinity.
When we project ourselves as men based on our ability to compete with other men and win, based on some kind of sexual conquest or economic success, we create a paradigm where when we come together, all we do is compare and compete. We compare what we have with each other and compete for the significance, that always destroys communities. What are you doing that golf course? You start comparing and competing based on golf score–
BUFFINI: Betting, doing the whole thing.
EHRMANN: It’s a value issue, in many respects, in this world. Not only value issue, but it’s also what we’ve been talking about. We haven’t addressed the woundedness in our lives.
BUFFINI: Now comes the exciting part for me, and I believe for the people listening. That is we’re going to talk about how to enter into full relationships. Not all relationships are created equal. All people are created equal, but all of my relationships aren’t the same. I don’t know about you, Joe. I have some folks that are really easy to love in my life, and I have some folks that are somewhat challenging.
Maybe we could spend some time with folks because if they’re going through this process, they become unhealthy to the core and putting themselves in a position to love and be loved, I think the first thing we have to recognize is that our relationships being full, doesn’t mean that everyone we’re in contact with, or everyone we’re in a relationship with, that that relationship will be as healthy as it’s capable of being on both ends.
Our relationships in one way or the other fall into two categories. It’s either a relationship built around devotion, or it’s a relationship built around duty. The ones that are built around devotion are the ones that were easy to love. People that are easy to connect with. Your son, Barney, you’ll love him unconditionally. You’ve had almost a spiritual experience with him as a little boy, just being overcome with the love you have for him. It just turns out that he’s a great kid, and he’s easy to love.
There’s other people in our lives that aren’t so easy. Maybe we could take the time to focus right now, with the folks listening, on how to enter into full relationships with people. Let’s start with the people that are easy to love. Then let’s talk about the ones that are a little harder.
EHRMANN: Yes, the ones that are easy to love, you just connect your soul to them, your values to them. Even then, I would say this though, you mentioned Barney, I talked about my own negative emotions when he would cry. I’ve spent a lifetime learning how to control that. I think when our children are babies and infants when our children are totally dependent on them, I think then we experience unconditional love. I think the older they get, there’s a tendency to put conditions. Not that we don’t love them, but we have expectations. People we love are never going to meet all of our needs are all our expectations.
My wife, I love dearly, and I’m totally committed to who and what she is. We have developed through honesty, through truthfulness, through sharing, through revealing who we are to each other and learning how to accept what we don’t necessarily approve of just, doesn’t ring a bell there, there’s a little bit of sandpaper in every relationship.
EHRMANN: You have to work through that and name that to move on to deep intimate relationships.
BUFFINI: The key component you said there is that even when people are easy to love, the key component is that love must be unconditional to experience full relationship. For example, the kid with the report card, the spouse that maybe doesn’t pick up after themselves. Even though we’re devoted to them, we have to be intentional that that love has to be unconditional.
EHRMANN: Again, we gave people six steps on how to work on themselves. You don’t ever stop working on yourself in a relationship. You have to, when you enter into conflict, even with people that you deeply love, you still have to go back and take care of your stuff. It’s so easy to look at somebody else’s stuff. That’s not productive.
BUFFINI: We got to be as healthy as we can possibly be, to be in relationship, to have that unconditional love but also then it can be a performance-based love, can it?
EHRMANN: No, it can’t be performance because performance will never going to meet your expectations. I want you to bet 1,000, I don’t want you to bet 300. It can’t be on performance as well. There are certain minimum standards, I think, to keep a relationship healthy. You and I, as friends, have to maintain certain kind of connectivity. There are certain demands, honesty, and integrity that we have to deal with. Those are expectations that keep a relationship healthy. When you pull those out, I think relationships become unhealthy.
BUFFINI: Joe, perhaps you could define for us what exactly a healthy relationship looks like. What are the qualities that exist in a healthy, loving relationship?
EHRMANN: Yes, I think there has to be certain characteristics or character traits that have to be shared, whether it’s me and my wife or you and I. I think some of them are understanding about who and what we are, where we came from. There has to be some commitment. There’s an openness, there’s honesty.
You have to develop some trust and belief in the other person that they really love and care about your best interest. I think you have to have gracious confrontation. You have to be able to deal with the reality of the difficult conversations, but always in the context of grace, always in the context not to punish or condemn, but to keep the relation growing and movement and organic.
BUFFINI: To seek understanding, ultimately.
EHRMANN: Seek understanding, yes. If you don’t have those gracious confrontations, I think you end up with a pseudo community. You learn how to pretend and develop true relationship. What you have to do is enter into this tunnel of chaos. You’ve got to be able to throw whatever issue needs to be thrown into it, work through it in the characteristics we just talked about, and then the other side of that becomes honest, true community.
BUFFINI: You bet.
EHRMANN: It’s too easy to live with pseudo community. We have all kinds of false friends where you see guys hugging and loving and men and women, but it’s surface level. It lacks the openness and the honesty and integrity. It’s something that we present.
BUFFINI: Obviously, without the gracious confrontation or the understanding, acceptance, or forgiveness or trust, not having these things is a barrier to full relationships, and having these things is the open door to having a full relationship is that’s what you’re saying.
EHRMANN: It’s the fertile ground to keep growing and nurturing and sustaining and developing that relationships. I think relationships are always organic. You might’ve had a great loving relationship three weeks ago, but you got to keep working on that relationship.
BUFFINI: You bet.
EHRMANN: It takes time, it takes commitment and it takes an investment.
BUFFINI: People always say, marriage is hard. Yes. You know why? Because living with me is hard. I always love it when someone comes to me, I’m looking for a church, I’m looking for a church, I’m looking for a church. Well, if you find the perfect church, whatever you do, don’t join it. You’ll mess it up.
EHRMANN: That’s right.
BUFFINI: Just being by ourselves is hard, being in relationship with ourselves is difficult. Then being in a relationship with somebody else certainly is difficult. If the brown paper bags stuffed in beside the refrigerator has meaning to my wife, that I’m not aware of, you know what, that is work. The joy and the opportunity of love and acceptance is worth the pain of not having love or not having a community.
EHRMANN: Yes, that’s right. Paula and I have one thing in our relationship, we call it the law of profitability. It’s when I come home and I want to make some comment about the condition of the house or about what she’s done or hasn’t done for me. I have to ask myself how profitable is it to bring that up at this point. You learn how to develop relationships with people, and there are times to bring things up.
BUFFINI: There’s time not to. Exactly.
EHRMANN: Pick your spot because you always want to keep integrity in the relationship and growing.
BUFFINI: Beautiful. That’s the fun stuff. For you, Joe, you got a great family, easy to love your family. You got some great friends, easy to love your friends. Same for me. I have a wonderful wife, I have wonderful kids. I have some wonderful friends. The next category, though I also fall into. I believe everyone listening to this also has. We all have people in our lives that we’re related to, we are in relationship with who are not easy to love. Particularly, they’re not easy for us to love. Maybe our chemistry just doesn’t connect. Maybe our personalities or our abilities are in conflict. Maybe our lifestyles are in contrast and maybe there’s some history that hasn’t been all good.
Maybe there’s some woundedness that we have in common that we haven’t dealt with well. And so if you could take just a few moments right now, to think of a person you have a relationship with that’s not all what it can be or have a relationship that almost is non-existent, or have a relationship that’s built less out of devotion and more out of duty.
Maybe it’s an ex-spouse, maybe it’s a family member. Maybe it’s a friend, maybe it’s a parent, maybe it’s a child. Maybe it’s someone who was at one time a very close friend. Now, you have this relationship that’s stilted, challenged or distant. It’s kind of you’ve both retreated to your corners and it’s easy to keep it there.
You’re just like you’ve have decided to end the hostilities by just changing the geography. If we’re going to experience full relationships, we have to bring into context, those people that we have difficulty within relationship. The question I have for you, Joe, is how can we have relationship with people where we have a full relationship with them and yet they may not be capable of being in a full relationship with us? How do we love people when they’re hard?
EHRMANN: Which is a question I think everybody deals with. Even the people that are easy to love, at times, it’s difficult. It’s not to the extreme in the extent that you’re talking about right now, but what’s more difficult than being a parent and raising children through adolescence. Having son-in-laws and daughters-in-law. There’s a process here, but the really difficult people that you’re dealing without a duty.
I think going back into where we’ve come from in this series, the first thing we’ve got to do is be as healthy as we’re capable of being. What I can’t do is just look outward. I can’t just fix everything on them and what they’re not doing. I have to assume some responsibility or at least assume some introspection on my own part, about am I moving toward them or do I have some kind of the negative empathy that they’re creating in me that wants them to stop being hard? Stop being which makes me retreat from them.
BUFFINI: If they’ll get healthy, then I’ll be okay. That’s not a healthy situation. The key is, we have to bring ourselves to the relationship as healthy as we’re capable of being. When that happens, those buttons they used to push will probably mitigate and disappear, won’t they?
EHRMANN: Yes. I think you have to name what those buttons are and then you have to work out. We just got done teaching that healing is a lifestyle. I think relationships, loving difficult people has to be part of your lifestyle as well. It’s not something you can just pick up every two or three months when they cross your mind.
In part of your own internal journey, you’ve got to work to become as healthy as you’re capable of being. Think of all of us that have broken relationships with siblings or with parents. That is deep because you have a longing to heal that relationship. We come out of some commonality and yet we’re extremely different.
I can’t just fix the blame over there initially and say it’s all their problem. It might be, but the first step has got to be being as healthy as I’m capable of being. I know this, I have my own brokenness, I have my own woundedness, I have my own issues that I’ve grown up with because of the wounds we talked about, that keep me from fully entering relationships. I’ve got to work on myself first and foremost.
BUFFINI: Ultimately, it’s easy to ignore them. It’s easy to put them in the closet, but the truth of the matter is, if we don’t address these relationships and do all that we can, ultimately there’s more woundedness coming our way, isn’t there?
EHRMANN: A lot more wounded.
BUFFINI: There’s regret, guilt, shame, longing. Someone passes away and you never truly communicated to them how you felt. Someone goes through a difficult time and someone you’re capable of being there for, you’re not able to be there for them because you’ve removed yourself from the situation so much.
EHRMANN: I know in my role as a pastor doing a number of funerals. I think the deepest pain in the family is one that the death apart from some reconciliation, that is a deep intimate pain. What I tried to do in that dying process if capable, that’s the time to deal with the issues. You’ve got to work on yourself because that pain is so, so– and it’ll last a lifetime beyond the death of that relationship.
BUFFINI: Better to reconcile now, while everyone’s still healthy, perhaps, or as long as everyone’s still alive.
EHRMANN: Yes. The good news is you can reconcile post-death, but, and again, as I shared with my own dad, I had to work on getting myself as healthy as possible, so that I could have empathy for myself that gave me empathy for people that are very difficult to love.
BUFFINI: Get as healthy as we can be. What other advice would you have for loving people and being in full relationship when folks are hard?
EHRMANN: Yes. I think this is difficult, but we’ve got to come to grips with some acceptance for where they are at this point in time and who they are. There’s a reality that they’re standing there in their own woundedness that prevents me from having a relationship with them. How do you come to a point of acceptance where you have empathy for that person and say, “Yes, there’s some issue in their lives that keeps me from having a full relationship. I’ve got to accept them for where they are, who they are, and then try to figure out a plan to help them move if they’re willing and capable and wanting to move.”
BUFFINI: You bet. Ultimately, our goal is to put ourselves in a position that we are going to do what we can. We are going to be healthy ourselves. We got to take the action that needs to be taken. We are perhaps the person who needs to reach out. We need to take the first step. We might have to stretch out of our comfort zone and even be willing to be hurt by the person. If we’re becoming as healthy as we can be, those buttons again should be limited, the pain should be mitigated because we don’t necessarily need for our own peace of mind for this person to be right, but we’re doing what is right. Again, it’s out of duty, obligation, and out of health that I’m coming to you. Perhaps what are some the next pieces here in regards to doing what we can?
EHRMANN: Yes. Let me illustrate it again just through my own life, having fathered a child and been divorced now for over 30 years. That was a relationship that there was love and appreciation for each other but there wasn’t the work. There wasn’t the innate connectivity. There was an immaturity to really develop a relationship. We were both too young at that point in time. We had a daughter.
When we divorced, what we both made a decision to do was to put our daughter first, above our own issues, above our own hurt, about our own expectations. We had some goal that we were going to move to. What I had to do in that process is what I said. I had to be as healthy as I was capable of becoming. I had to move beyond my own hurts and expectations and get focused on the goal. The goal was to try to figure out how to raise a daughter that was going to be as healthy as capable of being.
That gives you something that’s a little bit transcendent in a relationship. What were my responsibilities there? I couldn’t have it all my way. I had to learn how to compromise. I learned how to assume responsibilities for what I brought and didn’t bring into that relationship. I think the greatest thing you can do for a child is let that child bask in the love of two parents.
That’s the most secure thing you can do. We live in a world filled with divorce, many of us. If you can’t let the child live and bask in the love of a committed relationship between a mom and a dad, that child has to be able to bask in the security of two people that have come together in a relationship to make that the best it’s capable of becoming to provide security for that child.
BUFFINI: Now, you’re dancing in the dynamite field right now, Joe. As I’ve witnessed your life, you and Paula have been married for how long now?
EHRMANN: 30 years.
BUFFINI: You’ve been divorced for longer than that?
EHRMANN: I’ve been divorced for over 35 years.
BUFFINI: Yet you have a relationship with your daughter. Paula has a great relationship with your daughter, and you have a still a very good relationship with your ex-wife, and Paula has a very good relationship with your ex-wife.
EHRMANN: Yes. I love and appreciate my ex-wife for who and what she is. It’s not the same love that I have for Paula. There’s not that intimacy and that binding, but that’s someone that I shared something very deep and intimate with. I have learned to love and to move toward that. Wasn’t always that way. Most of that I had to learn how to assume responsibility for my own actions. As I grew healthier, I was able to move toward my ex-wife in a much healthier way.
BUFFINI: You went from anger, and frustration, and bitterness, and all of those typical emotions of a divorce to a place where it became around your daughter. Did all that you could to be as healthy as you could be and enter into that relationship. In this case, the common cause was ultimately raising a wonderful child.
EHRMANN: As healthy as she was capable to get her, but I had to assume my responsibility and I had to ask for forgiveness where I felt I had to confess and repent of my own shortcomings, and immaturity and lack of other sinningness to get to that.
BUFFINI: What would you give advice? There’s someone listening to the CD guaranteed, who’s gone through the divorce from hell, has the nightmare spouse, has the Blitzkrieg-type divorce where there’s all this pain, animosity. There might be children in common. There might be possessions in common, and some time may have gone by, and everybody’s retreated to their corner. What advice would you give to somebody in that situation?
EHRMANN: Again, it goes back to the first point. You need to work on yourself and be as healthy as you’re capable of being. It’s so easy to focus on someone else. Someone else’s failure, someone else’s rejection. You need to work on it because you’re a human being created and designed to be relationally-centered. Take your responsibility and acceptance for what you brought or didn’t bring. I’m not sure in any divorce there’s one party that’s totally innocent.
BUFFINI: There’s always two sides.
EHRMANN: There’s always two sides to every story, and it takes a certain amount of chemistry. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, so you have to be as healthy as you’re capable of being. Then you have to learn how to move toward that person with empathy. That person is probably wounded just like you were wounded in some kind of different way. I can’t just demand, “Stop.” It’s what we’ve been talking about.
How do I have appreciation? That’s the mother or that’s the father of my child. I’m going to be in that relationship for as long as much child alive. I better get my stuff together and find some common ground because there is something going on that’s bigger than mine or my ex’s hurts and pain. Not easy though.
BUFFINI: People that cause you anger and frustration can control you. All of a sudden, that anger, that frustration that you feel with that person is sparking this emotion. This emotion is driving you in a certain way and you are being controlled or driven in a certain way. Again, you could be in a relationship with someone who was a very unhealthy person who likes that kind of control. Who likes that.
The bottom line is you got to go work on you. You got to go be healthy. You said; be as healthy as you can be, acceptance for who and where they are. Then we just talked about taking responsibility for all you can do. For example, somehow to is on that might be, extend the hand, you maybe you write a letter or write a note to the brother you haven’t talked to in a year, to the cousin you haven’t gotten along with. Maybe it’s not even to go and dig through the deeper issues, but just, “Just thinking of you today. Hope all is well in your world.” Doing what you can.
EHRMANN: Yes, just, “I’ve thought of you today.” Nothing more, no expectations. Just the fact that you’re present in my mind, you’re still out there and I want you to know I’m out there.
BUFFINI: I have a relationship with a family member that needs some enhancement. What I’ve made a commitment to do is that when that person comes to my mind is to take action and write a note. It’s produced some significant changes in the communication already. It’s just one of those things, because the truth of the matter is, we do think of these people more often than we contact them.
We do think about them and then we put it in the back of our mind and we just move on. Do you have anything else for us? What else would be a good, healthy approach here in having a full relationship with people who are hard to deal with?
EHRMANN: Well, I think anybody that has a spiritual presence in their lives, a way to be able to pray for somebody and just to lift a name of somebody you’re in difficult relationships, or been hurt by, or rejected by, I think there’s a healing power there. Just taking that name and that presence and offering up to whatever the name you have for God, but lifting that person up because it’s not about healing that person. It’s about healing you.
BUFFINI: It sure is hard to stay ticked off at someone when you’re talking to God about them. [laughs]
EHRMANN: Well, it’s almost impossible. The reality is we don’t pray for those that we don’t care about necessarily. Then I think the other thing is you have to have some reasonable expectation. In the midst of the woundedness and wherever people are in life’s journey, you can’t expect more from them than they’re capable of giving.
EHRMANN: You’ve got to have the expectation, know that at this point in time, in this day, this might be the best it’s capable of being, but never give up the vision and hope about entering in this relationship.
BUFFINI: Don’t expect like Lassie coming home, you’re going to come over the hill, and everybody’s going to come running towards you, and all is going to be forgotten, and everything’s right with the world. It is potential when you reach out, it is possible that restoration can happen, it is possible that relationships can be improved and enhanced, and even radically transformed. All of that is possible. We have to have that hope.
EHRMANN: Yes. Well, and that hope is a present and a real hope.
EHRMANN: I had a guy I met with about six months ago that came into my office and the night before he’d gone to the cemetery, and he fired six bullet shots into his father’s grave. We worked on that issue. Imagine the anger, the hurt, and the pain of firing a gunshot into the grave. That was debilitating. That had debilitated this guy’s whole life. You can work toward reconciliation, it’s never too late.
Sometime, by just offering the hand, there might be the right alignment of time and the stars when you’ll never know when somebody might take that hand and accept that. Again, it’s not so much about changing them, but sometimes when we become bitter over these relationships and the duty that we feel we’re forced to give, it’s leukemic to our own spirit and our own souls, and it’s a leukemia that permeates and spreads on all kinds of relationships with our lives.
BUFFINI: Becomes a catharsis.
EHRMANN: Reconciliation is always a hope in reality. Look at the world we live in. What would we do if we didn’t think we could reconcile? Reconciliation’s a reality, it’s a possibility. It has to be in our lives.
BUFFINI: It can happen. It’s interesting you bring this conversation up, is that a name that comes to my mind is Wayne Dyer. Wayne Dyer is a bestselling author on PBS television known for many of his programs he’s produced. Wayne grew up in a situation where he didn’t know his father, his father abandoned him and his mother and his older brother when he was just born.
They had experienced a lot of difficulties in their life as a result. His father was a drifter, he had alcohol and drug problems. He would come in and out of his mother’s life, he would show up for a night, and then take money and disappear, and come back a couple of years later. He didn’t know his father at all.
One day, as a grown man, he gets a phone call from his brother telling him that their father had passed away, which was like, “Good.” He said he was buried in a pauper’s grave in Birmingham, Alabama. I believe he was living in South Florida at the time. After wrestling through some issues in his own life– He was struggling, he was married, he had a young family, he was trying to write some books, and he was really struggling with his career. He kept bringing up these issues of his father and the anger he felt towards his father.
He went through some therapy, I believe. They said, “It’d be good for you to vent your anger to your father.” He gets in his car and drives up to the state of Florida and gets to Birmingham, Alabama. He said as he was driving, he was thinking about all the things he was going to say to his dad, and he started writing. He started getting faster and faster- he was driving- the more energy he was building up.
As he drives to the grave site, and he stands there looking over his father’s grave, and he’s got this laundry list that he’s going to unload and get this off his chest and talk to his father. He sees his father’s name. This was the first time in this man’s life he’d come face-to-face with his father, and he couldn’t bring himself to speak, he couldn’t bring himself to get the stuff off his chest he’d come to and what he went there for.
He stood there for about 20 minutes, and eventually, actually, sat down on the side of the grave and started talking to his dad. What he decided to do was bless his father for all the good things that happened in his life because of him. He blessed him. He said, “Hey, I thank you for being my dad because, without you, I wouldn’t be in this life.”
He said, “I want to thank you for the impact you had on me. Because you were never around as a father, I dedicated myself to being the most involved father I could be. Because you weren’t there for mom, I’ve dedicated myself to being the best husband I can be.” He actually tried to find the positive outcome in his own life. He actually blessed him and thanked him for the good that had happened. Got in his car and drove home. As he was driving home, different thoughts come to his mind. He’d write them down. He wrote down those thoughts. Each one of those thoughts ended up becoming a chapter title and becoming the first bestselling book he ever wrote. In him reaching out to having a more full relationship with his father, not a full relationship, but as full as he was capable of being with a man who was deceased, it released his power.
It empowered him to go on to build a tremendous career, and that now impact many other people, and ultimately help an awful lot of people in this world. He’s found his cause and his purpose. This is not for the faint of heart. It’s not easy but it is full and having an opportunity to have a life full of relationships that are rich in love, that we’re able to be as healthy as we can possibly be, is ultimately a life worth living.
EHRMANN: I wish I had some simple formula that everybody could go do and just say, “Step one and two.” The reality, our world is so broken, and there’s so much pain and hurt in our own lives and in our own relationship. We have these quakes behind us. I do believe with all my heart, if you’ll follow this series and work on yourself and be as healthy as you’re capable of being, I guarantee you, that’s what Wayne Dyer did and that’s what freed him up to start making a difference in the world in his own relationships.
I’m a part-time high school football coach. What I’ve tried to do is to help take the context of sports to teach boys how to become full human beings, how to develop relationships and find a transcendent cause. We have a mantra on our team. The coaches stand up, and before the players, and we ask our players, “What is our job as coaches?” All the players reply in unison, “To love us.” We’ve taught and we’ve trained them that the role of a coach on our football team is to love the boys, to be concerned about them, their wholeness, their personhood, to be everything they’re capable of being.
Then we ask the players, “What is your job as members of this team?” Again, in unison, they reply, “To love each other.” What we’re trying to do here is to teach relationship, to give boys the capacity to use the word love, to think about how to be connected to people. That, are they centered, and are they focused? Our goal is to be able to take the context of sports and football and be able to help boys and train and nurture and model for them, how to be relationally connected to people.
BUFFINI: Now, what’s interesting about this, Joe, is that the Gilman High School program has become the subject of HBO Sports documentaries, a bestselling book called “A Season of Life,” and so many people are fascinated by the fact that here’s this high school team that’s had these winning records for years, undefeated seasons, all of these different championships, and yet the mantra is, “Our job as coaches is to love us, and your jobs as players, to love each other.”
The truth of the matter is that you don’t have to lay aside your humanity. You don’t have to lay aside love and being loved to be successful. Is that you can win and win the right way, when it’s not your whole identity. You can be focused on a goal and achieve when it’s not your whole reason for living. You can be healthy and whole and still achieve, as a byproduct of that healthiness.
I believe that in the business world. I believe that in the financial world, I believe that in the sporting world. I believe that throughout and that we can have full relationships in every area of our life and be successful as well, as what society would call successful, as a byproduct of our healthiness and our wholeness.
EHRMANN: Isn’t that what it is? Isn’t life about a byproduct of being healthy and whole and living in community and having some kind of cause? What’s incredible in our program is it’s touched a nerve all over this country. What people would call me up and say, “Well, aren’t you worried about feminizing boys?” That’s not feminizing boys, teaching them how to enter relationships, bringing all of themselves to them, saying, “I love you,” and to be able to touch and to hug other boys and men. That doesn’t feminize. That makes you a human being.
What we’ve seen is that the byproduct of when you remove the fear of failure, when you remove the standard of performance, we don’t cut any kids, you don’t make our team on athletic ability, you make our team on your commitment to enter into relationships with the rest of the teammates there. The byproduct is we win. We don’t feminize boys. When the whistle blows, our boys are going out there and light it up into other teams but they’ll knock you down but they’ll also pick that player back up. They’ll do it with integrity. They’ll do it with compassion and empathy. We’ve taught our boys when we play against another team and we’re beating them, but we don’t want to rub their faces in the turf. We want to make sure they have a good experience as well because we teach them the understand who and what they are and transfer what they want, what they feel, what they need to their opponents as well.
BUFFINI: What I’ll speak to it as in researching this program and researching you and Gilman and what became the creative content for the series, is when I flew out to Gilman into your home to meet you for the first time and observed the boys there was this championship game that went to overtime and so on and so forth. It was a thrilling game and the crowd in the stands are going nuts and the boys overcome and win this great game.
Then everyone gets together. What was the most memorable thing about that day is that the team you guys played. There was a boy on the other team that had been in an accident playing ball in the year has been paralyzed. That your kids had gotten together and done bake sales and and had raised money. Then after the game was over, your boys got together with the other team in a big circle and presented that boy’s mom a check to help out with some of the costs. Then the whole crew got together and prayed for that boy in a public high school.
EHRMANN: In the context of football and competition, but healthy competition. Healthy young men and competition as we define it, it’s nothing more than a tool for excellence become the best you’re capable of being. What would happen in America if we ever raised a generation of people that were be relationally successful? That creates stable homes, stable communities.
He changed the world but it’s how to be as healthy as you’re capable of becoming. It’s how to accept other people for who and where they are. It’s taking responsibility that you’ve got to do all that you can to be a full participant in this society and how do you do that by entering relationships? How do you do that? Have empathy for yourself and for others.
You go through the exercises we’ve been through. The outcome of that is a freedom. A freedom to be totally healed and whole and to be able to love and commit to other people and receive love and commitment back. I think the challenge to those out there is to grab hold of your journal, write down the name or the names of those that are difficult to love that are in your life.
Those that you feel you have a duty without the devotion, write down their names and then look at it from what we’ve talked about. How can you be as healthy as you’re capable of being as you think of that name? How can you accept as you write out who and what they are, the status of that relationship accept them for who and what they are?
Journaling, writing down the thoughts, the names, keeping them in your presence, charting some progress of whether you called them, thought about them, prayed for them move toward them. You’ll see some progress and hopefully, you’ll see a change both in them and in you.
BUFFINI: You bet. So here’s what we’ve learned. In experiencing full relationships, the first thing we found out is we’re hardwired for relationships. We were built to be in relationship with one another. Experiencing full relationships when love is easy, it’s all about devotion and even devotion requires work. When people are hired, it’s built out of duty and duty requires that we be as healthy as we can be.
We provide acceptance for who they are and where they are that we take responsibility for all we can do. That it’s a great idea to pray for him and that we need to have a reasonable expectation. It might not be Lassie come home. It might be still difficult but we can do all we can. If we have a desire to experience full relationships, these are the steps to take and it is worth every bit of effort we can possibly apply.
DAVID LALLY: Such powerful content. If we have a desire to have fuller relationships, these are the steps to take. We hope you enjoyed part five of How to Love and Be Loved. Be sure to check out the conclusion in part six, Finding Your Transcendent Cause. Until then, I’ll hand it over to Brian’s mom Therese for a little Irish blessing.
THERESE BUFFINI: May the road rise up to meet you, and may the wind always be at your back. May the rain fall soft upon your fields, and sun shine warm upon your face. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand. See you next time.