“I have had situations where clients have said to me: ‘I have prayed my rosary everyday for three years and that has not changed my ex one bit.’ Well, the wrong person got changed.”, shares Sandy McKay, a wonderful, Catholic therapist on the Voices of Hope DVD. This is so true. I know I fell into this trap of believing all my problems would go away if only my ex would change. I was in a holding pattern while I waited for God to change my ex to be more kind, more cooperative, and, well, less of a jerk. The more I prayed and the longer I waited, the more disappointed I became. I resigned myself to believe that dealing with my ex was always going to be difficult.
Then, one day, I was dropping off the kids for their weekly visitation and it happened to be my ex’s birthday. The kids were talking about it on the car ride over. As I got out of the car, I made eye contact with my ex, and in that awkward moment the words “Happy Birthday” spontaneously came out of my mouth. You would have thought my ex just got shocked by a Taser. After the shock faded, my ex’s demeanor noticeably softened. In a kind, appreciative voice, I was told, “Thanks. I really appreciate that.” In that moment something changed. That simple act of kindness pushed to the background all the pain, anger, and hurt we had brought upon each other. We became two people, not two arch rivals. From that day forward, our relationship steadily improved, becoming more cooperative and easy-going. The battle lines had been erased. You see, my taking the first step and being kind, gave my ex permission to be kind in turn. It was okay to be civil to each other. We could drop our guard. We could lose the attitude.
That is what Christ calls us to do. He calls us to be kind, to be compassionate, to be patient, to be understanding, to be loving, even if the other person isn’t. Often, that is extremely difficult to do, especially with our ex. We need supernatural grace to help us. Christ was the world’s greatest change agent, leaving a wake of forgiveness, healing, and kindness in his path. We can learn a lot from Him. Pray for the humility and courage to be the change agent with your ex. You will be amazed with just how human they are after all.
Finally, all of you, be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing. – 1 Peter 3:8-9