SELAMAT Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all my Muslim friends. Maaf zahir batin. While Malaysians celebrate after a month of fasting by visiting friends and returning to hometowns to visit family, I find that the deeper, more meaningful tradition of the season often gets discounted.
It’s the practice of asking for forgiveness for our mistakes and offences, and where Malaysians show particular respect to our loved ones, especially our elders.
Family is at the centre of these Raya celebrations. Then again shouldn’t family be foremost at every festive occasion? Why then is family those we most take for granted? How come family is often last to be acknowledged? Must it take a special occasion for us to be reminded of our family’s sacrifices?
What would it take to keep in mind how much our family has contributed to enrich our lives?
Michael was so annoyed that he kept a journal documenting all of Millie’s faults for the past 10 years! Each day he recorded all the things she said or did that frustrated him.
• She wasn’t his equal intellectually and never had anything interesting to say.
• She was never in the mood for sex.
• She constantly nagged and criticised him.
• When she was upset, she got back at him indirectly by charging to him overpriced jewellery and clothing.
Michael had three clear options:
1. If he was so unhappy, he could file for divorce
2. He and Millie could try couple therapy
3. He could maintain status quo with Millie and engage in “recreation” on the side
Most men I know seem committed to the third option. They feel sorry for themselves for being stuck with a cold, unloving wife. They blame their wives for their problems and unhappiness. But they knowingly treat their wife in a shabby way which is certain to demoralise her and ruin their marriage the entire time that he complains about her.
We all have strong needs and instinctual yearnings for loving relationships. So why then do we fight with each other so much? I think it’s simply because we don’t know how to do better ... and that we’re terrified of being truly known — weakness, vulnerability and all. So we choose conflict and hostility because it helps us maintain a safe distance from those we have differences with. It also leaves us free to pursue our personal agendas.
What else could get in the way of love? Can there be intimacy without openness and truth? This means having the humility and willingness to examine the relationship and apply change for the improvement needed.
Is there enough space and safety in your relationship to say, “When you say that, I feel.............,” or “Can we talk about something that’s been bothering me?”
Whenever I’m “unfinished” about something and I harbour resentment or frustration about that, it gets in the way of me being open and fully present to the other person. This “incompleteness” affects the intimacy between us.
Would you say that’s true for you? If so, then it’s really important to commit to regular “clearing” sessions if you want to maintain and protect closeness between you and those you care about.
Other motives that interfere with love include wanting power and control, revenge and blame. These can really keep the aggression going within the family. It’s always the other person’s fault and the “blamer” (usually the more dominating party) doesn’t have to feel guilty.
I’d say we’d need to develop better conflict skills if peace and prosperity is what we want. Are you aware of what provokes you to anger? Can you manage your hot buttons well enough so that you can offer empathy, mutual respect, and self-expression minus blame, defensiveness or sarcasm?
“Hearing you say how that affected you, I feel sorry I did that.”
“I’m sorry. If I had to do it over again, I
“I didn’t mean to hurt you. What I wish I’d been able to say is........................”
How many of us can say this to our critics? When we agree with them instead of being defensive, we are actually saying we want to understand their perspective — that we accept they see differently and that we are willing to improve things. Immediately the antagonism, mistrust and frustration would transform into warmth, willingness and respect.
Son takes money without asking
MY 12-year-old son was caught stealing RM2,000 from my wife’s purse. I travel a lot and it seems this has been happening over several months. What should we do?
Your son needs (money) for something and instead of asking as the most effective way of getting, he takes.
What does asking mean to him? He is afraid that you and your wife will see him as bad or weak. He is afraid of being punished because you and your wife might scold him for being wrong or for making a mistake. Your son is stealing because he is afraid of being open and vulnerable with his parents. Does this make sense?
Your son does not know how to manage his needs, wants and desires. Maybe he doesn’t know when enough is enough. So he wants more. When he doesn’t have enough of his own money to pay for it, he takes money from your wife. If this is not handled early, it could lead to addiction. “I want more” — food, friends; more attention, more gambling, more drugs!
Or your son may crave attention. He may think if he does something that is serious enough you and your wife will stop your routine and pay attention to him and his needs.
What I would do:
a. Immediately show him more love and attention.
b. Immediately acknowledge and praise him more. Focus on all the right things that he is doing instead of punishing him for the wrongs he has done.
c. Tell him, “Son, if you need money, ask daddy. If daddy thinks we can buy, then we will buy. Otherwise we find another way.”
And most importantly remember this. Our children are the smartest human beings on the planet. They learn by the example set by their parents. If he observes lack of openness between you and your wife, if he observes that covert communication pays better than open communication, guess which method he will use?
Gen Y issues
What’s the fuss about Gen Y? What makes young people think they’re different and special so much so they require a different type of handling? My bosses are so concerned we might offend them so we’re looking for a specialist manager!
Whoa! It’s an “us and them” situation at your office, huh. And you’re feeling exactly what about that? How do you believe Gen Y are different from you and the rest of the folk your age? What do you see happening that is evidence of that?
Just make a list of some things that have changed since your time — technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, this levels the global playing field, doesn’t it? Access to quality education has also changed how people live, and if you compare how our parents provided for us and how we’ve provided for our children, you’d see how fortunate our children have been in that they’ve been spared the struggles we endured in our time.
More educated, more technologically-savvy, more international in perspective... Less exposed to hardship, given goodies by parents because we are determined that our children live better than we did. As a consequence of that now, we face the challenge of turning these “cherished” children into peak performers.
Again the miracle question: If you want a productive workforce, what needs to be done so that people remain engaged and enrolled? I’d wager that while the approach may differ, the strategies remain the same.