How Great Thou Part

I enter the office with my marriage counseling tool kit. A cup of coffee and a few tissues. It is still early in my marital distress. I slump into the couch knowing instinctively that this is one of the few safe places to let go of my pain.

The pain begins to find a way out. At first it is a slow drizzle of tears, then a slight downpour and ultimately a hurricane. It is hard to find safe harbor from these salty demons.

My marriage counselor closes the door.

He slides into his familiar chair. We chat for a few minutes before I start my standard, one woman, verbal dissertation of angst. I alternate between exercising my heart and begging for knowledge to restore it.

“Colleen,” says my counselor. “You are not an enabler. You are a major, major enabler.”

“Wow,” I respond with a rare chuckle. “Has anyone ever told you that you have a little Dr. Phil in you?”

“Why, yes, I have been told that before,” laughs my counselor.

I will call him, “Dr. Hope,” because that is who he is for me. He is a safe refuge that absorbs my pain and promises the eventual delivery of the joy that I have involuntarily misplaced.

Dr. Hope continues……….

“Colleen, what were you thinking? Why did you put up with the same behavior again and again?”

I don’t need to think about this. I respond immediately.

“I was thinking I was being kind,” I say.

The words that Dr. Hope speaks next are life changing. They transport me back to the little girl with pigtails who sits in her first grade classroom at Saint Luke’s Elementary. The chalk scrapes the blackboard and is guided by Sister Lisa Marie, a young and loving nun who makes school seem exciting. It is the precursor to my Catholic education where kindness is emphasized and only reinforced by a young nun who delivers it in spades.

“Colleen,” says Dr. Hope. His voice carries the same brand as Sister Lisa Marie.

“Kindness is forgiving bad behavior once or twice. Enabling is forgiving that same behavior over and over again.”

It is a shifting moment for me.

I am no longer confused.

I can be kind AND have limits. It does not mean I lack kindness. It means I have boundaries. It means that I deserve to not only be kind to others, but to be kind to myself as well.



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