Christine called, and I could almost feel her shaking her head. "I just do not understand," she said, "why I treat James so badly sometimes. Everything is fine for a while, and then I blow up at him. Later, when I look back, what he did to provoke me seems minor. What's wrong with me?"
We've all done this. We think we've learned something about being patient, kind, and loving, but then something happens and we respond with the maturity of a baby whose bottle has been snatched from his mouth. Why?
Let's suppose that you have practiced telling the truth about yourself and have acquired a certain amount of Real Love. Let's further suppose that it can be quantified, and that you have 6 liters of it. If a partner--spouse, child, friend--then makes a request or demand for 3 liters, all is well. But what if their demand for your time, energy, and love is for 8 liters? You might feel overwhelmed and react badly. It's not that you had no love, only that you didn't have enough for that particular situation or person.
Our supply of love can be depleted by people who are unloving, by injustice, by illness, or simply by physical exhaustion, among other things. Each little inconvenience or strain can diminish our reserves, amidst an ever-shifting landscape of demands from other people. When the demand exceeds our supply, we do poorly.
The solutions are obvious. We need to increase our supply of Real Love and to minimize the unreasonable demands placed upon us.
First, the demands. We can't control the people and situations around us, but we can minimize our own choices to participate in situations and relationships that would drain us. We can choose to limit our time around difficult people, and we can utterly refuse to continue in conflicts, as discussed in these two blogs:
Anybody Can Play T-Ball
How to Withdraw Graciously
But we can't avoid all draining situations, so we must also steadily increase our reserves of Real Love, which happens as we speak truthfully with loving wise men, when we meditate or pray, and when we rest and otherwise care for our physical health.
As we engage in both efforts--growing in our ability to love and avoiding unnecessary depletion--there will still unavoidably be times when our needs exceed our abilities. On such occasions, we need not feel as though we have failed. We have simply discovered our limits and need to take steps to increase our strength or withdraw from further demands--or both. These "failures" are just information, reminding us that we have more to learn.