The Secret to Relationships: “Turning Toward”

As a romance author, I write a lot about “turning”. A lot. I just searched my work-in-progress and found 43 instances of the word.

For example:

  • He turned his head slightly to the left, showing off his dimple.
  • Why did I care that she had turned me down?
  • She turned around in her seat.
  • Her expression turned sour.
  • It was my turn to laugh.

Hmm, while this makes me think I need to find a new word to use (lol), I also had a realization about real life: there’s a lot of turning involved.

More specifically, our relationships require us to turn. When we talk to someone, we turn to look at them. Eye contact is even more crucial when it comes to listening. Without this kind of interaction, there really is no connection.

But what is connection exactly?

I think connecting with someone starts even before you can see them. It starts with the heart.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from almost 19 years of marriage and 13+ years of parenting, it’s that I have a choice in how I approach my husband and kids. Do I choose to turn toward them or away from them? How do I respond to them, not only in a physical sense, but in my heart?

As anyone who’s human can attest, people are messy. Having a relationship with someone, any kind of relationship, means going through your fair share of ups and downs. People do things that can frustrate and annoy you and even hurt you. Sometimes it’s on purpose; other times it’s unintentional. All of this is fact and a part of life.

Before I became a wife and mom, I was oblivious to how hard relationships can be. I thought I was a loving, kind and patient person—humble, too, of course! 😉 Why wouldn’t I be? I’d rarely had my buttons pushed or been misunderstood or felt unappreciated.

Only after I was blessed with these amazing people whom I get to call my own, did I learn who the real me was. The real me is not a happy person when woken up in the middle of the night. The real me was a pro at the silent treatment in the early years of our marriage. The real me loses her patience when the kids don’t cooperate. The real me would rather turn away from the people I love instead of turn toward them.

Ouch.

It took me many, many years to realize how harmful “turning away” was. Turning away meant that I was essentially hardening my heart and closing myself off from my husband and kids. That heart change seeped into my attitude and behavior and cut off any desire I had for connection. I was like a kid sitting in the corner and holding onto my grudge until the other person behaved the way I wanted them to.

Eeks.

There’s a verse in Romans 2 that speaks of the kindness of God, and how it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. That verse has always stayed with me somewhere in the back of my mind, probably because it’s so far from my own M.O. The way I learned to operate was to show judgment and condemnation first, then acceptance and reprieve later, but only when the other person had “earned” it. But how amazing is it to show kindness, patience, and mercy first?! To turn toward the other person and to extend your arms to them … because you would want that same kind of mind-blowing grace extended to you?

Turning toward my husband and kids (especially my kids) is the only choice I (aim to) make now. I don’t always get it right, but I do find myself pausing more to check my heart. Is it soft or hard? Am I turning toward or away? It’s a simple question, but it can make a great difference. Our actions and words already have the power to make a lasting impact. Why not make the impact a loving, gracious one?

I grew up singing Leslie Phillips’ song, “Your Kindness”, in our youth group. The words and melody are so beautiful and still touch me to this day.

How often do you find yourself turning toward versus turning away?

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