Tell Me on a Sunday: Letting Go of the Upper Hand

Human nature is a funny thing isn't it? I have noticed in relationships that I lean towards the side of carefully guarding everything about myself in order to avoid seeming vulnerable in any way.

I am certain that I am not the only one who does this. Although The Main Ingredient explained to us clearly in the 70's that everybody plays the fool sometimes, we still try to be the exception to the rule.

Lately I have been evaluating myself and how closely I guard emotions, experiences, and fears in order to not end up as the fool. I find myself coming back to this question: when is it good to keep the upper hand, and when is it better to trust and let go?

Can we walk through a few relationship samples for a minute?

1. The best relationship is the one we have with our Heavenly Father. Someone asked me a few days ago if I have ever been mad at God. I replied, "once, but it didn't go over very well." I feel our whole purpose in life is to learn that we can never have the upper hand with God. His thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways are not my ways. Yet, sometimes we still try. God tells us one thing and we don't want to do it so we fight against it until we get what we want and are completely miserable, or we give up and listen to Him and realize that He was right all along. 

I never guard my emotions with Him. Its not like I could anyway since He already knows what I am thinking and feeling and fearing. When it comes to the upper hand, God wins, and I am okay with that. He is a whole heck of a lot smarter than me.

2. Next up are our relationships with our family members. This one can be tricky depending on who the family member is. As we grow up we often want to achieve the upper hand over our parents, but in the end we realize that they were usually right, and that even when they were wrong they always had our best interests at heart, so how can we fault them for that?

When I went away to college I kept many emotions and situations hidden away from my parents. They weren't there to see it and as far as I was concerned my parents were to be made to believe that everything in my life was always awesome. I might discuss politics with them, annoying students that drove me up a wall when I was their TA, but never ever ever were they to know things that made me profoundly sad, or were just awkward for me to talk about with them. I never once talked to my parents about any relationship I was in with a guy. I had a rule that I was to never talk about kissing, cuddling, or boyfriends with them. Although my sister always did, and now, of the two of us, she is the one that is married. Maybe her learning how to let go of that upper hand with my parents is what enabled her to give it up in other relationships. Who knows?

3. General friendships: This one is funny because I tend to be a little bipolar about it. On the one hand all humans over the age of 12 terrify me. The two words that would truly describe my personality are quiet introvert. Time and life experiences have taught me to play an outgoing extrovert when necessary. Why? Well although human interaction can be fairly stressful for me, I actually really love people. I find that it is generally pretty easy to find things to love about people. When I get to know a person there are so many interesting things about them to love. I really want them to love me too. However, since adults scare me, I generally tend to assume they won't, and have to find some way to keep the upper hand. I think with this one I have mostly found a good balance in order to navigate social settings. Once someone truly becomes my friend, the walls come down, and we can have wonderful open conversations about anything and everything, and I love that.

4. Dating: This is obviously the trickiest one of the bunch. I used to be more open, but learned to close myself off. In the dating game the rule seems to be that you never want to seem like the one that likes the other person more. For awhile there I didn't have to worry about it. I was in Vermont and there weren't many options, and anyway I decided I was serving a mission after law school, so it didn't matter. Handy excuse. That handy excuse is gone now. Vulnerability is an incredibly scary concept in dating relationships. Losing the upper hand in this situation means that you are opening yourself up to the possibility that the person you are conceding it to will turn around and completely reject you. Nobody likes that.

To me this is the concept upon which all relationships turn on. We either decide its worth it to let go of our fear and put it out there, regardless of whether we end up playing the fool or not; or we fight to keep the upper hand, and may eventually regret that, or be really glad we did. How do we decide when we give it up, and when we keep it?

It seems to me that it shouldn't be this way. We should just learn to be honest and real with the other person, and not worry about the upper hand. Dating shouldn't be a competition right? Vulnerability is a good thing, mostly. Or partially? What do you think? Is there any point in a relationship that we should be trying to gain the upper hand? Should we all stop caring about that and be vulnerable in all situations? Should we just accept that everybody plays the fool, or keep trying to be the exception to the rule?


Helen Reynolds said…
Yes, just be real and let go of the pride that makes you feel like you need to have the upper hand. That doesn't mean that you have to disclose all of your inner most feelings until you are ready, but it does mean that we should turn outward and care less about ourselves appearing better than someone else and therefore stand offish, but show more caring and concern for others by being honest and real with them. I think it leads to better relationships and to people trusting you more. Plus, then mother's don't have to find out things about their daughters from other daughters, or by dragging things out of you.

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