Each time I leave the house, I put on my face. When I meet someone, I put on my meeting face. When I lead a workshop, I put on my "workshop leader" face. When I pick up my grandchild, I put on my grandparent face. When I meet a stranger, I put on my "do I want to get to know you?" face.  

Our face is what we want others to see in us. Integrity is having all our face reflect something of our essential character. When someone represents themselves one way in one setting and another way in another setting, they are called "two-faced". We get embarrassed when more of us is revealed than we want our face to reveal. When that happens, we become "red-faced".

Face is important. It has to do with our reputation or our dignity. That's why "loss of face" is a very significant loss. When we have known ourselves to be a certain kind of person and something happens to make others see us differently than we have been seen, we feel naked. We feel exposed. We lose standing among our peers. Loss of face can be one of the hardest losses we suffer.

Many conficts in our lives are the result of our fear of losing face. Many arguments are intensified when one or both parties are trying to save face. Some conflicts become heated and aggressive when we feel our reputation, our value, our worth is being threatened.

In the midst of such "face-losing" situations, it is important to help people save face. It is important to figure out how to build up the other. Our self-worth is central to our stability and sense of security. When that is threatened, we will be defensive. When we are more secure and our value is not undermined, we are able to engage issues with more reason and grace.



One of the joys of life is the opportunity to learn from others.

Since I wrote "Lose, Love, Live" I have had numerous opportunities to do workshops on grief and loss.  One workshop resulted in an insight that had never occurred to me.

Mark, a youth minister who was in the group listened to me talk about how people respond when they experience a loss. I talked of how people often feel scared when they are losing something that really matters. Anger is generally present in those times.  Anger is normal because anger is a physical response to threat. When we feel threatened the body dispenses adrenaline in our system to give us energy to fight what threatens us, flee from it, or freeze so that the threat might not notice us.  When we lose something that helps us know who we are, we are threatened and get angry.

After the workshop Mark came up to me and said, "This explains the conflict that I deal with all the time when I work with youth and their parents.  At the same time teenagers are reaching for their independence, they are also losing the security and safety of dependence.  Parents, while encouraging independence, are losing the relationship they had with children who were more under their control. That is why there is so much anger."

Mark's observation is important.  Parents and teenagers alike are losing life the way they knew it.  As changes happen, no one is totally confident on how life will turn out. While there is much to celebrate in the new place that both the parent and the teenager occupy, there is much to fear.  That fear results in feeling threatened and thus in feeling anger.

Since this is one of the dynamics between parents and teenagers, knowing that each is dealing with loss can help. Each can listen to the other and help the other explore what is so frightening about these changes. Each can explore what they are afraid they will lose and try to determine if there are grounds for that fear. Some losses may not occur. For example, the normal distancing that happens as a young person becomes independent does not necessarily mean that the relationship will disappear.

When you feel anger rising in your relationships, ask yourself, "What am I afraid I am going to lose?"  It might help you understand and navigate the turbulent waters of parenting.