Fortifying Against the Drain


As I was thinking about and writing my post from last week: “Am I a Life-Giver or a Life-Drainer?”  (If you haven’t had a chance to read it, I encourage you to take a few minutes to do so before you continue reading this; just scroll down), I sadly kept thinking, “but I really do have those moments when I feel like I pull the plug and begin draining the very joy or hope or enthusiasm out of those around me!”  I then asked myself, “So, how can I prepare for and combat the unpleasant dreadfulness of the inevitable results?”

Is that it? Is it hopeless? I know I will have those interactions when, as a result of my being busy or tired or worried or angry or selfish or mind-boggled or a hundred other excuses  – – –  I will absolutely fail at being a “life-giver.”  Whether by my word or deed or misstep or maybe even nothing, the face of someone’s delight and excitement will visibly crumble before me or the shrill sound of the absolute deflation of their hypothetical balloon of happiness and goodness will fill the air around me.

It’s going to happen!  Do you know how I know this? Because it has happened before.  Even in my most careful moments it’s happened. I can hear the drain begin. I can see the bitter whirlpool forming. And it has most certainly occurred when I am most unaware, careless, thoughtless or just right down in a mean or selfish mood.  Thankfully, those moments have lessened as I’ve gotten older – but they are ever-waiting to return!

So how do we prepare for those life-draining moments? How can we safeguard those we love and live life with from being negatively affected or diminished when our fleshly humanity most visibly or verbally bursts forth?

Many years ago my husband and I taught a class on parenting at our church. Both the video and the book for the series kept referring to keeping your child’s “Emotional Tank” filled.  Over the years he and I have often talked about what we incorrectly remembered as our “emotional love tanks.” That emotional love tank image came to my mind as I began thinking about how I can best shield my loved ones from my inevitable life-draining lapses.  I thought so much about it I actually found and ordered the now out-of-print book mentioned in the parenting series. (By the way, I am always absolutely amazed by Amazon.  In fact, I think the name derived from its very AMAZingness!)  Now, back to my thought  . . .

Sure enough, as I read through the book, what we had incorrectly recalled as our “emotional love tank” was simply an “emotional tank.”  Over the ensuing years we have sometimes talked about making deposits in the tanks of those we love – and, like a bank, the inevitable withdrawals (drains) have surely come.

I’ve tried to make positive “deposits” in the lives of my family.  I want my husband and my girls to know, without a shadow of a doubt, they are my most treasured gifts here on earth. I hope I have shown them, told them, served them, loved them, hugged them, prayed for them, cared for them, spent time with them, invested in them and laughed with them enough that their individual “emotional tanks” are filled enough with the knowledge and assurance of my unconditional love that there will always be a positive “balance” during and after those inexplicable times when I’m depleting their supply.

In his book, “How to Really Love Your Child,” D. Ross Campbell, M.D. suggests four ways to grow the balance in the emotional tanks of our children. Dr. Campbell’s four “positive” deposits to our emotional tanks are: (1) Eye Contact; (2) Physical Contact; (3) Focused Attention and (4) Discipline.  And by “discipline” – he does not mean simply “punishment.” But those thoughts are for another post.

I firmly believe the first three apply to all areas and relationships in our lives; not only as to our children, but to our homes, our marriages, our friendships and our workplaces as well.

I’ve really been thinking about these affirming and constructive practices as they relate to my family.  And here is my bottom line: they all require time, intentionality, focus, motivation, effort and direct contact. There are no short-cuts. There is little time for self-absorption.  At times it may not be fun or easy or convenient or preferable. But it is undeniably worth the time, effort, investment and “sacrifice” to add positive reinforcement that actively and clearly demonstrate our love for our spouses, our children, our friends and others.

I want my husband and my girls to not only hear me say “I love you,” but to also see it, feel it, know it, remember it and be assured of it to their very core.  It’s worth every second and every bit of energy I can muster.

I will surely pull the plug more often than I desire. I will see the drain begin.  But hopefully there will be so much love, assurance, contentment and understanding in the emotional tank I’ve “disturbed” that it will never be drained dry.

Since I’ve been thinking about this over the last several weeks, I’ve become even more aware of how drastically our world has changed since Dr. Campbell first wrote his book. While these changes are largely viewed as “progressive,” they tend to create subtle obstacles to his suggested “deposits.” And the most sweeping change?  The development of technology and the introduction and explosion of social media.

It is challenging to maintain eye contact, physical contact and focused attention when everyone is holding some sort of cellular or technical device and is lost in the endless supply of posts, updates, tweets, articles, etc. We are way past the point of holding a remote control and being caught up in the same television program.

Our family is no different!  It sneaks up on us without our even being aware of it. Before we know it we are all entirely engrossed in our own little tech bubble.  Conversation ceases and eye contact fades.  Focused attention slowly recedes into the corners of the room.

I’ve said it many times:  I am sooooo very glad I was able to raise my children, for the most part, before the advent of social media and a cell phone or iPad in everyone’s hand. The very things that make life a little more entertaining, information a little easier to obtain and communication a little closer at hand can draw us apart and into ourselves without our slightest notice.

And the result?  . . . The emotional tanks of those around us are not being filled. The protection, readiness and provisions for the “drains” are not being fortified.

I know I want to be a “Life-Giver.”  I want to contribute loving, kind, reinforcing, encouraging “deposits” into the lives of those I love dearly.

It takes time, energy, focus, prayer and more often than not, mistakes that will cause me to have to reassess and start over.

But it is worth every thought, every look, every act, every intent, every bit of strength. The irritating sound of someone sucking the last little bit of their drink at the bottom of their cup, that very last gurgle, will not be the sound of the lives of those you love. The slurping drain will indeed subside before it reaches “empty”.

Thought to Ponder:  Do I intentionally make the time and effort to actually make eye contact, physical contact and pay focused attention to my spouse and my children?

Comments (6)

  • Well said Marcia. I’ve looked back over the years when I was emotionally drained and managed to drain the rest of my family as well. Thank you for the important and especially now, relevant message.

    • Yes, the drain can be exhausting! But the filling so sweet!!

  • Yes, I am pondering as well!

    • Thanks my friend, for your faithful encouragement!

  • So true, Marcia. Technology is a double edged sword.

  • Thanks for sharing with me. I shared some of your post at Bible study and our class lived it. It fit right into our study of happiness. We are done with that class now, but will also share with my Sunday school class I am teaching. Love staying in contact.


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