A Reading from the Bottle of Pantene

Wash, rinse, repeat

The idea for this blog squirted out of my shampoo bottle the other morning. As I lathered and rinsed my hair – I wash it too often to need to repeat the process – I realized those venerable three steps are the same ones I need to take to maintain trust and connection with all the people in my life. See if you agree.

Wash. When – not if – I get in a lather about something, there’s always someone whipping up that anger in me. I sometimes froth privately, sometimes spume publicly; either way, some part of my connection with that person is scrubbed.

Rinse. The lather often subsides on its own; the inward or outward tension fizzles as we move on with our days. But a sticky residue remains if I fail to rinse it off. I may need to talk through my frustrations, understand an opposing view or apologize for my actions.

Repeat. On a shampoo bottle, this simple word seems like a marketing ploy to get us to use twice as much shampoo as we need. In life, if we really want close, trusting relationships, the repetition never ends – doesn’t the Bible mention something about forgiving each other 70 times seven times, and wasn’t that really a metaphor for always?

Seeking and extending forgiveness is a daily practice. I hope to see and address each small wrong to keep it from bubbling into a bouffant of offenses that snags my relationship with those I love.

Here’s an example of combing through the tangles.

Wash

At the end of a family vacation a number of years ago with Craig’s sisters’ families, he and I were packing suitcases and hauling them to the car alongside one brother-in-law and his kids. Where were our kids? Sprawled on the bed relishing their last few minutes of cable TV. Seeing the contrast in our families filled me with shame – why hadn’t I taught my kids to be helpful? – which I instantly covered with anger. I returned to our room and berated my older three kids for being mindless, lazy and self-centered. I was loud and ugly.

Was their desire to watch a few more minutes of shows they couldn’t get at home so malicious? No. The malice was verbally abusing my kids because I was ashamed of looking like a bad mother. From my shame, I shamed them.

Rinse

Soon after I finished my tirade, I knew I had to come clean and apologize. Unfortunately, my kids had scattered and I had to hunt them down one by one. I found Kristen in the hallway. “Kristen, I’m sorry for yelling. I should have just asked for help. Please forgive me.” That wasn’t too hard.

Repeat

I found Anna in the room. “Anna, I’m sorry for yelling. I should have just asked for help. Please forgive me.” Two down, although the second was a bit harder.

When I saw Dave in the lobby, I was overcome by the realization that a few seconds of lathering had hurt three of the people I love the most. I teared up as I apologized to him: “Dave, I’m sorry for yelling. I should have just asked for help. Please forgive me.”

All three were quick to forgive. The harder part was forgiving myself for my automatic willingness to sacrifice their love and respect so that I could present us as the perfect family.

Then, as now, perfection eluded me, but at least I felt tingly clean for the long ride home.