"Think about the people who have most influenced you. When I remember them I am always surprised to discover that these are people who did not need my response. Instead they radiated a certain inner freedom...They pointed to a reality greater than themselves from which and in whom their freedom grew. This centeredness, this inner freedom, this spiritual independence had a mysterious contagiousness."
He echoes a lot of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer discusses in Life Together about allowing others the freedom to be who they are. Nouwen says that we don't do this, because we are trying to get our needs met by each other and our culture encourages this. "...We import a consumer mentality to our intimacies. We expect more of our friends and partners than they can (or want to) give. A fair amount of our suffering comes from our loneliness, a loneliness intensified by our high needs." He says that this puts a great strain on our relationships.
I have to stop trying to manipulate and control other people in order to truly love them. In order to do that, I have to get my needs met somewhere else before I ever approach other people. I believe God can meet all of my needs. But do I really believe that? Can He change my demanding into receiving? I love the possibilities in this quote -
"When we pray we admit that we don't know what God is going to do, but remember that we will never find out if we are not open to risks. We learn to stretch out our arms to the deep sea and the high heavens with an open mind and heart. In many ways prayer becomes an attitude toward life that opens itself up to a gift that is always coming."
It sounds risky, but doesn't freedom always involve risk and sacrifice? Fortunately, the sacrifice has already been made for us. We just have to take the risk. Well, it feels like a risk. But once we step into it, we realize that it is freedom.