4. Nurturer (From The Relational Family)

4. Nurturer (From The Relational Family)

A Nurturer values people before anything else. A Nurturer knows what to say to someone who is experiencing difficult times. It is the person most likely to end up with a date by the end of the night or the one you would most like to deal with at the DMV. Nurturers value people by listening, helping and cherishing them. They make it look effortless because they enjoy doing these things. 

In some families, one member is regarded as the glue. That person values the other members of the family by putting them first, before everything else, no matter what. Nurturers are always aware of the heartbeat behind any project. They all have an unusually high level of empathy for others; that’s why people come to them with personal issues.  Nurturers get their significance from realizing the impact they have on the lives of others. They’re at their best when involved in relationships that deserve them and when they find the balance between giving care and receiving it. Others trust their sincerity and attention. 

Carol is excellent at using her Nurturer ability. In her role as a business coach, this ability enables her to change a person’s attitude or perspective for the long term. Her opinions and input are respected and acted upon. She’s not afraid to tell people the hard truth if she believes they will benefit from it. Since her job is people-intensive, it is important for her to take care of herself emotionally as well as physically.  In the past few years, she has learned to get massages, work out at the gym, and take time for dinner and a play or movie with friends, all on a regular basis.  She has learned to balance the demands of her Nurturer ability with the need to take care of herself.

Mother Teresa is a supreme example of someone who cared deeply for others. This saintly woman is an ambassador for dynamically nurturing others. Like many Nurturers, she had a hard time receiving.  It’s easy for Nurturers to put their own needs on hold because of a wonderful desire to help others. Mother Theresa at times would not take her medications or wouldn’t rest. At times, her support team had to stop what they were doing to care for her. As a Nurturer it is natural for you to gift others with Nurture, but make sure you also receive the gift of nurture from others.

For myself, growing up in Catholic Ireland, as a Nurturer I wanted to help others in a significant way. However, I was terrified that I would lose myself in it and end up living in dire poverty. No one can volunteer to nurture at the complete abandonment of their own humanity. If you have a Relational ability, as you care for others, first take care of yourself so you don’t become susceptible to disillusionment and burnout. It takes the pressure off! If you know how to rejuvenate yourself regularly, you’re better able to nurture others. You make your own cake and others will provide the icing. 

Needs: God-sized and me-sized. In Ireland, the pace of our lives was different than in America.  Having lived the past 16 years in the U.S., my perspectives remain somewhat different. Whenever I was feeling depressed, put upon, or unappreciated, my Mom used to say to me, “Get off the cross. We need the wood.”  I’ve held onto that wonderful word-picture because it reminds me that:

I’m not a deity. There are me-sized needs on my conveyor belt and there are God-sized needs. Differentiating between them is essential. You have to be able to walk away from the needs you’re not designed for and accept those you are supposed to.

Three rules apply to relationships: You have to do what the Creator does when interacting with a human being:

Respect the person’s dignity.

Have the grace to accept, not necessarily agree with, the person’s choices or decisions.

Allow the person to experience the consequences of their decisions. 

The third rule is difficult for a Nurturer to follow naturally. Nurturers can miss the mark in a relationship because it pains them to see human suffering. My favorite writer, C.S. Lewis said, “Pain is God’s megaphone to the world.” That is how He gets our attention.  When a person comes to the end of self, that’s where God is. That’s where pain and clarity come in.  What people do with that painful clarity can move them toward the success and significance they’re designed for. Nurturers tend to become human trampolines if they let us bounce our problems off them without letting us come to the end of ourselves. Sometimes it’s necessary to stand back and let the person you care about experience the pain in order to gain the clarity. 

Nurturers must be in relationships that deserve them. They must qualify their personal and professional relationships, based not on ego but on reciprocity. They would do themselves a favor by asking, “Who gets to have me? As I give the very best of myself, how does this individual, institution or organization reciprocate?” 

Personally, I have a busy travel schedule. There are a lot of things going on in my day, in my world, in my week. I had a friend who constantly asked me to do him favors because he and his wife traveled a lot. Would I mind taking them to the airport? Would I mind watching the dog, getting the mail, making sure the lawn was watered? They lived nine miles from me, and the airport was 35 miles away.  After a year of favors, on the long drive back from taking them to the airport one night, I asked myself, “What am I getting from this relationship?”  My only answer was that he was funny and made me laugh. That was it! There was no other reciprocity.  After some soul searching, I realized this was not the best use of my time and my relational energy, so I ended this relationship. I was surprised to discover the extra time it gave me to devote to my true purpose on the planet – helping other people find themselves.

On the conveyor belt of life as it passes moment by moment, there are the needs of your spouse, children, parents, colleagues, clients…even the dog. Nurturers tend to put them all ahead of their own needs. They do so in the hope that their own unspoken needs will eventually be met. They have a difficult time prioritizing their own needs and, as a consequence, frequently their needs go unmet. 

Nurturers are the Marcel Marceaus of relationships. They do not naturally articulate their wants. In personal and professional relationships, Nurturers set themselves up for disappointment by not expressing their needs, assuming that others are empathetic enough to recognize them and reciprocate. Their silence usually communicates to others that they are fine and satisfied. It can communicate everything but the truth. Nurturers need to participate in the dance of their relationships. They need to practice articulating their needs, desires and frustrations.

I often give this homework assignment to Nurturers: write down everything you don’t want personally and professionally. When you’re satisfied with that list, go back and find the WANT that is inside each DON’T WANT.  These are what we call “filters”. Once you have established your DON’T WANTS and have clarified your WANTS, then you can ask yourself another filter question: What time, resources and energy are required to manifest those wants in my life?

The second most difficult act for a Nurturer after articulating a want is to stand back and receive.  If there is no reciprocity and nothing is received, perhaps it shows the non-reciprocator has nothing to give in the relationship.

Remember, “Your friends are the family you choose.” I am talking here to people with a relational attribute, those who are other-people focused and giving in nature. If you are a natural giver, you need to make sure you are receiving. It refuels your relational gas tank.

You can work with orphans and get great satisfaction from it. However, you also need relationships with people who watch out for you, make sure you are taking care of yourself, and are genuinely concerned for your emotional, physical, and environmental well-being. In your key relationships, you need reciprocity. 

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