Fireworks are a lot like relationships. Both combine ingredients that have the potential to create something beautiful–worthy of “oohs” and aahs.” Fireworks are created by a precise combination of several chemicals, most commonly calcium, aluminum, carbon, and a chlorine oxidizer. Relationships, on the other hand, are created through a combination of soul, desire, emotion and character.
In the past two weeks two different people have spoken to me of fireworks and relationships. One person talked of growing up in a home that was full of fireworks. She said she never knew when the next explosion would happen. Would it be mom exploding at dad, dad exploding at mom, or mom or dad exploding toward one of the children? Another person spoke of a relatively new love relationship that he was in. He met a woman six months ago and said he felt like he had found his soul mate. He spoke of the electricity in the relationship that often turned into fireworks of joy and elation.
It seems that fireworks, like relationships, can be both beautiful and dangerous. People get hurt if they don’t handle them properly. There is a fine line between beauty and danger when you are dealing with either volatile chemicals or volatile emotions. It is one of life’s great paradoxes that the forces that can combine to create the greatest beauty are the very same forces that can combine to create the greatest harm. Religion can create a Desmund Tutu, a Mother Theresa, or a person who terrorizes in the name of God.
So how do we make sure that we are creating fireworks of beauty in our relationships versus fireworks that backfire and cause harm? A short answer to that question can be found by looking at the holiday we celebrate today. As important as the individuals were that labored to create our nation, the essence of what formed our nation is the principles upon which it was founded. And so it is with healthy relationships. The common theme of all healthy relationships is not the uniqueness of the individuals that form them, but the principles that guide them, namely humility, integrity, honesty, vulnerability, love, hope and faith.
As we celebrate the founding ideals of our nation and look up to the skies to see the beautiful fireworks, may we also look upwards to the enduring values and ideals that define beauty in relationships and work to embody them each and every day.
Happy 4th of July to all!
(Some of you who have been long time readers of this may realize that this is an updated version of a column I wrote in 2010).