I grew up on a farm and was hard on jeans as a kid. Just ask my mom, a talented seamstress who spent more hours than you can imagine mending torn jeans. Today, jeans come with holes – and you pay extra for them. In my youth, you earned those holes, and didn’t ever want them.
When I recently read about the anniversary of Issac Singer’s patent on the sewing machine (in 1851), it got me thinking about all that mending my mom did on her sewing machine.
While you may not care about holes in your jeans, and you might know little or nothing about how to mend them, there are lessons from mending jeans that we can apply to something we do want to fix – broken relationships.
My jeans were all once new, but eventually with wear, they needed mending – much like our relationships. Let’s see what lessons we can take from the jeans – and apply to our relationships – whether at work or anywhere else.
You gotta wanna fix them. The jeans wouldn’t get fixed unless I took them off and gave them to Mom. If I keep wearing them, the hole will get worse, and if I put them in the corner, the hole never gets fixed. If you want to mend a relationship, you must go first, take the torn relationship to get fixed. This requires time and willingness.
Trimming is required. Once Mom got the jeans, she cut out the loose threads so the size of the hole was defined and obvious. If she tried to patch up the hole without the necessary prep work, the mend wouldn’t last as long. So too with our relationships – we must approach the other party and make sure we both understand where and how big the hole is. Some trimming and frank conversation may be required – but without it, the patch might not last.
A patch is needed. Once Mom decided how big the hole was, she had to get another piece of denim of the right size and of adequate strength. In mending or repairing our relationships, the patch is an adequate and strong apology. When one person comes to the broken relationship with a heart-felt honest apology, the mending can truly begin. And just like the jeans – no patch, no fix.
The thread makes all the difference. Strong thread and solid stitches allow the patch to hold firm. The thread in our relationships is trust. Trust can help repair the damage and hold it together, even under new stress and challenges. Mom knew she needed good strong thread, and you know that trust must be used to mend any important relationship.
Put them to the test. Once the jeans were mended, Mom wanted me to wear them. Unworn and untested, the repair was of little value. When I first put them on they always felt a little bit funny, but after I wore them a bit, they became more comfortable and functional. Isn’t this how it works in our relationships too? After the work of mending takes place, we have to put the relationship back into practice. If we apologize but don’t re-engage, the repair was of little value. But if we are willing to spend time with, work with and communicate with that person – even if it is uncomfortable or feels different than before – it can become comfortable and valued again.
This may be a strange analogy, and yes, there is much more that could be written about mending relationships, yet these five points will help you repair and mend relationships – whether the hole is small and just starting, or you have busted out the full knee.