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The Terror of War: Echoes of HistoryMarch 4, 2022
Our value is not determined by someone else’s opinion of us. Yet, when we are with people who are not present or engaged or, we feel, are judging us, we may interpret it as having something to do with us. Are we boring them? Do we not come up to their standard? This can escalate in our minds in many directions. We assume it has to do with us rather than with them. Is it our job to worry about whether others will have a good enough time with us? Certainly, if we plan an event we hope people will enjoy but all we can do is “set the table,” what people bring to the table and what they take away from it is mostly up to them. We have an interest in their happiness and engagement, but we are not responsible for it. We do not have that much power.
What bothers me is that so many of us begin to believe that we are not important enough or interesting enough to keep their attention. We see these same people animated and engaged with others, so what is the matter with us? We are quick to blame ourselves.
It is true that we all have a role in any interaction and “it does take two to tango.” But, one person may not want to do the tango or maybe just does not want to dance at all. Can it be okay if they “sit this one out” without our feeling of disappointment taking over and preventing us from moving through and enjoying the experience on our own?
In my view, each of us comes to a situation as we are at this moment in time. How engaged and involved we want or can be is up to us; not someone else. So, if someone doesn’t behave in the way we had hoped, we can notice the feeling we have inside, the expectations we had that are now dashed, and then we can decide what if anything we will do with this new awareness. Are we capable of shifting gears, understanding what happened inside of us (we do not know what is going on inside of the other person) so that we can still be present in a way that suits us? Or, in a way that is consistent with who we want to be? Sometimes in these situations we may need to remind ourselves that we need to be kind to ourselves and to these other people; to them in a way that we would like to be treated.
Even if they do not respond the way we would like we can still behave in ways that will not reduce our ability to enjoy an event, an experience, a particular moment. Yes, it is difficult because, as we know, moods are contagious…so if someone is obviously disengaged or “somewhere else” it can be more challenging for us. Particularly if we take on their mood and try to change it. We may feel compelled to go into “Let me entertain you” or “Let me try harder” modes and lose sight of our own experience. What is helpful to remember is that someone else’s actions or opinions do not have to diminish your sense of who you are and your value.
Measure Your Life in Love
525, 600 minutes,
525, 000 moments so dear.
525, 600 minutes –
How do you measure,
Measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525, 600 minutes –
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.
Seasons of love.
~From Seasons of Love, Rent the Musical
February is a month typically focused on Valentine’s Day. We see chocolates, flowers, and cards with hearts and cupids. The message is all about romance. What if we were to broaden our scope and attempt to bring more love into our everyday life? How could we be more loving as we move through each day?
This way of thinking about love is about honesty and respect for yourself, and others. Acting with love is not restricted to situations that are easy. It includes being open to dealing with things that are difficult and at times uncomfortable in a loving way. What does that mean to you? With the understanding that we cannot control others’ emotions, it is useless to try. We do have control over the information we deliver and the way it is delivered. We can respond with empathy. We can be conscious of the fact that we all have challenges in our personal lives that will influence how we behave in the moment.
When we think of a variety of circumstances, we can consider what a loving response looks and sounds like. Here are some tips to use as a guide in most situations:
- Make a conscious choice to be present.
- Focus on the other person, and not on yourself. But recognize your own discomfort and allow it to be.
- Listen with your whole self to increase the chance that the person feels heard.
- Attempt to create a connection.
- Offer compassion and empathy.
- Attempt to recognize and feel for this person’s situation and be moved to act in a way that will hopefully be appropriate for this person at this time. (for some it may be a gentle touch, for others a hug, a moment to reflect, to pray, or to sit together and be quiet).
- Acknowledge the other person’s perspective and, if appropriate, ask clarifying questions.
- Try to increase understanding and dialogue If the person wants to talk.
- See yourself as a witness, a support, an ally. You do not have to fix anything. Being there is likely enough.
Ex: What is a loving response when someone shares with you that their partner was recently diagnosed with a serious degenerative disease?
Ex: What is a loving response when your close friend shares that she was just diagnosed with cancer for the second time?
Ex: What is a loving response when you ask someone how they are and they inform you they mourning the recent loss of a loved one?
Ex: What is a loving response when someone invites you out but you’d rather isolate and stay home?
Ex: What is a loving response when the cashier or waitperson is impatient with you?
Acting with love means not letting fear or frustration get in the way of communicating with sincerity and empathy.
Empathy – Making Space for Someone
Every day commit to one action that helps you understand someone better. Take a moment to ask a question, and then make time to hear and process the answer. One small act of being fully present as you learn something new from someone about their life can have a large impact.