“At the end of life, our questions are very simple: Did I live fully? Did I love well?” ~Jack Kornfield
We all grow up with some healthy stories about love and some unhealthy ones. I learned some beautiful, life-giving ideas about love, ideas like these:
But I also grew up with some stories about love that I came to see weren’t so helpful. Those ideas about love bred problems in my relationships.
One of those stories was: Loving someone means always being available to them. (Turns out, it’s not true, and living as if it is breeds resentment.)
Another was: Loving someone means always having space for what they want to talk to you about. (Turns out, not true either!)
Another myth about love: If you love someone, you do what they are asking you to do, out of love, even if it feels difficult. (I can tell you, that doesn’t work so well.)
I’ve developed my own guidelines for loving the people in my life, guidelines that express how I want to relate to the people around me.
These are some of my guidelines for loving:
They likely can’t see it and they don’t know its immensity, but you can see it, and you can illuminate it for them.
Ask your real questions. Share your real beliefs. Go for your real dreams. Tell your truth.
Meditate, write, or do yoga to work through anxiety, resentment, and stress on your own so you don’t hand off those negative moods to everyone around you. Sure, share sadness, honest dilemmas, and fears, but be mindful; don’t pollute.
Don’t listen to determine if you agree or disagree. Listen to get to know what is true for the person in front of you. Get to know an inner landscape that is different from your own, and enjoy the journey. Remember that if, in any conversation, nothing piqued your curiosity and nothing surprised you, you weren’t really listening.
Really. Chuck that whole thing. Their habits are their habits. Their personalities are their personalities. Let them be, and work on what you want to change about you—not what you think would be good to change about them.
Let them be who they are, entirely. Then, you decide what you need, in light of who they are. Do you need to make a direct request that they change their behavior in some way? Do you need to take care of yourself better? Do you need to set a boundary or to change the relationship? Take care of yourself well, without holding anyone else in contempt.
Stop if resentment is building and retool. Don’t do the martyr thing. It helps no one and nothing.
Remember that everyone you encounter was created by divine intelligence and has an important role to play in the universe. Treat them as such.
With this mantra as your guide, you’ll keep growing emotionally and spiritually for the rest of your life.
What are your guidelines for loving the people in your life?
Friends hugging image via Shutterstock
Tara Sophia Mohr is a writer, coach, and personal growth teacher. She’s the creator of the global Playing Big leadership program for women, the author of The Real Life poems, and is a regular writer for the Huffington Post. Visit www.taramohr.com for more.
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