CHOOSE CONNECTION WITH OTHERS OVER SEPARATION FROM THEM
"The next time you’re tempted to judge someone, take a deep breath and add 'And, I am too' to the end of your judgement." -Lissa Rankin, MD
We are eager to project all of our faults onto others rather than take a deep and often scary look in the mirror. (Take a deep breath here.) At one point or another, most of us have avoided dealing with our shortcomings by pointing fingers and disliking other people. The temporary high that comes from complaining about someone else only stirs up more problems until an annoying preoccupation with this person overwhelms your thinking. Save your sanity and look at yourself more closely the next time you’re tempted to complain about someone else.
Every time you have a problem with someone, recognize it is your "having a problem with someone" that is creating the problem.
We’re Living Longer Only to Live Lonely.
When we go through life evaluating others to find out what’s wrong with them, we cut ourselves off from meaningful human connection. We become lonely. Loneliness has now been studied and shown to surpass obesity as a risk factor for disease and early death. Loneliness, due to its health implications, is actually considered a public health issue.
Don’t wait until you’re lonely to give people a chance.
When there is a smorgasbord, you get to pick and choose.
We don’t have to love every single thing about someone to accept, connect with and enjoy them. Instead, think of people as though they are a smorgasbord buffet. Don’t pigeonhole people into having just one or two character traits. You, the buffet patron, get to pick out what you’re going to put in your mouth. Make it enjoyable for yourself. Pick out the good, tasty, appetizing stuff. Be a fun finder, a fantastic finder, a sweet finder, a smarty pants finder, or a humor finder. Above all else, try your best NOT to be a fault finder.
What about when there are irreconcilable differences? How do I choose connection?
Gina is a lesbian friend of mine in San Francisco. Her 85 year-old parents live in Detroit, where she was raised. They both voted for Trump, someone Gina has “a very low opinion” of.
Gina disagreed and voiced her opinions but her parents fought back harder, as tends to happen when opposing camps argue. Each side clings harder to its own position.
Later during that trip, Gina realized that her parents wouldn’t be alive and healthy much longer. She asked herself, “Do I really want to spend my last moments with my parents in heated arguments?”
In the end, Gina chose connection with her parents by cherishing the things she loves about them, helping them with chores and home repair projects and reminiscing with them about her childhood memories. She came to accept that some disagreements with them will be irreconcilable but that she could always feel love for them.
Connect where you can with others. Otherwise, set boundaries to keep yourself grounded and safe. For example, send a card or make a phone call rather than attend a dreaded event.
How do I choose connection when people are mean?
People often use hostility to push us away. We can recognize this as some kind of fear in the person that we may never understand. By not letting them provoke us into a fight, we are offering connection. It is up to them whether they receive it.
We do not have to receive anyone’s hostility just because they are dishing it out. Here is a Zen Buddhist story that illustrates this idea:
Near Tokyo lived a great Samurai warrior, now old, who decided to teach Zen Buddhism to young people. One afternoon, a warrior – known for his complete lack of scruples – arrived there. The young warrior had never lost a fight. Hearing of the Samurai’s reputation, he had come to defeat him, and increase his fame. All the students were against the idea, but the old man accepted the challenge.
All gathered on the town square, and the young man started insulting the old
master. He threw a few rocks in his direction, spat in his face, shouted every
insult under the sun – he even insulted his ancestors. For hours, he did everything to provoke him, but the old man remained impassive. At the end of the afternoon, by now feeling exhausted and humiliated, the young warrior left.
Disappointed by the fact that the master had received so many insults and provocations, the students asked: “How could you bear such indignity? Why didn’t you use your sword, even knowing you might lose the fight, instead of displaying your cowardice in front of us all?”
“If someone comes to you with a gift, and you do not accept it, who does the gift belong to?” asked the Samurai.
“He who tried to deliver it,” replied one of his disciples.
“The same goes for envy, anger and insults,” said the master. “When they are not accepted, they continue to belong to the one who carried them.”
-Story written by Paulo Cuelho