Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I am committed to personal transparency. I think failure to practice today’s skill – Honoring Feelings and Ideas, I recognize your right to feel and think as you do, led to the demise of my second marriage. I frequently disagreed with how he thought and felt, and had a judgment that life would be better if he came around to my point of view. I thought I was recognizing his right to think and feel as he did, but secretly, I thought he was crazy. And I never felt like my husband got me. I always got the impression that if I didn’t agree with his view of the world, and his strategies for dealing with it, there was something wrong with me, some flaw in my thinking. And If you want to enrage me in an instant, tell me I make no sense.
It’s easy to love people who agree with us. These people take no work at all, it comes naturally. The ones who have viewpoints we disagree with? Now they are the ones who require an act of will. Here is where the rubber hits the road on Love as an Intention. Honoring someone’s right to think as they do does not mean we have to agree with them. It just means recognizing that if you were raised under the exact same conditions and encountered the exact same life experiences, you might think the way they do. Their thoughts and feelings are valid.
I have to put in a little something about rights here. The dictionary defines rights as “a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral.” (dictionary.com) When I lived in the Yonkers Morehouse, I was taught that if something can be taken away from you, it is no longer a right. Do we really have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Someone can kill us, or kidnap us, so that invalidates the first two. The pursuit of happiness, is sovereign. As Victor Frankel said, even a prisoner has free will. He can decide whether or not to enjoy his captivity. I believe we do have the right to think and feel as we do. Although outside powers may try to change our minds or invalidate our beliefs, only we can change them. This idea that we have rights often gets us into trouble in relationship, though. When I start acting as if I have a right to someone else behaving a certain way, or taking actions, now I am in entitlement. The truth is Love is a Gift, and Love is Response to Need. The other person can give it or not, that’s their free will. What you do about it is yours.
Why is this so hard? In relationships, particularly the romantic kind, we get proprietary. Haven’t you had the thought that how your significant other behaves is a reflection on you? Have you ever cringed, when you husband wore a totally inappropriate outfit to a party, or your wife said something flippant to your bosses wife? I have. I talked in one of the previous posts about needing to feel in control. We are so not in control of our friends and lovers. Only by realizing detachment can we honor the individuality of the other. It requires the maturity to say, “You are not me. We may share one heart and soul connected, but we are two bodies and two minds going through life the best we can. And it’s okay.” It takes a lot to detach from what other people think about us, let alone what they think about our spouse. I have had to learn to let my loved ones make their own choices, and suffer their own consequences. I’m still learning how to keep my mouth shut. Some of the most productive times I’ve had in relationship have been when we found ways to use both our perspectives and strengths.
To be a better Lover, you must be willing to handle all kinds of ideas. You must be willing to entertain the “insane” ideas of your collaborators. And most important, you must let people know that although you may not agree with what they are feeling and thinking, you totally understand that they do. That’s Love.
Tomorrow: Love is Good Will in Action