The Most Important Things We Can Do for the People We Love
People. Life is all about people.
We don’t have to have a ton of relationships, but we all need people in our lives who get us. Who’ve seen our freak flag countless times and love when it comes out.
People who tag us on memes that capture our spirit, or Tasty videos they know we’d be drooling over. People who text us with random pictures of bumper stickers or book covers or bath mats or beard accessories with a note that reads “Saw this and thought of you.”
We all need these kind of close connections to feel a sense of security and belonging in the world.
We need people who think of us, look out for us, accept us, bring out the best in us, and challenge us to be the best us we can possibly be. And we need to be that person for them.
It could be the family you were born into, the one that you chose, or the one that chose you after plowing down the big wall you erected to keep yourself safe.
Whoever makes up your tribe, and regardless of its size, these are the kinds of relationships that make everything else seem manageable.
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Whether you’re having a hard day or a hard month or a hard year, a call or a hug from the right person can remind you that life really is worth living. And when things are going well, it’s all the more enjoyable for having people you love to share it with.
Most of us would agree that our relationships are the most important thing. That a layoff or lost opportunity can be tolerated so long as the people we love are healthy and safe.
And yet it’s all too easy to lose sight of the big picture when we’re knee-deep in the struggles of our daily lives. It’s easy to deprioritize the little things that keep relationships strong when we’re worried about our debt and our deadlines.
It’s human nature—our negativity bias: we’re more sensitive to what’s going wrong than what’s going right. It’s how we’re wired, a means to keep ourselves safe.
But life is about more than just being safe. Or at least I want it to be. I want to focus more on what I love than what I fear. I want to be proactive, not just reactive. I want to wake up every day and be the good that happens to someone else instead of just playing defense to prevent bad from happening to me.
So this year, instead of focusing mostly on everything I want to gain or achieve, I plan to live each day with the following intentions in mind.
I intend to…
1. Be present.
I will put down my phone and focus fully on the person in front of me. My texts and emails will be there later. The person in front of me won’t.
2. Listen deeply.
Instead of plotting what I’m going to say next, or collecting mental buckets of sage advice I can’t wait to dole out, I will listen completely, with the primary goals of understanding and being there.
3. Speak truthfully.
Even when it feels awkward and uncomfortable, I will share what’s true for me. I won’t exclude the messy parts, no matter how tempting it may be to try to appear perfect. The jig is up—I’m not. Not even close! And neither are you. Let’s be beautiful messes together.
4. Accept fully.
I will see your quirks, and your edges, and your shortcomings, and your peccadillos and will accept them all as crucial parts of the complete package that is you.
5. Interpret compassionately.
Instead of assuming the worst, I will give you the benefit of the doubt, as I would want to receive it. I’ll assume you didn’t mean to be rude or to hurt my feelings. That it came out wrong, or you were triggered and reacting from a place of hurt, or you were simply having a bad day. And then I’ll stop assuming and ask to verify, “Is everything okay?”
6. Forgive often.
I will take every perceived slight or offense and put it through my mental shredder before I go to sleep each night. And if I can’t let it go, perhaps because it’s too big to simply discard, I’ll tell you how I feel and what I need so we can work through it together.
7. Appreciate vocally.
I will let you know that I admire how you always stick up for the little guy and love how you make everyone laugh. I will compliment you on your passions, your parenting, and how you exude peace, because you’re awesome and you should know it.
8. Give freely.
I will give my love, support, understanding, and well wishes; I’ll give things new and old that I think will be helpful. If there’s something you need that I no longer do, I’ll send it with a note that reads, “I thought you could put this to good use. And if not, sorry for sending you clutter!”
9. Remain unbiased.
I will put aside everything I think I know about about you based on who you appear to be, and will be open-minded when you tell me or show me what you believe and what you stand for.
10. Love anyway.
Even if you’re stubborn or moody or judgmental, I will love you anyway. And when I’m stubborn, moody, and judgmental I’ll try to do the same for myself. I’ll try to rise above petty thoughts and sweeping generalizations and keep sight of who you and I really are: good people who are doing our best to navigate a sometimes-painful world.
Because we all stress and strain and struggle sometimes. We all get fed up, ticked off, and let down, and at times we all lash out.
In these moments when we feel lost and down on ourselves, it helps to see ourselves through the eyes of someone who believes in us. And it helps to remember we’re not alone, and that someone else really cares.
Someone who’ll stand by us at our worst and inspire us to be our best.
Someone who’ll sit on a roof with us and and talk about everything big or nothing important for a while. Someone who might not always know which one we need, but who’s willing to ask and find out.
This is the kind of friend I want to have, and the kind of friend I want to be. Because life is all about people. And all people need a little love.