Each of us rightfully deserves loving relationships in our lives. As humans we are social creatures. Even those who chose to isolate themselves from humanity, cannot avoid depending on others for support in some way. The very act of eating food connects us to an amazing chain of people. From the farmer to the grocer, numerous people have contributed to our act of eating. Supportive, nourishing human relationships are one of the greatest healing agents we can expose ourselves too. Regardless if they are kept clean and fed, many of us know infants die early on if they are not properly loved and held. Right up until our dying breath, we benefit from loving contact with those around us.
Too often, many of our human relationships become battlegrounds and erode these loving ties. Previous experiences of neglect and abuse cause us to mistrust, hate, or fear those around us. Our inability to forgive and forget, to love others unconditionally, to be flexible, and to be free of heavy expectations and control issues, erode even the most promising relationships over time. After each disappointment in relationships we may run from person to person, from counselor to counselor, seeking some salving balm to heal our disappointment and anxiety. Looking out into the world at the mass amount of crime and suffering, we may lose our trust in human relationships and believe loving relationships can only be found in make believe and fairy tales.
One day it may occur to us to attempt a new way of relating. Instead of seeking out there, for the perfect partner, we undertake the mysterious process of learning to love ourselves. This involves a series of steps of cultivating attitudes of unconditional positive acceptance of who we are. At the same time, it requires a cultivation of wisdom which can continue to encourage us to become more and more who we desire to be. With the release of each layer of judgment, expectation, and condemnation, we gradually learn to open our hearts towards ourselves. We are not perfect, but as I once heard, “I’m not OK, you’re not OK, and that’s OK.” Meaning even those aspects of ourselves which we might have condemned are excepted. They are there. And that is OK, until time and space can help us to be different.
As the journey of self-acceptance bears results, something mysterious happens in our relationships towards others. After assuming others needed to change to meet our needs, we now discover that as we transform into loving human beings, others can not help but respond. Yes, the partner may still be unaffectionate at times, the children forgetful, our co-workers insensitive. But as we react to these incidents with understanding and compassion, versus judgment and indignation, they begin to respond in kind. The spouse starts to feel bad over being inattentive. The children resolve to try harder next time. The co-workers begin to wonder if there is not something about us they had better pay more attention to. As the ocean wears away even the tallest mountain, day by day, our radiant capacity to love, erodes in others their fears, and hatreds, and anxieties.
It is an ancient spiritual truth found in many religious traditions that we should love others as ourselves. As children we deserved that love, even if we did not receive it. As adults it is never too late to make the commitment to ourselves, to start to love, cherish, understand, and respect ourselves anew. Though the truth of it is almost trite, it remains a basic fundamental in our lives. Love is the answer. Loving intelligently and wisely is our ultimate reason for existing. Embrace this each and every day, and over time, you cannot help but reap the results.