Charlie: Many of us toss around the notion of “the truth” as though there is an incontestable, objective “reality” and that we know what it is. More often than not these words refer to something that is anything but objectively verifiable and is more likely to be an opinion, judgment, or belief such as, “that shirt doesn’t go with those pants” or “people are basically good” or “everyone is motivated by self-interest” or “life is hard” or “it’s hot today”. The list goes on. Some of our beliefs are so imbedded in our “reality” that we don’t even see them as the assumptions that they are, but instead as “what’s so” or just how it is.
Someone once said that when you assume something, you make an ASS out of U and ME. While there may be much social or cultural agreement with many of our assumptions and generalizations, this doesn’t necessarily make them true, nor does it diminish the dangers inherent in relying on preconceived stereotypes, prejudices, beliefs or premises when it comes to relating to people. The biggest danger in seeing our experience through preconceived filters is that we fail to see the world clearly, and others as they really are.
There are some serious prices that we pay for relying on these “short cuts” or predetermined, often negative stereotypical views. They not only distort “reality” but in addition, they limit our capacity for creative problem solving, obscure possible solutions, keep us in “the box”, reinforce a sense of being a victim, contribute to feelings of futility or passivity, and diminish our experience of passion, vitality, enthusiasm, hopefulness, compassion, and appreciation in our lives. Other than that it’s no big deal.
Just as there are prices that we pay for viewing the world through our assumptions, there are also prices that must be paid if we are to free ourselves from our limited models. Those prices include (but are not limited to) the willingness to:
- Be wrong.
- Experience the vulnerability of being unprotected by judgments and beliefs.
- Risk being open to seeing things that may cause us to feel uncomfortable, anxious or remorseful.
- Take responsibility for our experience and reactions to it, rather than to blame other people or circumstances.
- Take the time to experience and honor the truth of each moment rather than to react from my beliefs and apply them generically to life.
There’s no free lunch. There are significant benefits if we are willing to pay these prices that far outweigh the prices themselves. Seeing things through “new eyes” not only provides a fresh perspective that can transform the quality of our life experience. Recently, I received a beautiful and inspiring email from a friend who shared with me her thoughts about how her life might be different if she chose to view it with new eyes, with what the Buddhists call “beginner’s mind”, rather than through her old filters.
Here are a few of the things that she came up with. “When I come home at night, I would first notice the flowers Terry bought me at the supermarket rather than the unwashed dishes in the sink. And I would acknowledge the kind thing that he did as his olive branch, rather than wait for a verbal apology.”
“Upon my arriving at my mother’s home, I would feel emotionally nourished by the meal she took the time to prepare for me, rather than feel insulted by the critical comment she made about my hair. I would see my son Eric’s bouncing up and down when I come home from work as his loving enthusiasm in greeting me, rather than wonder if he’s just had sugar. Whether I choose to answer the phone or not, I would hold my brother’s phone calls as a reaching out to me, a sister that he loves, rather than finding his calls an annoyance.”
“Instead of feeling sad that he doesn’t call sometimes just to say “Hi”, I would see my 21-year-old son Andy’s calling home mostly when he needs money as his love and trust in me to provide for his needs. I would see the almost daily hysterias of my teenage daughter, as her trust in me to never leave her even when she shows me her nastiest side, rather than think that she doesn’t care about my feelings.”
“I would see that expecting much of myself can be a form of reverence and respect for all that I have been given, rather than a criticism of myself for not measuring up to my own standards. With respect to my precious friends who are at times ruthlessly honest with me, I would see that even the hardest feedback to swallow was done with a loving commitment to support me in becoming a more conscious individual.”
“No matter how unenlightened I may judge some government officials to be, I would see that the political leaders of my city, state and country, are doing the best they are capable of doing to serve my needs, and that there truly is a desire within them to serve their fellow citizens. I would see that some of the stupidest things I have done (like some of the politicians above) were done out of an intention to connect to others.”
“I would see that almost all actions arise out of a desire to be loved or to love, to connect, to feel good and to be accepted and respected.”
Think for a moment of what might be available to you in making a conscious choice to deliberately view things and people from a perspective that allows for the appreciation of them, and holds their underlying needs and intentions as being ultimately worthy of respect, regardless of how “misguided” they may seem in their strategies for meeting these needs. Include yourself in this field of compassion, since we are often the ones who suffer the most when we are unforgiving, rejecting or punitive as a result of previously made judgments.
Long-held views and attitudes don’t give way easily to change, even when we see the desirability of it, but through our committed efforts it is possible to transform a closed heart to an open one, self-righteousness to selflessness, arrogance to humility, fear to compassion, unworthiness to self- acceptance, and hatred to love. We don’t get “there” overnight. It’s the journey of a lifetime that starts with a single step. Here are some others:
- Accept the truth of my desire to make this transformation.
- Acknowledge that it is possible.
- Commit to the process.
- Find support from others who are also on the path.
- Start walking.
You don’t get to see all of the other great folks along the way until you start putting one foot in front of the other.
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“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” —Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate
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