The World Happiness Database (yes there is such a thing!) has found that people who have close friendships are happier, more empathic, display greater honesty and altruism. On another front, evolutionary biologists have found that these are traits that are very important to give and receive for survival. As Homo sapiens we are basically just wired to be social animals.
What causes some people to have more friends than others? I’m not talking here about the ‘friends’ we may have on Facebook or other social media sites but the kind of person (friend or a family member who is also a friend) that you could call in the middle of the night because you feel the need to talk. Could it be that they have developed greater empathy and curiosity for others?
If you watch them closely, you see that they truly care about others. They are more interested in letting the other person talk rather than keeping the attention on themselves and taking up all of the ‘air space.’ They find other people interesting and are curious about their world views. You can just feel a genuineness about them. They are not simply giving you 5 minutes of their time but are actually interested in what you are saying! Their energy is positive, uplifting and seems to naturally draw us in with their empathic regard. They want to walk a step or two in our world to better understand us, without value judgments but simply to more fully understand.
George Orwell serves as a tremendous example of a person who purposely experienced different world views to expand his empathy and understanding. After serving as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920’s he returned to Britain determined to develop a deeper understanding of what life was like for the economically poor street people. As he spent time, dressed as a beggar, he realized that homeless people are not simply ‘drunken scoundrels.’ He wrote a book entitled, Down and Out in Paris and London about his experience and stated that it was the ‘greatest travel experience of his life.’
Rarely do we hear of such extreme learning examples such as Orwell’s but the truth remains, when you take the time to observe, listen with your heart and try to walk in another person’s shoes, even for a few moments, you develop greater empathy and respect. Without even realizing it, you find the numbers of friends you have increasing because you have taken the time to show you care. After all, we are all doing the best we can in this lifetime as we work at learning our own unique lessons.
William Shakespeare said, ‘A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.’ Doesn’t get much better than that right?
Have a great few days!
How many times have we thought when observing a person or situation, ‘that is not normal.’ Or better yet, how many times have we thought another person is not doing things right or correctly …according to what we judge to be so. The operative word here, of course, is JUDGE. If we are honest with ourselves, most or all of us would say, yes I do that frequently when what I see or hear doesn’t match MY definition of regular or normal. My question to you then is what do you define as normal? Do you think your definition is the only right one possible? Is there any flexibility in your interpretation of the word?
By definition, normal is stated to be ‘conforming to a standard, usual, regular or natural – a common behavior in society.’ However – and this is the biggie here – the definition of normality varies by person, time, place, situation and changes with societal standards and norms. In other words, ‘normal’ is intended to be a FLEXIBLE concept by definition. Yet we seem to define the word using a rigid standard according to what we are comfortable with at the moment. That sort of makes us judge and jury for everyone and everything in life doesn’t it? We place others unwittingly in an untenable situation because they are not meeting our own arbitrary standard of normal. Trust me on this one, they can feel your judgment and negative energy and will react accordingly. That is a rather dangerous or hurtful place to be don’t you think?
I believe defining normal is rather like defining beauty. It is in the eyes of the beholder as long as no one is hurt in the process. Each of us has a right to decide what works best for us without fear of reprisal or condemnation. It is sort of one of those inalienable rights given to us by a power much greater than ourselves.
If we allow ourselves to see the behaviors of others as ‘not normal’ that implies that something in their behavior needs to be corrected. But if we haven’t walked in their shoes and understand what they are coping with, how can we possibly believe that we are so smart, powerful or wise to determine what is normal or right for them? Could it be that what we are observing is simply a temporary or ‘normal’ state in reaction to that person’s circumstances at the moment. Could it be that they need understanding and acceptance and are just waiting to see if we are willing to get out of our own comfort zone and give it to them?
I believe that we would all be happier in our individual life journeys if we consciously worked at accepting others as we want to be accepted – without value judgments or conditions. The bottom line is that we are all seeking the same thing – unconditional love and understanding as we proceed on our paths. What we give we receive in return – no more no less.
Have a great few days!