“How are you doing?” people ask. “Fine” or “Good,” I reply. But that doesn’t totally feel right. It’s such a “surface” answer. Even with certain friends, with whom I can share most everything, it seems impossible to really communicate How I Am. Especially when it’s a subject area that I have spent a ton of time on, in recent years. To put this into words is a challenge.
So here’s the long answer.
I have a very different perspective on how I want to be these days. Actually, it’s not all that new, really, it’s more that I have dug down and found the essence of me that’s been sitting there patiently all this time. I can see clearly now. I no longer have any interest in making excuses for being me or modifying my behavior to shield others.
On the surface, I am an easy-going person. Underneath, however, I am very determined. I can be very intense. I do know that I refrain from engaging people in many cases because I don’t want to impose myself on others, and I now understand why this is. But I also think this confuses people. So I’m just sharing. Part of the purpose of sharing, is that as I write, it helps me clarify and understand myself.
Part of the challenge of communicating where I am, is that my perspective is based not so much on details, but more on the essence of where I am. It’s easy to state facts or details, it’s harder to describe an “essence.” You have to read between the lines and “feel” it.
So, let’s say my personal approach to life, as I understand the essence of it, is based on the following values:
Self Discovery and Reflection. I know that sometimes when people say someone was “finding themselves” that people roll their eyes. So be it. I truly believe that each one of us is a unique, one-of-a-kind, special, important aspect of the fabric of humanity. If the whole of humanity is a puzzle, it is not complete without each little piece. Only by thinking about it, reflecting, observing yourself, understanding what your experiences have taught you, etc. can you understand your piece of the puzzle, your role, your unique contribution to the whole. Call this your essence, call this your soul. Understanding who I am in this way is of primary importance to me. It’s purely a personal thing.
Authenticity. Only when you understand yourself, and you honor your own intuition and feelings, can you truly live according to who you are. Our culture imposes so many rules, expectations, and assumptions about who and how we “should” be, that it can be a fight to be who you really are. So trying to be “who I am” within the context of the world and “the way it is” is interesting. I’m working on this. There are times when life feels very claustrophobic to me.
Self-Determination. Rather than living based on rules of right and wrong, each individual determines the path that is appropriate for them, through self-reflection and a desire to be authentic. Will I make mistakes? Sure, but that’s just part of the process. But each of us has to live our own life, figure it out on our own.
Mutual Respect. Each individual, while living in a way that is authentic to them, gives other individuals the freedom to make their own self-determination. Only you can know what works and feels right for you. I don’t impose what works for me, on you. Please allow me the freedom to make choices for myself.
No Expectations. I can’t expect something of someone, unless they have told me to expect it from them. And I can’t expect that those things won’t change. I can’t make assumptions – rather, I can focus on good, clear communication to know what is going on with others.
An Open Mind. Being open to every possibility under the sun. Being unafraid to ponder any question or situation, without judgment. When something triggers a shutdown, a denial that “it can’t be!” or strong emotions, that is a clue that there is an issue. Back to more self-reflection…
Discernment. Relying on one’s own inner knowing, intuition, some would say the Holy Spirit, which I would say is knowing or feeling with your Heart. The world tells us to follow the rules, but we all know when something just feels comfortable or uncomfortable.
No Judgment. It’s a central message in the Bible. And it’s a subject I’ve spent a lot of time trying to break down, because it’s so integrated into the way the world operates. And several other of these topics are really just other ways of saying the same thing.
There is no absolute “right” or “wrong.” The world is not black and white, it’s an infinite number of shades of gray. It always depends.
It’s all Experience. If there is no “right” or “wrong,” “good” or “bad,” “better” or “worse,” then there is no judgment. There is only experience, how it feels, what we learn from it, and how we grow as a result. Life is just a big playground.
No Blaming. If everything is just experience, there is no need to blame. Blaming occurs as a result of judging. No Judgment = No Need to Blame.
No Self-Judgment. An individual loves, respects and accepts themselves for who they are. They may encounter challenges, or become aware of personal issues that they decide to “work on” but this is embraced as a natural part of the human experience.
No Judgment of Others. Total acceptance of Others as they are, without the need to have an opinion.
No Hierarchy. No one is better or worse than another. No one is higher or lower. Everyone is exactly where they need to be.
Life is not a Competition.
Our Souls are Eternal. It is only our physical bodies that pass away. Death has no sting. Nothing, nothing can harm or hurt or eliminate our souls. We are protected.
No Fear. If our souls are eternal, and there is no way to be right or wrong, there is nothing to fear. It is only through observation and self-reflection that we can identify and face our fears, and see them as the illusions that they are.
Accept What Is. Which is really just saying the opposite of Don’t Judge. It is what it is.
Does it seem like something is missing here?
Underlying my perspective is something I didn’t mention. And that is an assumption that absolutely everything is based on Love. Meaning kindness and compassion. It has more to do with Intent that is inside, not “being nice”” or doing what others want you to do. You can hold someone in love, have compassion and be kind, but still not agree with them or want to spend time with them. You might even hurt their feelings, especially if you are not meeting their expectations.
So, if this perspective is the ideal for me, HOW does it work in everyday situations? Since not everyone shares this perspective, how do I interact with others?
Here are some thoughts. They might resonate with you (discernment) and they might not. YOU decide.
It Goes Both Ways. It seems to be a rather common situation where a person is figuring out what works for them, discovering “who they are” and trying to be true to who they are. And they get really excited about what they discover. In their enthusiasm, they jump to the conclusion that, if it works for me, it must work for everyone!! Their intentions are good, but they miss the fact that each individual must figure it out for themselves. In this situation, rather than getting into a discussion of what is right or wrong, I try to just smile and focus on the fact that they have found something that works for them. (This brings to mind my post on Evangelism here.) Sometimes people really want to convince others that they know the answer for you. Sometimes I have to speak up and say that it might work for you, but it doesn’t work for me. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree.
Even things that work for MANY people, don’t work for EVERYONE. I’m talking about things like meditation, eating certain ways, certain kinds of exercise, following certain traditions, reading certain books. If the same idea pops up several times in a day, I will look into it….but I will still use my own discernment to figure out what that means to me.
The Opinions of Others. I cannot control and don’t need to be concerned with whether others are judging me. That is their own personal choice and it doesn’t affect me. I don’t rely on the opinion of others to determine my own self-worth. HOWEVER, it is useful to me to take note of the opinions of others. Lissa Rankin recently posted some very useful (to me) thoughts about receiving criticism. So, while I don’t hide from information that might contradict my view, I take responsibility to consider it, and discern if there is truth for me.
Clear Communication. This is a subset of Honest Communication, but for me, it’s worth a separate category. Giving incomplete information, or saying nothing at all, is a cousin of dishonesty. It’s a lazy way to communicate, and if a misunderstanding ensues, the person can always say “I didn’t say that!” Making an effort to be clear and understood is very important to me.
Honest Communication. This is a huge one. To be totally and completely honest with another human being is really, really rare. I find that I have been developing relationships with others who are working toward operating within these same values as I am, and I can be so much more honest with these friends. I am much more able to share doubts, challenges, and situations which I am not sure how to handle. I can share “crazy” thoughts and ideas, without fear of being judged or being told what I “should” do. Because I know these friends are not interested in imposing themselves on me, and because I know they want the best for me, I can get good feedback from them.
All this, I have found, is a process. You need to practice. Finding others who are practicing the same things in a self-aware way, is a huge help and a huge comfort. It really is amazing where you can go with a relationship like this.
But realistically, you have to meet another person where they are. If someone is not operating under this philosophy, I can’t be as open or honest, especially if I might hurt their feelings. I might hesitate to share an observation – even if I know that I am not judging what I see, most people are so used to being judged, they may feel judged anyway.
If a person is not clear on who they are themselves, in a way it is impossible for them to be honest with themselves. If you aren’t open and honest with yourself, if you suppress your own feelings, if there are places you “just don’t go there,” if you haven’t done the self-reflection, it is impossible for you to be honest with someone else. This doesn’t mean you are a bad person (again, no judgment), it just means you are in a different place. I know people like this. It is what it is, and that’s ok. It’s just that we don’t have that much in common at this point, and we can be pleasant around each other, but we probably won’t have too many insightful conversations.
If a person has certain expectations, or is attached to “following the rules” and you aren’t, there will likely be conflict and misunderstanding. It’s as if people are playing two different games with two different sets of rules, but they aren’t aware of that. It’s a frustrating situation for both parties.
There are relationships in my life where it now feels we have little or nothing in common any more. We are in two different places. And since I have no interest in imposing my way of thinking, and I totally respect their own unique perspective, it feels like being with someone who speaks a different language. There is no common ground. This is not good or bad, it just is. But I expect it is confusing and maybe feels hurtful to others, who don’t know what to think.
I have people in my life who are very competitive and who spent a lot of conversational time stating their case and trying to convince me of their view. I’m a person who actually listens to others and remembers what they have said. What happens, is that I don’t agree or disagree, I just acknowledge what they said. Since they haven’t gotten my buy-in, they go through their pitch again. Can you see the culture clash? They probably think I’m not listening or I’m stupid or I don’t care, because I am not convinced. Meanwhile, I totally get where they are coming from, I just honor their right to their own opinion. But I am very tired of hearing the same things over and over. And over. I get it, I’m not mad, it’s ok, I just don’t enjoy hearing about it again.
I have started responding very specifically, saying something like “I get where you’re coming from” and “you and I have different views on how the world works.” This seems to get some people very frustrated and confused. I try to be firm and kind at the same time. Not always sure that works so well for others.
Part of why I am writing this is to explain where I am coming from so that maybe, if one of those people someday asks me “What the heck is going on with you?” I will be able to share this to try to explain.