I always tell my son that he has to try liking everyone, with try being the operative word. I’m sure it’s common practice to say to most toddlers, whose worlds are very literal and often black and white, that they have to like everyone. Well, I don’t really believe that. Do you like everyone? I imagine someone with a fake smile plastered on their face, a smile that never really reaches their eyes. Frankly, it kind of creeps me out. But I do emphasize making the effort to like someone because it is our duty to behave respectfully towards everyone, there is no alternative to that. Plus, having different personalities in our lives are an important part of growing as individuals.
Don’t you find though that there are some people whom you will never really connect with? No matter what they do it’s your first instinct to react, and react with varying levels of negativity. My husband says that it’s very much a lens and one that was built over a history of misunderstandings. It’s like having Instagram on all the time and on one of those filters that distorts and make everything a bit unattractive. To some, having this type of relationship would bother them. They would start to examine how they were being judgmental or unkind. Of course some of that comes into play but I also consider how the other person, intentionally or not contributed to the situation. So, what can you do? I mostly try to lessen the impact of these toxic connections on my life because it’s just too exhausting to manage those negative emotions.
Sometimes though, you don’t have a choice in the matter and these are relationships that may be life-long. No matter what, this person will be a part of your existence. So, you have two choices: you can try to change how you feel about them or you can put some distance between the two of you. In the end there’s only so much you can do to eliminate frictions that result from having different approaches and values. As vanilla as it sounds we tend to gravitate towards individuals with similar experiences and outlooks. I don’t even think it’s malicious, conversation just tends to form more easily with some more than others. I say, lets not stress about it but allow ourselves to be particular. Let’s not fight.
A prominent guru Ram Dass states that “If you think you are enlightened, go home for Thanksgiving.” The writer Elizabeth Gilbert takes this further in her analysis by emphasizing that your family will of course push your buttons because they are the ones who put them there. I don’t view this negatively at all. Truly loving someone means that you see chips in their facade and love them all the more for it. Anytime you gather together a group of strong personalities there is bound to be some conflict, whether it gets articulated or not. I find that we are made to fear frank discussions so much because it’s not seen to be particularly dignified. I just find it way less “classy” when people are leaving things unsaid but you know that they will gossip about it tomorrow. I do agree that silence is sometimes the best thing for these situations because the need for honesty should be tempered by long-term thinking. Do you really think the specific context will improve when confronted? If not, then maybe a bit of acceptance is key.
The thing with family too is that you know that they are always going to be a part of your life so treat them well. You have a history together and a bond. So it is a balance, like everything else in life. I believe that Ram Dass also states that it is our purpose to love everyone in the world since respect is integral to forming this type of affection. But some people are better loved from a safe distance. Now, that is one of the most pragmatic and real things that I’ve heard from a guru in a very long time. Sometimes a little bit of space can be the best thing for a relationship.