Here’s one of the most important things I’ve learned about relationships: If we do not understand our worth and respect our right to be different, our relationships will be seriously impaired because others will not understand our worth or respect us either. But if we accept the natural entitlement that belongs to every soul, and if we can learn to trust our soul’s processes enough to stand firm in the face of misunderstanding and opposition, we can more easily bridge the divide between ourselves and others.
While we might sometimes feel that people we know and love are being deliberately perverse, at bottom, few are truly motivated by a need to create difficulties for us, but simply believe our differences mean that we are wrong and they are right. This blind spot has nothing to do with our true worth and everything to do with the walls every ego builds around itself from an early age.
If we understand this, our next challenge is to see the other side of our relationship story. The uncomfortable kicker is that if we are offended by those with whom we are in conflict, it is not necessarily because there is something terribly wrong with them. Just as their inability to accept us as we are is not necessarily due to our flaws but to their inability to see and respect our differences, so our inability to accept them as they are is, in large part, due to the walls we have built up around ourselves. Ouch!
The foundation for this kind of prejudice is buried in our psyches at birth and we begin to build on it around the age of three when we realize that others are not extensions of ourselves but separate beings. This awareness creates our ego, an edifice we design and construct by selecting the beliefs, qualities, goals, attitudes and values we like while rejecting those we don’t. Nobody does this on purpose or is even aware of doing it. It’s simply a natural stage of ego development that becomes habitual, and if hiding our fuller selves behind our walls does not cause problems and suffering for us we may never discover them.
Sometimes we reject others who remind us of qualities we have disowned. At other times we befriend them because something in us is attracted to their differences. Either way, the challenge is to heal the either/or divide which both egos in any relationship have created. If we can accept the truth that we are as ignorant and fearful as others, we can change our focus from criticizing them to knowing ourselves. Then our ego’s walls begin to soften and crumble and the authentic heroic journey begins.
Lowering our defenses and baring the truths of our souls creates a healing elixir which is a mixture of understanding and compassion for ourselves and others. This magical potion is the only lasting solution to transforming dysfunctional relationships. Accepting our truths and speaking and acting on them with kindness and restraint is powerful medicine. As we dispense this medicine step by step, day by day, we become visible proof that it is possible for the human ego to change and mature, thus becoming more attractive and inspirational to others who, in turn, are motivated to change.
The beloved American actress and singer, Pearl Bailey, wrote: “”You never find yourself until you face the truth.” To that I would add, “…and you never find others until you find yourself.”