Two things are true; first, there is no relationship that we should take for granted. The second truth; most relationships can be restored. Relationships are definitely more than a one-person, single-time event. It could be husband and wife or parents and children. It may be a neighbor or a co-worker, even a boss and employee relationship.
There are many key relationships in life, and some are easier than others. It is dangerous to take the easy ones for granted, and it is also dangerous to take the difficult ones for granted.
The Easy Relationships
When relationships start, it is often based on infatuation or just something new. In those seasons, we can even connect with people that may be classified as difficult. There are other people that we say are easy to relate to; those are the ones we are speaking about here.
Easy, social people tend to do the work for others around them. Sometimes it is the desire to have good times, and others, it is the desire for everyone to get along. This will connect some with making the moment fun and others with caring for the mess left behind, so no one gets upset. In a moment-by-moment flow, both of these groups find fulfillment in making things easy for people to engage.
All moments are not created equal. Even these heroes of engagement have seasons where the social organizer and life of the party want someone else to carry the moment. If they have to carry the moments too often, it is like an employee that never takes a vacation from his favorite job. Things will start to sour, and the joy will become stale.
Likewise, the caretaker may like to do the work that lets others enjoy the moments. They will have seasons they are tired or may be taken for granted. When taken for granted, people may start to leave messes and work because they presume the caretaker enjoys a good mess to clean up. It is not the work, especially the volume, that increases their joy and fulfillment.
We will talk about resolution shortly, but this was to highlight ways relationships are strained because they are easy. This is the season after infatuation. We should also note both of these personality types are likely to stay silent about their frustration until it has created negative anxiety. It is not something that is invisible. It is something we ignore.
The Challenging Relationships
Some people have struggled with finding personal value and feeling accepted. Regardless of the reason they struggle, this can manifest itself in negative behavior. Some of the behavior patterns include doing what people know is bad to see if they will be accepted or rejected. If they are rejected, it validates they are a victim. Unlike those people who naturally find acceptance, they, in some way, view themselves as cursed.
Other people who are challenging to engage with don’t understand how to hear or see the thoughts and feelings of those around them. Humanity can be funny because we like to connect with people like us, but we are bored if they are too much like us. For each of us, more of me would not be stimulating, it would be too predictable. Our differences are actually what make us interesting to others.
Here is something older children and young adults seem to be aware of, the value of being different. In many cases, this is more knowledge than understanding. In the quest to be different, people will join a group and follow the patterns of behavior, hairstyles, and choice of clothing set by the group. To be different, they choose a group where they can be the same. This group also is looking for acceptance.
There is a common thread in the struggles of those who are easy to engage with and those who are difficult to engage with. Everyone desires acceptance. Fitting in by putting on a facade can be as dangerous as acting out to test acceptance. Both of those paths miss the target and bring confusion to the person seeking connection.
There is a difference between working with a group of people and pretending to fit in. It isn’t just wolves that wear sheep’s clothing. There is also a difference between being myself and packaging yourself in a “not brand.” We all want to be accepted for who we are. Wrapping ourselves in a brand that focuses on who we are not doesn’t give us traction with being accepted for who we are. If we are focusing on branding who we are not, others will find it harder to perceive who we are. We are distracting them with our “not branding” signals.
Figuring out who we are starts with, wait for it, can you guess? It starts with who we are, not changing who we are. If we have to change, then deep down, we know we are not accepted. If we have flaws, we can improve. If we made mistakes, we can learn and stop making them. If others have skills I do not have, it is also true that I have things to offer they do not.
Until I accept myself, there may be subconscious things I do to test other people accepting me. If I cannot accept someone else because they are not like me, it is a sign that I may not accept myself. The view I have of myself could be a group view, not self-awareness.
The Doorway, or Bridge
Without accepting myself, the standard I use to accept others may not be my own. That is not the danger. The real danger is it may not be true. Do we accept or reject others on imaginary reality? Do we need to pretend we are something we are not to be accepted? Do we need to pretend others are something they are not to satisfy imaginary social standards?
As I accept myself for who I am, not what I wish I could be, it becomes easier to see the value in who others are as they are. The path to self-acceptance is the path to social awareness. My individuality, strengths, and challenges are who I am. Everyone has strengths and challenges, and that is OK. Seeing that and engaging with who they are is the truest form of respect. Respect is not our role in the stage of life. Respect is seeing the value in the cards each of us was dealt.
When we see a person for who they are and find something of value, they can engage with us. It is both respect and acceptance. If we cannot find that in ourselves, it will be hard to find that in others.
This will be the first in a series; more will follow.