You know how sometimes you come upon an idea and suddenly you’re seeing examples of it everywhere? I recently read Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté’s Hold On To Your Kids and while I base much of my work on the power of relationships, there was something about this book that has grabbed hold of my thinking. Essentially, Neufeld and Maté focus on the importance of developing meaningful relationships with your children as a way of parenting more effectively. The book isn’t telling you what to do but rather focusing us on who to be. I can’t stop thinking about it.
You can imagine my surprise at thinking so much about this and then ending up at The Royal Ottawa Hospital’s day long training on working with Aboriginal peoples where Elder Jim Albert started the day by saying, “Everything we do in life is about relationships.” We’re always in relationship, whether we acknowledge it or not. We’re in relationships with our kids, our parents, our extended family, our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours, our colleagues and our environment. It’s all about relationships.
And then there’s the relationship we have with ourselves. This is the template. Many of the most critical people I know regularly spend their inner lives ripping themselves to ribbons. It’s usually the same on the inside as it is on the outside, no matter what the outside looks like.
What if we spent less time focusing on imperfections and missteps and spent more time focusing on having compassion? True, by looking at where we’ve gone astray we can then learn about how not to make the same mistakes twice. There are also times undoubtedly when we are asked or obliged to weigh in on the doings of others. But as a wise colleague of mine used to say, “Before you give someone feedback, you better make sure you have some credits in the relationship bank.” If everything we do in life is about relationships and relationships give context to our interactions, living with compassion at the forefront makes our relationships more meaningful, and less complicated.
Who do you want to be in your relationships? How do you want to be in your relationships? Obviously this changes to some degree depending on the relationship at hand—we’re not likely to treat our partners the same way we would treat a new and prickly colleague. However, there’s usually a ribbon of who we are that we can spend more or less time hiding from others. When we are compassionate to that part of ourselves, and when we accept that part of ourselves, our relationship to ourselves is much less fraught with anxiety. This radiates outward.