How Can We Use the Differences in Our Relationships to Inspire Us?
It’s likely you know someone who blames the world for everything. From the disintegration of their fourth marriage to a fender-bender to losing at bridge, nothing is ever their fault. If you want to remain the same, and want to hold on to always thinking it is the other person’s problem, go no further.
Maggie Scarf says that this can happen in our relationships because we are attracted to people with the opposite qualities that fulfill the side of ourselves that we suppress. For instance, the spendthrift is attracted to the fiscally responsible person, and they in turn are drawn to the capacity to indulge, but over time, these very behaviors cause each person to resent the other. The difference that causes such a schism could be anything – extroversion, tidiness or whatever.
In contrast, we’ve written a number of blogs in the past few months on aspects of differences (here, for instance) and how they can be positive, pleasurable and enlarge your world view.
Let’s look at the potential of differences to help you in areas you find weak or lacking in yourself. They need not be antagonizing, but rather can offer a way to improve your imperfections. You can use them as inspiration for a growth stimulus and greet them as opportunities rather than threats. How can we use differences to inspire us?
The basic requirement is that you have to want to embrace self-reflection and to seek for self-knowledge. You have to want to grow and be open to change. Yup, that’s a mouthful, but most of us use some form of self-reflection or mindfulness to know ourselves better, recognize our weaknesses and work on them. You see how you are by looking within, but you see how you could be by looking at other people. That might be your partner, a friend, a therapist, a famous person or a fictional character, and it might be their bravery, determination, empathy, generosity or resilience you admire. They show you ways in which you can repair the wounds of childhood and handle the challenges of life.
You see how you are by looking within, but you see how you could be by looking at other people Click To TweetWe have a teacher giving a class on consciousness and well-being who is a great illustration of this for both of us. He is a thoughtful receptive listener (Maude feels this is an area she wants to improve upon and gets uplifted in the way he does it), but the really inspiring part of his actions is how he responds to what people have shared. He always embraces and acknowledges their contribution. He points out the unique nature of what they have offered, repeats it in his words and offers it back to the person all shiny and warm. Not only does this make the person who contributed feel accepted, but it adds to the tone of the intimacy of the whole group. This teacher is not offended that someone has pointed out something different than what he said. He is open and happy to incorporate the different view as part of what we are all sharing.
We find this same opportunity within our relationship to view ourselves and to improve. Maude sees a different path to openness in Phil’s generosity of spirit in sharing what he has. She often struggles with a territorial aspect of her nature and is helped by seeing Phil’s ability to see the positive and trust in others. Phil finds inspiration in Maude’s deep relationships with many others and her ability to be there for so many. He does not seek to emulate how Maude carries this out, but it gives him a path to follow for growth in himself in his own way.
The differences you find in the world, in your relationships and in others can be a rich field for expanding your abilities to be loving. They often offer a path to peace and harmony if you can open to them rather than defend against them. The world is in sore need of this way of approaching difference at this time of great division. If you seek to learn this in your most intimate relationships, you will be on the path to learning how to apply this same principle with everyone and with all differences, real or imagined.
Photo credit: Maude Mayes
Photo note: Street scene in Guadalupe, a small city in Santa Barbara County, CA. Population 7,080.
Read what some other writers have to say on this topic.
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