13 Insights About Relationships That Could Save You A Lot of Pain
“It’s amazing how quickly someone can become a stranger; it’s even more amazing how quickly someone can become a treasured friend.” ~Unknown
The past six months have been unbelievably difficult for me.
My “normal” life turned upside down and inside out, as my beautiful daughter continues to fight a complex pain condition, which took us all by surprise one bright and sunny Monday afternoon.
And literally, in a single heartbeat, just like that, instead of a regular routine day of school, work and afternoon activities, our time was consumed with juggling doctors, hospitals, tests, and specialists—all of us fully devoted with how to help her heal.
Oprah so aptly says that in life, lots of people want to ride with you when you’re in the limo, but what you really want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down. Well, my friends, my limo didn’t just break down. It completely crashed, along with my world as I knew it.
And when days and nights are both sleepless and endless, and you’re not cruising luxuriously through life in your limo but rather doing your very best at any given moment to barely crawl from point A to B without breaking down yourself, you start to realize even more so the complex, beautiful, fragile, and priceless value of real, genuine, consistent friendship.
Sadly, a few people who I thought would walk me home sort of disappeared.
They may have jumped off at their desired station—and I’ve come to understand that it’s alright; I truly only wish them well. Perhaps the fear that this could happen to them was all too much to bear, I get that. Or perhaps they are giving me space, I don’t know. All I know, is they aren’t here.
Others not only ran to my bus, but jumped straight on, and continue to walk me home every single day. These people take the time to check in on me, hold my hand, let me cry, bring me food, make me laugh, and ensure I have enough coffee and love to keep on going through the day.
I love these friends with all my heart and am so deeply thankful to have them on my journey.
Here are some insights about people, relationships, and friendships from my bumpy bus ride that might be useful and comforting for you in your own interactions…
1. Two people can look at the exact same situation and see it completely differently.
I have always believed this, and I’m even more sure of this after hearing my friends repeatedly tell me how in awe they are of my unwavering strength and optimism while I have never felt more fragile, insecure, helpless, or scared. Perception is everything.
2. We always see life as we are, not as it is.
There actually isn’t an objective reality when it comes to people. Facts may be facts, but our viewpoint and our vantage point impact our ability to process the facts as they are neutrally.
We look at life through our own personal filters, our own past experiences, beliefs, and paradigms. We see everything and everyone through our unique subjective lens that has been forming since we were younger.
As Marcel Proust wrote, sometimes, the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. If we are courageous enough to remove the lens through which we currently view a situation, we may discover something worth looking at, that we didn’t see before. This is true for opinions and advice. Think about a current dilemma in your life. What aren’t you considering? What are you possibly overlooking because you are still seeing the situation through the same lens?
3. People change.
I sometimes secretly wish we would stay exactly as we are, but I know that we are designed to grow. We are allowed to. I am learning to give myself permission to grow and change. Let yourself. Let others. Everyone deserves that.
4. People come into our life for a day, a week, a month, a season, perhaps a year or longer, always to teach us something.
Thank them, always. Even if they cause you pain. Some lessons hurt, a lot. In fact, during these challenging months, the voice of my workout instructor reminds me “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”—true for fitness, true for relationships, true for life. Each person we meet has been brought to us a gift. Our job is to unwrap it, whatever it may be.
5. You are allowed to close doors to protect yourself, you may even say goodbye, but never wish someone harm.
This is the hardest for me personally. My heart is very big and maybe too hospitable and welcoming at times. To look after yourself and preserve what you value most, you sometimes have to be selective about who you let in.
If someone steals your joy, keep them out. It’s a basic premise of safety and security. Give someone the benefit of the doubt—until they give you reason not to. Then don’t.
There is a critical difference between being a volunteer and being a victim. The first time someone hurts you, you may or may not see it coming. Like me, I always try see the best in people. And when it hurts and you face a blow to the heart, you come crashing down because you never expected that or foresaw it coming your way.
If the same person hurts you again, it’s now up to you to see them coming. It’s up to you to set new boundaries to protect yourself. You can be kind to everyone, but not everyone belongs in your inner circle.
6. You may be willing to do more for others than they do for you.
Don’t change who you are. Keep doing your thing. People may surprise us. Sometimes they really let us down. Others may step up in ways we never imagined. If you keep a checklist, you’ll often be disappointed.
Never do things for others just because they would do things for you. You get to decide what kind of person you want to be. And if you choose to give 300 percent, then go for it, regardless of what others give you in return.
If you do something for someone just because they did it for you or you want something back, you are doing business, not kindness. Just be yourself, without calculating what you’re receiving in return. When we live this way, we come from a place of generosity and abundance. It’s so much nicer to live this way.
7. Choose your inner circle wisely.
We have limited energy. Choose to surround yourself with people who make the time and effort to lift you up, who genuinely care about you, encourage you, and want to see you win. Our time here is limited, precious, and fragile. Choose your sacred relationships, friendships, and partnerships wisely.
8. Actions speak louder than words.
We can have the best intentions in the world, but our lives are measured by our actions. If you mean well but don’t do well, no one can read your mind. At the end of the day, what counts is what we do.
I am all for giving people the benefit of the doubt—often only seeing the goodness in others myself—but when you are in a tight space, what you really need at the end of the day is someone to help you breathe and get you out, not just someone who thinks about you but doesn’t show up and hold out their hand for you to grab.
That being said, sometimes people can’t show up for us because…
9. People are always fighting battles we can’t see, or may know nothing about.
Remembering this will help us be patient, kinder, more empathetic, and far less critical and judgmental. Life is hard and some days we dress up and show up using every ounce of energy and willpower we can possibly muster. We can’t be in top form all the time. No one can. We are human beings, not human doings, so let’s try to notice what’s going on with the people around us.
10. Minimize the drama.
We have limited energy, especially when going through a hard time, as I’ve been lately. Let’s preserve our energy for our goals, passions, purpose, and doing more good. We do not have to attend every drama we’re invited to. Decline the invitation and keep moving.
If you feel you’re getting sucked in to drama—gossip, or creating conflict where there doesn’t need to be any, for example—take a step back and pull away. Keep yourself focused on your needs, your passions, and your purpose. Drama isn’t good for anyone.
11. It’s okay to gently drift away from people.
There are seasons when gardens bloom and other seasons where branches lay bare. Let it go, let nature do its thing. We can’t force a flower to grow. Energy is real. If your intuition or gut says someone isn’t right for you anymore, listen carefully.
12. Not everyone is going to love you or your choices.
Your job is to love you and your choices. Your tribe will find you. If you live your life according to your values, and you make choices in alignment with them, the right people will be attracted to you and you will gradually ensure you are surrounded by people who are your best fit. Keep doing your thing. I have seen this so beautifully over the years. and when I look at my closest friendships and relationships today, it is testimony to this.
13. Relationships, friendships, partnerships—they don’t work unless we do.
Don’t assume that just because someone has been in your life for years, they are going to want to stay there. These are precious, treasured, cherished interactions that require thoughtful investment, attention, love, and care.
If you want someone in your life, show them. Spend real time with them, genuinely check in on them, do your best in your own unique and special way to help them wherever you can, have fun with them, cry with them, celebrate with them, and please catch the bus with them.
We are all just walking each other home.
Who are you walking with?
You have to really be in someone’s life in order to stay in someone’s life.