Nobody lives in a vacuum. We don’t do well alone, bereft of friends or family. As a species we crave companionship, social interactions and stimuli. That’s not to say we don’t occasionally need time alone, to shut down and shut out everything and everyone. But, over time, solitude is destructive to our psyche. That the worst punishment in prison is solitary confinement says how much solitude weighs on an individual.
Empathy is actually hard wired into our brains. We can’t survive as a species without it. We all desperately want to belong and feel appreciated so we surround ourselves with people we can trust and depend on.
We flourish when encouraged and supported, through good and bad. We stagnate and suffer when ignored or diminished. Look at sports teams who achieve miracles against all odds, just by having the home court advantage. Crowds screaming adulation pushes them to heights they may not have achieved otherwise. Those same fans can demoralize and destroy when unhappy with the results. Or children who thrive in environments that allow them to fall without ridicule and are applauded for trying. That keeps competitive tendencies in check and uses it as a way to boost everyone forward while assessing progress.
We all need special people in our lives who help us grow, mature and evolve by reflecting our actions and thoughts back through a different lens. We all crave that haven where we can curl up in someone’s arms and feel unconditional acceptance and love. But we also need someone who can gently tell us the truth in a non-judgmental way, as they see it, and then stand back and let us make our own choices. Someone who can help us hear when we’ve crossed the line. Many times it’s our failures and losses that give us the greatest learning experiences. But it is in those moments when we feel our lowest and most vulnerable we do not need people to say “I told you so,” in thought or action. Instead, we need comfort and encouragement.
Gentle words of support that acknowledge that when events don’t go as expected they still believe in our ability to find another path to follow. Trusting in our judgment, even when they don’t agree. It’s a gift we all hope to receive. But we can’t expect what we don’t offer as well. It’s equally as important we offer this to others. In the end, it all starts with one person-us.
Let’s start by thinking before we speak. Choosing words that invite conversation, embrace and honor choice, while speaking our truth. Only then can we really be there for each other. Remember the song –
“The Wind Beneath My Wings”
Let’s be that wind and see how high we can soar together.