There’s something you can do when you notice yourself thinking that some particular person or people in general suck, and that is to challenge yourself to look for the loving reason of why that person or group of people might be acting the way they are. Basically, you can believe that you live in a random universe where everyone’s in it for themselves, or you can believe that we live in a friendly universe where even the challenging people and situations are leading somewhere better. Me, I choose door number 2 all the way—but I still have times where I doubt my fellow humans.
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Here’s the example I’m wrestling with now…
My daughter is 12 and she’s been super isolated since Covid struck. She started a new school last year and was just getting her feet underneath when school closed and we went into quarantine. Her isolation broke my heart, especially because I could see that it upset her too. Fast forward 7 months and she’s adapted, but she’s still pretty much on her own unless she’s in school.
She has friends, but they rarely hang out. And she’s SO excited about Halloween. She’s had her costume picked out for weeks already. (She’s going to be Ariana Grande, complete with hair extensions.) But every time she’s reached out to one of her handful of friends about hanging out on Halloween, they’ve said they have plans. Not, Oh I already have plans but come with! Or, sorry I have plans let’s hang out another time. Just… no. The end.
Let me tell you it’s very tempting to go into mama bear mode and decide that those kids are jerks. I mean, right?
Look For The Loving Reason, Even When It’s Difficult
Looking for the loving reason is what I have to continually remind myself to keep doing. That we all go through periods of feeling like an outsider and this is her time. And whenever this happens, it’s an opportunity to make peace with ourselves and learn to enjoy our own company. It’s also a nudge for her to make some new friends. Although, that’s not exactly easy to do in the age of social distancing and attending school every other day while fully masked and only seeing the same small pod of kids.
Don’t get me wrong, it still breaks my heart. They say you can only be as happy as your most unhappy child; I wish like anything I could wave my magic wand and she’d have a bestie. I keep thinking, it only takes one! But remembering to look for the loving reason keeps me out of the spiral of blaming those other kids, or feeling sorry for my daughter, or getting angry about this danged pandemic and the toll it’s taking on our kids. It also keeps me focused on what I want for her, which is friendships that make her feel included and valued.
Try To Remain Objective
Looking for the loving reason also gives me a nudge to really objectively observe the situation and see how she’s truly doing. And not just projecting my own ideas about I think she should be doing. And you know what? For the most part, she seems pretty at peace. (And just in case you’re worried about her, she has lots of support from family members and other trusted adults.)
There are times when you will look for a loving reason and not be able to perceive one, or even imagine what it might be. In those moments, acknowledging that one exists even though you have no idea what it is helps you stay open to possibility, and avoid pinning your frustration and disappointment on other people.
Because here’s the thing about cynicism…
It’s isolating. If you can’t trust other people, you’re on your own. And that is a stressful, lonely place to be. Moment of silence on that one. I think a lot of times cynicism is a mode of protection. If you have low expectations, you can’t be let down. I get that, I do. I don’t mean to equate looking for the loving reason with having high expectations that everything is working out like a rom com. It’s about having trust that there is good available to you and good in other people–even when people aren’t acting the way you wish they would in that moment.
It reminds me of a line from Steel Magnolias that Julia Roberts says, ‘Oh mama I’d rather have a few minutes of wonderful than a life of nothin’ special!” Looking for the loving reason instead of being cynical helps you be on the look out for the wonderful, even when it’s not currently in view. It keeps you open to possibility and helps you trust that life is happening for you, and not just to you. Others will still disappoint, because humans are, well human, but that disappointment will have meaning. You’ll know that the tough times can make you, dare I say, a better person.
Daily Tiny Assignment
Your tiny assignment for today is to think up at least one possible loving reason for why some situation you’re not psyched about—which I’m willing to bet has something to do with someone else’s behavior—might be happening. Just one. I bet that even allowing your brain to entertain this possibility will give you more than just one idea, but the quantity doesn’t matter. It’s staying open to possibility and trust that does.
Be sure to come back tomorrow, when I’m interviewing Shelley Moench-Kelley, author of the brand-new book, Here’s Your Pill, Kitten. We will be talking about how a freak accident led to her spending three months as the youngest resident in a nursing home. And how that tough experience helped her have more faith in and more compassion for her fellow humans.