With careful observation, people can identify the sources of their own happiness, meaning, and joy. For example, using discernment, they can evaluate what money can and cannot buy. Yes, it can secure a good bit of comfort, beauty, and freedom, providing relief, pleasure, and opportunity. But it cannot buy respect, love, trust, or creativity. While purchased pleasures can also offer distraction from intensity or relief from the grind of discipline, they can also dilute observation by creating distance from direct experience.
Seventy-five years of longitudinal research detailing the lives of two groups of Boston men have shown how clearly the key to their happiness and well-being lay in the quality of their close relationships. Other studies, ones including women and those born past the third decade of the 20th century, support this finding. Discerning opportunities to honor those close relationships has been the focus of “52 Ways to Show I Love You”.
Last December, I introduced this series by describing two sources of misunderstanding. They are rooted in feelings of loving and being loved. On December 18th I related the impact of my experiences with patients, students, published studies, and my own loved ones. They convinced me that too often what one person believes to be an expression of love is not at all the way in which the loved one wants (or needs) to feel loved. I wanted to help people better discover how they themselves experienced feeling loving or being loved by another and when those they cared about felt most loved by them. The following week, on December 25th, I underscored the diversity in cultural interpretations of ways of expressing love. Discernment is the key to meeting both challenges.
What do we discern when we observe?
How does observing help loving?
Why is observing the key to learning to love more meaningfully?
What are some moments when you detected a difference between what someone said and what he or she really meant? How did you know? Were you ever caught off guard? Did you become defensive or did you work to better align your thoughts, feelings, and behavior and to communicate them more clearly?
Copyright 2017 Roni Beth Tower
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