This morning, I realized I've been wrong about something pretty important and I'd like to share that with you.
You see, as a coach sometimes it's easy for me to get caught up in the ideas and jargon of the industry I work in. I live in space where I'm constantly talking about life and how to be a better human. I consistently use expressions like 'resonate,' 'energy leak', 'hold space', 'drop in', and 'alignment' among others.
Lately, one of my favorite thoughts and go to phrases has been, "You have to meet people where they are" because it implies that you shouldn't try to meet them 'where' you'd like them to be. Its a phrase that is meant to celebrate sovereignty and encourage empathy, unconditionality, and non-judgment. Awesome right? Wrong.
For the record I happen to think those four things are wonderful but 8 hours ago something shifted regarding this particular issue that made me realize that my approach of 'meeting people where they are' is wrong and it came from a very simple thought...
"How the hell do we ever know 'where' the other person 'is'?"
We don't share the same references, we don't have the same past, we don't see the world through the same filter and we most certainly don't inhabit their brains or hearts. It's therefore impossible for us to really understand 'where' they 'are', so it's quite unfair for us to develop an opinion about it.
At the end of the day we know very little about the universe that is another person and most of what we do know is based on mere conjecture... So what is it exactly that we do do then?
As we do with all things in our lives, we carefully craft a story based on assumptions about 'where' that person 'is' and 'why' in an attempt to understand their situation. We do this to be able to categorize and label them because our brains like neatly organized information. By knowing the story we will therefore now how to react 'appropriately'.
We also do this (hopefully) to try to empathize and connect with the people in question and while that is a noble pursuit, doing so actually prevents us from the very thing we desire because great connections are based on authenticity, not stories... The plus side of that is that we're only responsible for our end of the bargain when it comes to showing up authentically in a relationship so at least we'll know where to focus our energy!
Now that I've made it pretty clear that our perception of others and the world is pretty much a sophisticated deception, what, you may be wondering is the moral of the story? That we will never have all the information? That our brains work against us?
The important point here is for us to understand that we're faced with a pretty simple but incredibly important choice... While knowing this can be scary, it can also be empowering because it then compels us to take a stance for who we want to be in a world devoid of total security or certainty about anything.
Will we take a stance for love? Will we give because it is in our true nature to do so? Will we choose to be kind, open, and flexible regardless of what is thrown our way or the stories that we develop? Will we give people/situations/ourselves the benefit of the doubt before judging?
David Deida writes about this very topic beautifully in his book, Blue Truth. He encourages us to be courageous, to stay open when he states,
"Give everything now. You are either withholding your love in fear or giving your deepest gifts.
Right now, and in every now moment, you are either closing or opening. You are either stressfully waiting for something- more money, more security, affection- or you are living from your deep heart, opening as the entire moment, and giving what you most deeply desire to give, without waiting.
If you are waiting for anything in order to live and love without holding back, then you suffer. Every moment is the most important moment of your life. No future time is better than now to let down your guard and love.
Everything you do right now ripples and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room with depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open heart and minds.
Opening from heart to all, you live as a gift to all. In every moment, you are either opening or closing. Right now, you are choosing to open and give fully or are you waiting. How does your choice feel?"
So no, we will never know 'where' we, or others 'are' in reality but yes, we can choose to meet them and ourselves in an accepting and loving way regardless of condition. I think George Orwell was right when he said that happiness can exist only in acceptance.
We can choose to get progressively more comfortable with the inevitable uncertainty and ever-changing flow of life or we can allow our frustrations and stories to run the show. We can declare our intent to embody the love and acceptance that we want to receive from others. We can stay open and vulnerable. We can choose to see the glass as completely full... Half full of water and half full of air.
Why? Because doing so just makes the ride sweeter.
(I chose Open by Rhye for this entry because it makes me feel like I do when I willingly choose to see a difficult situation through a loving lens... It's a slow start but pretty soon thereafter I find a delicious flow. The music isn't ultra saccharine but it has a patient sweetness that can't be ignored and the lyrics are pretty much on point. Enjoy!)