Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday, May 14, 2009

A dear friend of mine sent this to me and it's a great read for Thoughtful Thursday--

Our Greatest Need

"A few years ago, I was surprised by a longtime client of mine who, out of the blue, remarked that he felt that his life was a failure. His tone was reflective and melancholic, and I could tell that he had given a lot of thought to this feeling before sharing it with me.
A retired, church-going real estate broker, he was in his 80's with two grown children and five grandchildren, all well educated and healthy. His wife of more than 60 years was still by his side, and he was financially secure in his retirement.
So why did he feel like his life was a failure?
He couldn't ignore the cold reality that no one deeply cared about him. He knew in his heart that even his wife and children didn't truly respect, trust, and love him. Sure, his family did what they had to do on special occasions, but the big elephant in the room was the undeniable truth that those closest to him didn't enjoy who he was.
He easily talked about the importance of being loving, humble, forgiving, and compassionate. But several quiet and lonely years of retirement gave him enough time to realize that over the years, for the most part, he didn't really spend too much energy thinking about those around him.
He cared mostly about his socioeconomic status, being respected as a highly educated man, having people treat him like he was someone special, and enjoying his hobbies.
It's hard to forget the sad, defeated look that was on this man's face as he voiced these thoughts. He realized quite late in his life that he had spent most of his adulthood focusing on things that ultimately left him feeling sad and lonely.
I would suggest that our greatest need in life is to feel cared about. We can give lip service to being independent of the opinions of others, but at the end of the day, my belief is that nothing fills us up like knowing - really knowing - that we have the respect and even reverence of those who we deeply love among our family members and friends.
When we know that we have not earned the love of those we love, it's near impossible to experience an emotionally balanced life that has us accessing our best potential in many areas, including our health.
Some might say that we should just be true to ourselves, and that authentic love is unconditional - that if our family members and those close to us don't love us because of our behavior, then those people should just bug off. I, too, would have said just this several years ago.
But the older I get, the more I feel that there is very little unconditional love in our world. For the most part, the love that others feel for us is dependent on how we behave, more specifically, how we treat them.
Put another way, how much we love others depends on how they behave, and how much others love us depends on how we behave. It's the law of reaping what we sow in action at a most basic level.
Unconditional love does exist, as most parents can attest to. For example, if your own child purposefully hurts you or misbehaves in a big way, though it's possible to experience intense anger in the moment, love for your own child doesn't easily shatter and dissolve away.
But with most people, love is fickle in that it's only as strong as the efforts that are exerted to be thoughtful and generous. And perhaps rightly so.
What if you can identify with the retired real estate broker mentioned above? What if you feel some sadness in knowing that your behavior at times in the past has resulted in few people genuinely caring about you?
Be encouraged by just being aware of these realities (should they apply to you). Without awareness of how your behavior has shaped how others feel about you, it's near impossible to improve the quality of your most important relationships."

By Dr. Ben Kim on May 11, 2009

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