Among the many characteristics that grow a healthy relationship, five markers stand out as foundationally significant. These five characteristics give opportunity for others to trust us, to want to be with us, and to be close to us:
These five characteristics give opportunity for others to trust us, to want to be with us, and to be close to us.
HUMILITY: We face that we are all made from the same material, “dust of the earth.” It may be stardust, but it is still dirt. We are no more than human. We are works in progress, who are always arriving. Not one of us is perfect. Humility begins at the admission of being fully human, subject to all the foibles, laughter, tears, and struggles as everyone else. It creates in us a disposition of empathy, acceptance, gratitude, and wisdom, which we all need.
EQUALITY: We treat others the way we wish to be treated. It expresses the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.” We can offer the other person mannerly respect, honor their God-given worth, and care about their life experiences. This characteristic allows each person to have their own identity. We negate the Golden Rule of love when we tell others what they think, what they feel, or what their intentions are. That expresses rule by threat, not the Golden Rule.
RESPECT FOR DIFFERENCES: We accept that closeness is not created through sameness. Our approaches to life situations and our different ideas are the materials that produce newness and adventure in the crucible of a relationship. They allow us to learn new things and receive growth gifts. Beautiful quilts are made of many different kinds of patches sewn together to make a whole. Staying open to others’ gifts, ideas, and approaches can grow two people. But it starts with our openness to other ways of experiencing life. Some people love the mountains. Some people love the ocean. Some people love camping out; others love being near porcelain. We can gain from both.
RELENTLESS SELF-FOCUS: We change; we cannot change another. Taking responsibility for your own actions and their effects is a full-time job. Responsibility #1 is taking responsibility for the person that looks back at us in the mirror. Doing that job well matures a person. It moves us to pray and live the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” It leads to the maturing question, “What am I doing?” rather than “What are they doing to me?”
We grow through life; we don’t get control of it.
PROCESS-VIEW OF LIVING: We grow through life; we don’t get control of it. No human has control of life. No one has all the answers, so we all need to be good at the question: “How do I do this?” This is everyone’s first time through life, so we have to continually learn how to do it. Twenty year-olds need 30 year olds; 50 year olds need 70 year olds. And vice versa. We all need each other as guides. It really does take a lifetime to learn how to live. We need to grow in the day we are living. And then set our faces towards where we hope to go in the future.
It really does take a lifetime to learn how to live.