I used to live next door to such a person. Whenever I ran into Bob, whether it was for 20 seconds or 20 minutes, I’d later count our meeting among the high points of my day. It took me a while to figure out why.
Bob was a psychologist — still working, still playing tennis, still stimulating — in his 70s. And he had, with much practice, learned how to make everybody feel accepted: He accepted them.
It’s not as simple as it sounds, though. Bob didn’t use a blanket acceptance to cover everybody he encountered. He actually saw each individual for who they were. He saw through my clothes and flowers and the guys who picked me up on weekends to what was inside of me.
Isn’t that what we all want — to be known and accepted, to be loved as we are?
In fact, that’s the most valuable gift a parent can give a child. Sadly, many parents are so caught up in their own drama that they don’t really see their children for who they are.
In the academy award winning film “Ordinary People,” Mary Tyler Moore paints a poignant picture of this. Playing the role of an upper-class mother, she was more concerned about how her son’s therapy reflected on her image than she was about her son getting help. Parents often respond, whether openly or not, as a self-centered child might; because they still carry their own insecurities from childhood.
Bob had been a psychologist long enough to face and heal his own wounds, long enough to help others heal theirs. He wasn’t so hungry for attention that he made everything about him. He could be present with the person standing in front of him. And having accepted himself, he could accept others.
You’ve tried, right? But you’re as critical of others as you are of yourself. If you have to toe the line to feel good about yourself, then you think they should too. And if you don’t feel good about yourself, then you don’t want them to either.
You even find yourself competing with your sweetheart — as well as neighbors and strangers. That’s why couples often act more like warring attorneys than loving partners.
We can stop the cycle.
Whether you’re a young parent or an old parent or you’ve never been a parent, you can begin by taking responsibility for healing your own wounds. See yourself the way a wise old psychologist would see you. To truly know you is to love you. Trust that … and you won’t be afraid to peer beneath what you so carefully present to the world in order to win, of all things, acceptance.
You have to see what’s really there, beneath the façade, in order to know what it is and accept it.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to encounter others without being preoccupied with how you look, what they’re thinking about you, and what you’re going to say next. And you won’t be too busy judging them to really see them.
You won’t just see the results of their choices, you’ll see the reasons for their choices: the pain behind the anger, the insecurity behind the unhealthy relationships, the false beliefs behind the under employment.
Knowledge leads to understanding; and understanding leads to acceptance. And when you offer that, you leave people feeling better than you found them! You help them get a glimpse of who they are on a deeper level, which leads to the realization that they — independent of their packaging — are lovable.