A Tiny Visitor Taught Me A Big Lesson

Photo by Christian Spencer

A gentle thud caught my attention. This sound was curiously familiar.  As a bird lover, I know immediately when one has been temporarily blinded by the sun’s reflection, causing it to crash heavily into one of the many windows in my home. I rated this sound similar, yet lighter, reminiscent of one human finger placing a single sharp rap on a pane of glass.

I hurried to the kitchen window that wrapped itself around the right back corner of my house, offering a magnificent view of the tree-filled backyard. Scanning the bushes and grass close to the house, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. I rushed down the steps and reached the bottom just as one of my dogs, Charlie, who had been roused from a nap by the sound, arrived there. We headed in the same direction, stopping at the hydrangea bushes lining the flower bed beneath the window. There, on a single leaf, lay a hummingbird. I scooped up the tiny bird before Charlie could get the notion to do it himself, and headed back up the stairs into the safety of the house. Charlie remained for some time, sniffing for the source of the odd smell that lingered in the air.

Once inside, I opened my hand. Cradled there was one of the most spectacular beauties of Mother Nature, tiny and still. The bird’s eyes were shut. It was stunned by the impact, but it was still alive. I saw it breathing, and with one finger pressed lightly against its chest, I felt the rapid beating of its heart.

Braving the likelihood of having to refuse another invitation to tour my aging neighbor’s beer bottle collection, I ran next door to get witnesses to this event. On the doorbell’s second ring, Marie, the old man’s wife, slowly opened the door. Through the screen, she motioned for me to come inside.

“Thanks, Marie, but no. I want you to come outside to see what I have in my hands.”

“Robert, come here and see what Regina’s got,” Marie hollered back over her shoulder into the cavernous hallways of the house.

Soon Robert appeared, smiling from ear to ear, ready with his invitation for the tour. But Marie spoke up before he could.

“Look,” she said, pointing to the little mass of metallic green feathers.

“Well, would you look at that,” Robert replied. Surprise spread over his face as he saw the tiny bird. He had probably come to greet me with thoughts of familiar things – a tour, the weather, how high the grass was growing and when he’d get around to cutting it. What he found as he opened the screen door to join us on the porch was most likely not in the realm of his imagination. I watched his face as he stepped out into the beautiful spring day. Wrinkles he had borne like badges of honor for all he’d seen during his 85 years of life seemed to smooth out in awe of what he now witnessed.

I told them the story and answered their questions as best I could. When they were satisfied, we all fell silent—a new occurrence in the six years we had known each other.

The bird remained still, its eyes closed as both Marie and Robert took turns gently and lovingly stroking its tiny body. Touching the bird allowed each of us to know for sure what we were experiencing was real. It was so soft and downy, small and helpless, yet its powerful heartbeat was proof of its tenacity to survive.

After a few more minutes, I told my neighbors goodbye. I felt such a love connection with them for sharing the experience with me. But now, something called me to be alone with the little bird. I returned to my front porch and got comfortable in one of the chairs.

I was reluctant to leave it alone, fearing it would perish to a wandering cat. It was beautiful, small, vulnerable—and yet displayed a magnificently strong design in such a petite package. I was torn between wanting to keep it and praying for its full recovery.

It was a male Ruby-throated, the widest ranging of all North American hummingbirds. I remember as a child growing up in South Texas, they were constant visitors throughout the spring and fall. The tiny bird was common in Central Alabama, too. I often watched three or four competing at my feeder. Almost invisible, they dove, and darted, and dive-bombed, and somehow miraculously avoided colliding with each other. Cheeping and clicking, they delivered strong protests to others who tried to compete for a spot to rest or feed. I thought them civilized representatives of a natural world with often cruel and uncaring aspects. They are two-inch-long powerhouses of fierce independence. Hummingbirds are always ready to courageously defend their territory, but in a way in which the birds never seem to get hurt. I thought how wonderful it would be if humans, too, could find ways to settle differences without hurting one another.

Sitting on the porch holding the bird, I was content. Rescuing birds, squirrels, mice, and other creatures from nature’s harsh realities is one of the things I do. It’s a common occurrence for me to make a box for a family of robins upended from their nest by a thunderstorm, or find a new home for the mice I might discover while spring cleaning. This, however, seemed a different and more enlightening connection to the natural world.

I had witnessed hummingbirds so many times but never had been this close. Their wings beat so fast they often seemed more fantasy than real. A blur of color flitting from here to there so quickly my eyes could not follow. Nevertheless, here one was, real and still in the palm of my hand. I was able to see up close how its little clawed feet curled slightly and to study the perfectly uniform feathers that covered its small body. The vibrant, iridescent colors of its wings and throat were truly amazing.

We sat together for several more minutes. With each moment, I wondered if it was going to make it. Tenderly I stroked its chest, watched, and waited.

Suddenly it woke up. Flipping up from its side, it sprang to life. It hesitated for a split-second, seeming to gather its bearings. Then it was off, propelled rapidly upward by its awakening. As it cleared the porch, it made a half-circle and returned to where I was sitting. It hovered in front of me, about two feet from my chair, and remained for what seemed a full minute. Never taking its eyes off me, it stayed back, yet was close enough that I could feel a slight breeze from the rapid beating of its wings. As it looked at me, I thought surely it was saying thanks for plucking it off the leaf and keeping it safe for the past half-hour.

I will never know exactly what the little bird was thinking as it made one final circle above my head and flew away. Later I found some tiny feathers on the porch that must have fallen from its wing or tail. They weren’t green like its body, or red like its throat, but white and black and gray. Today I still have those feathers in a very special bowl.

Holding the hummingbird was a miracle. It was an opportunity that taught me to appreciate the things I love, to cherish each moment, and to courageously get back up when life throws a punch. It was an awesome privilege to be given thirty unforgettable minutes when time stood still and I held the most exquisite creature in my hands, to feel its warmth, and to marvel at its magnificence. That little bird taught me to pay very close attention to life, because often the best gifts really do come in the smallest packages.

How Can We Know What God is?

If we take a drinking straw and look up into the night sky through it, we would see about 10,000 stars within the tiny circumference. Multiply the objects in that small space by the entire night sky and the number of stars, planets, and universes is beyond comprehension.

How can we know what God is?

We are told what God is, but the truth is, we do not know.

To me, God smells like a rainy day. God feels soft, like the fur of a kitten. God sounds like songbirds. God looks like spring, summer, winter, and fall. God’s grace is each act of forgiveness, compassion, equality, responsibility, humility, respect, and honesty. I believe the best way to view God is to see God in everything and everyone, because that view of God motivates us to treat all people and all life as we want to be treated.

Let’s look for God’s magnificence of creation in one another and in all life.

Wouldn’t this view of God be the universal acceptance necessary for us to stop fighting one another over God, our differences, and religion? 

An expansive spiritual education is not achieved by taking one course.

You and I do not come to a place of expanded wisdom of God’s Divine plan of the interconnectedness of all life by staying in a comfort zone where we are spoon-fed what someone else wants us to believe. Just as we do not receive a well-rounded education that serves us throughout our entire life by having limited experiences or by taking one course.

Achieving a high school diploma requires years of work and the study of many different subjects. To receive a bachelor’s degree involves more years of commitment, challenge, and immersion in an even wider variety of subjects. Pursuing a master’s degree demands additional years of even harder work. And to receive a Ph.D., M.D., J.D., or other terminal degree necessitates an unwavering commitment to many years of intense hard work and dedication.

With each level of education we achieve, the reward is a wider amount of knowledge. Our skill levels increase as do our deductive reasoning and critical thinking abilities. Our values and priorities change. We develop our inquisitive nature.

In all educational pursuits, beautiful things come from challenging ourselves to learn and grow. We also learn and grow from the vast opportunities we have to experience different societies, information, and people. The same is true of our spiritual development, because the more we question ourselves, our beliefs, and our religious and social practices and traditions, the more we learn, grow, and change for the better.

How can we know what God is?

Be Committed to Caring for Yourself First

I grew up hearing I had to love other people first, or Jesus, or God. I was raised to believe it is selfish to put my physical, emotional and spiritual needs first.  I had to sacrifice my dreams, wants, and desires for those of others, especially those of the men in my life.  If I stood up for what I wanted or I refused to follow along with what other people wanted me to do and be, I was being self-centered.

It took many years but I finally figured out each of those “beliefs” is a controlling lie. My experience is women struggle with the societal and religious expectation we have to love other people by putting them first, or we’re being selfish.  The continued misogyny of our global society (devaluing of the feminine vs. valuing the masculine) originated with ancient religious texts and was written in times when women had no power. The belief of gender inequality continues today in part to keep women controlled by the idea we must take care of everyone else before ourselves.

A devaluing of ourselves in favor of others causes us to lose ourselves in relationship, to believe our love is strong enough to change other people, and results in our having a hard time setting boundaries. In general, women have been conditioned to love others before we love ourselves. But the truth is whether we or women or men – we cannot give to others what we don’t first give to ourselves. To have fulfilling relationships, to not lose ourselves, to set boundaries, we must have an appreciation for what is involved in loving others, which we can only develop through the experience of loving ourselves first.

Love is caring and affection displayed through positive action. You know you are loved by how positively others treat you. You know you love yourself by how well you treat yourself. Unless you focus on your needs, desires, wants, body, time, energy, attention, values, beliefs, you end up losing yourself in relationship. A “me last” approach creates resentment and feelings of being unfulfilled in relationship. Plus, attempting to love others before we love ourselves perpetuates the false idea we can give anything to anyone we do not first give to ourselves.

Finding BALANCE is the key to loving yourself first because what you want to do for yourself cannot always come before your children’s and family’s needs. Loving yourself first means you make time daily to take care of yourself so you do not run yourself ragged and become resentful because you’ve lost yourself (your needs, desires, values) in relationship.

No one is capable of being a better friend, confidant and advisor to you than you. It is empowering to realize you can treat yourself as you want to be treated, support yourself as you want to be supported, and love yourself as you want to be loved.

Regard yourself with the utmost compassion, forgiveness, and respect. Look within to change feelings of helplessness and hopelessness into self-reliance and optimism. Focus on forgiving yourself and other people to repair the holes within your heart. Become familiar with what you value in yourself, in others and in life. Concentrate on being comfortable and content alone before seeking someone to share your life with. Stand up and cheer for yourself. Depend on yourself to create the life you want by being your own biggest fan.

Download my free “101 Ways to Love Yourself” guide here:

 

Define Success for Yourself

I no longer own a car or drive with any regularity, and I have never felt more free.

Over my lifetime I have owned three homes. Today, I live in a one-bedroom apartment and have never felt more at home.

I do not have the latest mobile technology, and I have never felt more connected.

I may seem a failure to those whose main focus is cars, homes, and gadgets, yet I have never felt more successful. I wake each day contented, peaceful, and fulfilled, and more in love with life. No thing has ever offered me this.

It took many years to identify what success means to me. Each time I look at my dog, I am reminded of what a joy it is to responsibly provide for their well-being. Today, people tell me they want to come back as my pet. When I think of purchasing a car, fuel efficiency and environmental and financial responsibility top my list of must-haves. Instead of surrounding myself with many items, I save up and purchase fewer things of better quality. Years ago, I learned that no matter what the item is, whether toilet paper, toys, or appliances, cheap is actually quite expensive, since something of inferior quality neither lasts as long nor is as reliable, and so much waste negatively impacts the environment.

I am no longer impressed with people who set my worth by what I wear, what I own, where I live, and what I drive. After successfully climbing out of the turbulent waters of debt, living within my means has become an important standard I’ve set for myself.

While I do not have the car or home or popular technology, I am free of debt. Each day I enjoy friends, family, strangers, and the breathtaking beauty that surrounds me. I am free of the burden of too much stuff. Every day I work on doing my part to make the world a better, more peaceful, cleaner, more cooperative place. I am connected to my heart, to other people, to the natural world, and to our planet. I am in command of and responsible for my thoughts and behavior. I am at home in my charming apartment as well as in my heart. Now these are my benchmarks for success.

There is nothing wrong with having wealth, positions, and honors. I believe what we want to receive from life and what we want to leave as our legacy are important questions to ask. Regardless of what other people use as their benchmarks, we have to define success for ourselves. If the only thing we achieve in life is a reputation for being compassionate, honest, and responsible, that is legacy enough.

Healthy Relationships Have Healthy Boundaries

People will treat us as we allow them to. A boundary is a limit we set to protect and take care of ourselves. Boundaries let other people know our availability, values, and the conditions under which we will interact. Healthy, clearly communicated boundaries identify our needs, feelings, and rights in relationship to others. Boundaries let others know we respect and value ourselves.

It’s essential that we establish and maintain limits to protect ourselves and create positive relationships with others. Boundaries help us determine the things we want to do and those we don’t and if we’re clear on what those boundaries are from the start, they help us to stand up for ourselves without guilt for putting our needs first.

Without establishing (and articulating) the behaviors we will and will not tolerate from others, we leave ourselves open to becoming angry and resentful about how we are allowing ourselves to be treated. That leads us to taking our pain out on others and ourselves. So, healthy, clearly communicated boundaries let others see we respect and value ourselves. And, respecting the needs, feelings, and boundaries of others lets them see they are valued.

What Boundaries Are Not

Establishing how we want to be treated is not about control or manipulation. We do not set boundaries to change other people. We do so to change us—to create a better, more positive life for ourselves by demonstrating a commitment to self-love and respect.

Boundaries clearly state what behavior is hurtful to us, yet we do not have expectations of any particular outcome. That is, we set boundaries for ourselves while realizing the other person is completely responsible for making changes to his or her behavior.

How to Set Boundaries

Through counseling and a lifetime of trial and error, I learned that setting strong, lasting boundaries with ourselves and others requires us to do four things:

  • Define acceptable behavior;
  • Accept that doing nothing is condoning bad treatment;
  • Express our feelings calmly and clearly; and
  • Be comfortable with not being popular.

My free guide on how to set boundaries goes into great detail about how to follow these four steps.

Download it here:

 

 

“When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them”

Many years ago, I entered into a relationship with an alcoholic. Although it was clear from the beginning she was addicted, I did not admit it to myself. Over time it became impossible to ignore the truth as the incidents of intoxication began to add up. After each occurrence there was an apology, a request for forgiveness and a promise it would not happen again. No matter how much I wanted the drinking to stop, it did not. No matter how much I prayed for follow-through on the promises to seek help there was none.

For too long I chose to believe the fantasy of what she promised, of how I believed she could be, rather than accept repeated actions of self-abuse as proof of what was actually true about the woman who used alcohol to avoid facing her pain and personal challenges. In this relationship I made the mistake of thinking we can change another person. By entering into this toxic and abusive relationship I also lost myself in relationship. Rather than remaining true to myself and my values, I ignored my gut and the evidence of her repeated behavior by thinking my love was strong enough to change her.

One of the most important relationship tips we must always keep in mind is the wisdom of Dr. Maya Angelou when she advised, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

Anyone can promise anything, especially if they want to keep a situation as it is or they don’t want to honestly look at themselves. However consistent behavior is proof of who someone really is.  Your relationships will remain unfulfilled if you cling to a fantasy of what you want someone to be at some point in the future, rather than accepting the truth of what their current behavior is telling you they are right now.

No matter how much we cherish the idea of who we think someone can be, what their potential is, the person MUST choose to be their best self just as you must choose to be your best self too.  Believing what someone says while ignoring their opposite behavior is not loving, to yourself or to them.

Your love, no matter how strong, will not stop other people from being abusive, drinking, having affairs, over spending, or abusing drugs. No matter how much you love someone, your love does not cause them to wake up to how they are behaving or how they are allowing themselves to be mistreated. The only love powerful enough to make someone walk away from abuse, to change their behavior, to end fear or self-loathing, is self-love.  The only love powerful enough to make someone change anything negative about themselves is self-love.

Each of us must want to change in order to change. And, we have to take the consistent actions necessary to bring about self-change.

Our love can support others once they make the decision to change themselves.  But, until someone works to actively take the action to change, we must not allow ourselves to be mistreated.

Love does not allow abuse or mistreatment. But, often we believe because someone is family or a close friend we have to hang in there, allowing them to dump their anger, self-centeredness and emotional unconsciousness onto us.  We feel this is how to love them. We may have been raised in a family where we were told not to rock the boat or we have to love and accept them for who they are. However, tolerating bad behavior is not loving those who are behaving badly. In fact the opposite is true, because not setting a boundary against mistreatment is telling the person their negative, hurtful and self-centered behavior is acceptable.

Paying the rent for a dug addicted child who is doing nothing to change is enabling the bad behavior to continue.  Tolerating repeated affairs from a cheating spouse when we desire fidelity is enabling the unacceptable behavior to continue. Allowing ourselves to be subjected to constant ridicule or abuse from a parent or family member is enabling negative behavior to continue.

Enabling is not love. Enable is the misguided belief because I love them I must put up with their bad behavior. We cannot change others but we can change how WE allow others to treat us.  Love brings a “higher level of awareness to a situation than what created it in the first place” just as Albert Einstein said. LOVE sets healthy boundaries to say no to negative, hurtful behavior.

If you are currently in an abusive situation you must set a boundary. Choose to respect yourself and walk away, if necessary. No matter how your heart might long for the other person to know and be better, he or she will not have a clue about how their negative behavior impacts themselves and others until they look at themselves with the honesty of their own heart.

You can only be in charge of and in control of your behavior.  You cannot make someone behave differently. No matter how much you love them.  Care for yourself by being honest with yourself about the behavior of others.  Let go of the fantasy, if you just care enough they will change.  Accept you cannot change anyone’s behavior but your own.  Love yourself by making the positive changes necessary to stop yourself from being mistreated, used, abused, or being lied to.  Setting boundaries against unacceptable behavior is the loving thing to do and will result in positive change. Even if the only beneficial change you receive is letting go of thinking your love is strong enough to change others.

Want Peace – Let Go of the Need to Be Right

Through e-mail, I agreed to pick up and return my friend Katherine to the airport. Two weeks before her arrival, something came up that required me to change plans for transporting her back to the airport. Still through e-mail, I assured her I would find someone to give her a ride back.

She arrived and I was there to greet her. After some time together, I confirmed I was unable to give her a ride back to the airport. The news came as a shock. Nothing I said could convince my friend that I had sent a second e-mail two weeks earlier; she thought I was lying.

I can be stubborn, and I can be argumentative. But for too many years being obstinate and confrontational did nothing to resolve my conflicts. And clinging to the notion that I had to be proven right only added fuel to the fire in the disagreements I had with others. Through experience I learned the most positive action was choosing to overrule my self-centered ego.

It was not easy, but the truth was that no matter how much I wanted validation from Katherine, there was absolutely nothing to be gained by arguing with her. Leading with the heart is caring more for friendship than pride, so I chose to let go of my ego’s need to be recognized as right. I did not want to be angry with her, nor did I want our time together to be uncomfortable. The only option I saw to ensure peace of mind was to be patient, accept what was, and allow the situation to resolve itself.

A few weeks after my friend returned home, she was having repairs made to her computer when several mysteriously lost e-mails arrived in her in-box. Among them was the one I had sent.

I do not believe it is possible for us to agree with everyone all the time about everything. I do believe it is possible for us to stay agreeable when disagreeing. And simply because we disagree with someone does not mean that person is wrong.

My friend was also right! She had not received my e-mail before she left. Yet, for many months after returning home, she was distant. She was embarrassed for not giving me the benefit of the doubt. She was upset at herself for allowing hurt feelings to invent all sorts of reasons to justify turning her back on me. She was also angry at herself for discounting my history of honest and loyal behavior. She was frustrated for permitting herself to invent ego-illusions that my innocent actions were a personal attack.

In the overall design, you and I are only alive for a very brief period—much too short to waste time holding a grudge or settling for drama, fear, and sadness. When we place more importance on being proven right than we do on our relationships, we have, in essence, donned flowing silk robes and placed ourselves in the middle of a dense rose garden. Life situations and interactions with other people become masses of twisted thorns that rip and tear at the fragile material. No matter how painful the thorns are or how deeply they tear at us, we are uncomfortable shedding the robe of our prideful self-image. Without our egocentric self-view, who will we be?

With pride at stake, we do not stop to question the cost of being right. An egocentric mind does not care about the feelings of friends, family, or strangers. Wounded ego is not content unless the whole world accepts we are indeed right and someone else is wrong. And on the occasions we are the one who is wrong, our ego is not interested in voluntarily confessing our guilt; we are fine remaining quiet as a mouse sneaking off with a piece of cheese.

To lead with our heart, we let go of the need to be acknowledged as right—even when we are. While there may be two sides to every story, there is only one truth between them. Truth has a way of surfacing eventually, making relationships worth much more than egotistically defending our personal pride.

Face Your Fear Head-On

There was a time in life when I lived in fear. I was scared of dying, of getting cancer, of success, of failure. I was afraid of going to hell, of not being liked, of being alone.

Today, I can honestly say I no longer live in fear. That’s not to say I do not become afraid at times. At 3:00 a.m. when an earthquake jolts me awake, yes, absolutely, my heart races and my palms sweat as my fight-or-flight response kicks in. But I have learned that living in fear based on the negativity I am exposed to, or the trepidations of my creative and anxious mind, is no way to live.

Our mind thinks it is the wise one and will adamantly defend what it believes to be true and best. But within our mind’s efforts of self-preservation also lies that distressing emotion of fear that distances us from our positive emotions and other people, and it prevents us from striving to live our best life.

Our mind is not the faithful part of us, no matter how loudly and persistently it tells us it is. Through a lifetime of experience, I learned it is our responsible, caring, and loving heart that is the higher, wiser, faith-filled part. We discover this by bravely doing the very things our mind tells us to be fearful of. By courageously facing each of our fears, we start walking in faith, both in a power greater than ourselves, and also in our ability to deal positively with life, regardless of what may come along.

What do you fear?  What will you gain when you bravely face your fear head-on?

Evaluate, Rather Than Judge

One time my uncle’s car broke down on a sparsely populated stretch of two-lane highway. This happened long before cell phones, and he was stuck in the middle of nowhere. He had to depend on the off chance that someone would happen along.

After a while he heard a soft buzzing that sounded like a swarm of bees heading in his direction. As the noise grew louder, he watched the horizon. Soon a group of motorcycle riders crested the hill.

Even though my uncle had not personally encountered bikers before, he was terrified at the sight of them. He had formed a critical conclusion of motorcycle riders from others’ opinions and harbored a preconceived idea that they were all dangerous. He feared they would rob and possibly harm him. With nowhere to hide, he felt completely helpless as he watched them approach.

I’ve known several tattooed biker guys with scraggly beards, do-rags, and wallets on chains, and I realize how they might seem ominous. Yet, I know from experience that we cannot accurately measure the true character of any person or group of people based on a stereotype.

Most of the motorcycle group waved as they passed by my uncle. Two riders stopped and politely asked if they could be of help. They discovered the problem and repaired it, and soon my uncle was back on the road with a new perspective on people who ride motorcycles.

Evaluation is the process of determining the true value of something based on evidence and reasoning. Heart evaluation works the same way. It involves investing time to gauge ourselves, the situation, and others from many different angles, with the goal of determining the truth for ourselves.

My uncle made a critical assessment, an ego judgment, based on little or no evidence. This isn’t uncommon. Such opinions are often formed about those whose religion, ethnicity, political beliefs, or socioeconomic status is different from our own.

But remember that opinion is not fact. Opinion is: (1) a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty, and (2) a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.

For instance, I am a positive person; but this does not mean my head is buried in the sand. It would be easy for me to develop a negative opinion of life if I based it only on news reports or the editorial commentary to which I am exposed. The reality is there are countless media sources that think nothing of altering images or even staging photos or making things up for impact. Even responsible media deliver news of depressing events right into our homes. Media bombard us with tragedy and the worst of human behavior. If we allow ourselves to latch on to the pessimistic representations of what is wrong with the world, then we would feel as if we were hopelessly surrounded by negative people and irreversible situations. We would automatically look at others with a judgmental eye.

Know What You Value to Know Who You Are

All fulfilling relationships whether they are friendships, family interactions, or with significant others, have one thing in common – they are made up of people who have a clearly defined sense of their own identity.  Each person has a solid understanding of who they are, so they are comfortable communicating their needs and desires to others. This is why to have the best relationships possible with others, you must be strong on your own, as an individual.

Are you strong on your own? Meaning do you have a solid identity as your own person? Or do you need other people to validate you and provide your sense of identity?

These are important questions to ask yourself. It is easy for us to lose ourselves in relationship, if we do not first have a solid sense of who we are and what we want in our relationships.

To maintain a solid sense of personal identity in relationship it is important to accept – who you are (how you BE in life) is what you value.  Character values drive the attitude you have about yourself and others. Values also create your behavior. Which means beyond whatever label you place on yourself or other people place on you (wife, mother, teacher, friend), who you are as an individual is expressed through how you behave, your beliefs, thoughts, dreams, etc. And, your behavior, beliefs, thoughts, dreams are determined by what you value.

For instance, it is important to determine if you are confident or insecure.  Honest or dishonest.  Loyal or unfaithful. Forgiving or blaming. Accepting or judging. Cooperative or confrontational. Heart-centered or ego-driven. Patient or impatient. Kind or cruel. Flexible or controlling. Responsible or irresponsible. Dependable or unreliable. Open or closed. Compassionate or unfeeling. Observant or inattentive. Devoted or uncommitted. Encouraging or discouraging. Nurturing or neglectful. Peaceful or violent. Respectful or impolite. Supportive or unhelpful.

Identifying your weaknesses is as important as knowing your strengths. To bring your best half to all your relationships, you must be willing to work on the areas you identify where you need to change and grow.

Why? Because if we are not truly a patient person (most often) we cannot identify someone who is regularly impatient.  Patient people like to associate with other people who are patient. We’re not perfect, and will not always be patient, but we can choose to be patient more often than not. If we value being patient and get into relationship with someone who is (most often) impatient we will suffer.

If we are dishonest we will consent to associate with other people who are dishonest yet honesty is the foundation of all successful relationships. Liars don’t get respect and trust from others. Not knowing if we can trust someone will only cause suffering. In order to trust others we first must trust ourselves. We CANNOT trust ourselves if we lie to ourselves. If we’re dishonest with ourselves we will accept dishonesty in our relationships. Each of these negative behaviors goes against the core values of a person of character who is bringing the best of themselves to their relationships.

If I value honesty, kindness and patience, I will lose myself by going against my values to be in relationship with people who are dishonest, cruel and impatient. Going against my core values leaves me feeling unfulfilled, disappointed, resentful and frustrated.  To feel fulfilled I have to live my values by expressing the behavior; not just telling myself I am a patient, kind and honest person. And I have to live my values by setting boundaries with people who consistently behave in ways opposite my core values (my personal identity). I don’t associate with liars, thieves, victims, complainers or people who hurt others. Even if they are family, going against myself to accept the negative behavior of someone is NOT SELF LOVING OR RESPECTFUL. And it does not change them, but will most definitely change me for the worse.

Through the personal planning process of determining who I am and what I really want, I realized to have the best, most fulfilling relationships, we need to bring the best of ourselves to those relationships. To be the best, most confident and self-assured person on our own, it is necessary to assess our strengths and weaknesses in the form of our values, beliefs, and behaviors. To avoid losing ourselves in relationship we must determine what values are currently a part of our consistent everyday behavior (most often) and which are not.

Today you can begin changing your life and your relationships by determining what you value in terms of love’s behaviors.  Is it honesty, loyalty, compassion, promptness, cooperation, patience? If you are impatient think about how this creates stress, frustration and does not create positive change. If you think it is okay to tell little white lies consider how it feels to be lied to, even about small things. If you are judgmental ask yourself how this helps create positive relationships with yourself and others.

Healthy and fulfilling relationships are founded upon the sharing and receiving of love which is caring and affection expressed through positive action.  To be loving and to know when you are being loved requires living aligned with the values of love. When you love yourself by staying true to yourself and what you value, you no longer lose yourself in relationship.