"A person's life can be compared quite nicely to the four seasons of the year. This blog is from someone in the Winter of Life enjoying the fruits of his "Summer and Fall" and looking forward to assisting the growth and nourishment for the next generation.

My Father and Grandfather passed on their wisdom through their actions and their stories. This is probably be the most impactful way to pass on wisdom. But the written word can have an affect on lives that extends beyond the memories of a couple of generations. This blog is an attempt to reflection on my life experiences and pass these reflections to future generations of my own family as well as any others who might come across these pages.

Wednesday, March 8

The Best Advise You Will Never Put to Use: Relationships

The nature of old men and women is to reflect on their lives. This reflection generally results in giving young people advice how to live their lives. Mind you, this wise and sage advice is generally disregarded: "I want to make my own mistakes." So I suspect you will not follow the advice I am about to give, no matter how good I think it is!
Why is it that good advice is generally recognized only in retrospect? Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have said, "A penny saved is a penny earned". Darn good advice! But reflection on my life and spending habits indicates I would be a wealthy man if only I had taken that advice to heart! Like you, I did not listen to that old, after all he lived 200 years before I was even born, what could he know about "modern" life. Besides I am different and the times are different and the circumstances are different and I know what is best for me! Right?
It is a truism of life that we can not see the future! And, for the most part, we can not envision what the future will hold. Frankly, we don't care! Young folks seem to have this innate attitude of self reliance; "I can take care of myself, I don't need your help, I will make my own decisions". We tend to listen politely to the advice of old folks and smile on the outside while laughing on the inside. We laugh because "old folks" have some unrealistic notions about life.
Knowing all this, I persist in writing these tidbits of advice. Why? Well, I love you. Plus, I am an old man and this is what makes me happy; telling young people how to live their lives. Indulge me!
Okay these are some of the pearls of wisdom I pass to you. You better listen!

In Relationships

1. Being human, you are concerned about and think about yourself, your feelings, your needs. Every thinking moment you are in conversation with yourself. Wise people realize other people are just like you. They are concerned about their feelings and their needs. In each persons mind, the world revolves around them. You are no exception. This is not a criticism, it is realistic. We all see people and events in relationship to how they affect us. Other people are objects in your world and impact you for a period of time. But, and this is important, other people have their own world and you are only part of their world. To them, everything revolves around them, not you!! When you recognize this, you will be able to understand people. The Native American have a saying, "Do not judge a man unless you have walked a mile in his moccasins".

2. To have a happy marriage, fall in friendship before you fall in lust. Sex is a powerful attraction. It is so powerful, it can crowd out concern for others. When you are in lust, you are incapable of considering anything other than satisfying that lust. Lust is a weak basis for a lifetime relationship. By the way, this is true for both men and women. When you fall in friendship, you are concerned for the other person's feelings and needs not your own. This concern has the power to hold the relationship together in the face of life's problems. The excitement and intense pleasure of sex fades over time. For some people that is a short time. If sex is all that holds your marriage or relationship together, then be prepared to see it fail. Friendship is the superglue of a relationship.

3. Guard against using people shortcuts. Who is a person, the "under the skin" person? Beneath the outward appearance, all of us are the same. We all have hopes and fears and inadequacies and talents and feelings and needs. Unfortunately, we all use shortcuts to define people. We see the essence of a person as a male or a female, as a black, brown or white, as poor or rich, as educated or uneducated, as Jew, Muslin or Christian, as heterosexual or homosexual, as tall or short, fat or skinny, as pretty, handsome or ordinary and on and on with almost never ending comparisons.

But these shortcuts avoid knowing the real person. In my culture growing up, I was taught to use three shortcuts; race, sexual orientation and social position. But I worked with a black man when I was a teenager and found him to be more intelligent than I, a harder worker than I and a better friend than I was to him. I have a good friend who is gay. He is a professional, he is smart, he is kind and considerate and a better friend  to me than I to him. I have walked and eaten with those on welfare and those who are quite wealthy. Cloth them the same way and you could not tell the difference.
To repeat another old bromide, "Do not judge a book by it's cover." Using relationship shortcuts, deprives you of the benefits of great friendships. You miss some great people!

4. Friendships don't just happen, they are developed. People are no designed to be solitary, living a life solely to themselves. True as this is, many people have difficulty of making close friends. Most of us have acquaintances, we know their names, maybe even know something about them. We see them as we live life, but we do not make a conscience effort to be in their presence.

For some reason, I am having trouble writing this bit of advice. I do no have a couple of guys I play golf with regularly, no set of guys with whom I hang out. I think I am the problem. I tend to be a solitary person, read a book, play a computer game, work on my hobby, etc. Not that this is all bad, but I do envy my wife's friend's husband who plays golf with a group of guys regularly or a family friend who takes vacations with another family or folks who get together regularly for lunch or dinner.
So what is the solution? What advice should I give myself? First you must make an effort. The building of a friendship depends on you to act; to make an effort. If I want to play golf regularly with someone, I must call someone and invite them to play. If I want to have a regular lunch with friends, I must call to ask someone to lunch. If I want friends who enjoy writing, I need to go to meeting of the local writers group. If I want someone to play cards with, I must invite someone to come to my home to play cards. I must make the effort to initiate the contact. Friendships take effort.

Second, you must find someone who wants to be the kind of friend you desire. And this can be the hard part. Who may have to have lunch with a lot of people before you find a person with whom you connect. I had a guy in my bible study group who asked me to lunch one day. I responded the next week with a lunch invitation. We had several lunches, but never really developed a close friendship. We remain close acquaintances but not close friends. He made the effort and I made an effort, it just never clicked. We didn't find enough in common to glue the friendship. But we worked at it.

Thirdly, quantity of friends does not replace quality. Do not mistake the number of friends for having a couple of really strong friends. I developed a strong friends in college. We dated girls who were friends, we double dated often. I was his best man when he married. He ran for president of our college student body and I was his campaign manger. We pursued the same college degree. When he came to town in his career, he called me for lunch. I spent a weekend with he and his wife. He is on Facebook, we discuss politics and religion and life. He is a strong friend. He is just does not live where I live so we are not able to do stuff together. But, with apologizes to him, I need local friends. I would like to develop local friends with as strong ties as I have with him.

So I can not offer much advice beyond this. Friendships are important as you live life. Developing those lifetime friends takes work. You need to be intentional and you must make an effort to develop those friendships.

To be continued when other ideas come to mind.      


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