It is hard in our high tech, low touch world to forge new friendships or even to take the time to deepen the ones we have. It was far easier to connect on the school yard as we were tossed together, but is much more difficult now as we become more opinionated, demanding and tied in to to our electronic network where it can be hard to keep from being superficial, even as we 'connect' more frequently. This month, Joan reminds us of the magnitude of events that can occur when friendship is undermined by mistrust and misunderstanding. Generosity of Spirit, one of our 7 Insights from The Miracle Chase, sounds easy, but takes effort and intention. It requires empathic listening and compassion, rather than dismissing true feelings or concerns with platitudes or simplistic remedies.
C.S. Lewis tells us that like art and philosophy, friendship has no survival value, but, "rather, it is one of those things that gives value to survival." Over the years, we have certainly found this to be true in our own lives and we hope that you find it in your life as well.
Joan, Katie and Meb
I admit it: I am addicted to all things Roman. Some might think it is because of my deep Italian roots, or perhaps it is tied to the relative safety of reading, instead of living, some of the world's best real life adventure stories, or maybe it's my fascination with the level of political intrigue and espionage that would make even House of Cards addicts blanche. Regardless of the reason, I become completely engrossed in books detailing the history of the Roman Empire even though it fell more than a millennia ago. I am always struck by the reality of how fear and jealousy coalesced on that fateful day, the 15th of March 44 BC, to wreak havoc on the future of Rome. The take away for me is not only the changing of the guard that transpired, but Caesar's fateful words, "Et tu, Brute?" challenge me to think about relationships in a new way. Brutus was a friend, a political rival perhaps, but none-the-less someone Caesar trusted (in as much as Caesar trusted anyone). Brutus knew Caesar well: his foibles, eccentricities and ambitions, but also his passion and commitment to expanding the glory and grandeur of Rome. How horrifying it must have been for Caesar to see his friend among his murderers.
For Caesar and Brutus there was no going back. For most of us though, the dissolution of a friendship is not quite so absolute or final. Perhaps it was a thoughtless comment or a series of slights or even a misunderstanding (hard to rectify since each party knows that they understood exactly...) that causes a relationship to unravel. There is certainly no benefit to continuing an abusive relationship or trying to befriend a narcissistic (seemingly epidemic at the moment) or selfish person. Life is too short. But not all dissolved relationships are quite so black and white, some just die of neglect or take someone-for-grantedness.
In writing The Miracle Chase, we had opportunities where it seemed easier to take our marbles and go home. Sometimes our feelings were hurt when one of us lacked the understanding or ability to communicate with each other in a sensitive way. As we think about what made our venture successful, we recognize that the notion of Generosity of Spirit was the secret sauce that kept us on track. In writing about miracles, we knew the subject was bigger than we were, so we had to be bigger too. Instead of giving up or taking our wounded ego home, we checked it at the door. We stayed and spoke honestly to each other about how we were feeling and why we reacted a certain way to work though the hurt to find a new understanding. As a result we were able to forge a deeper relationship with one another. Our friendship has gone on to sustain us, not only in our ten years of writing, but now, in the three plus years of speaking and writing since the book was published. It has not always been easy to continue to grow in our relationship with each other; life is busy with demands of work, family and the myriad of activities of our daily lives. And yet, I know making this effort has resulted in the survival value C. S. Lewis envisioned.
It seems ironic that those we love and care about are the only ones who can truly wound us and it is here that exercising Generosity of Spirit sometimes seems hardest. Whether it is our patience that wears thin or we become trapped in seeking a warped view of loyalty or perfection, our human flaws can get magnified instead of smoothed over. While it is too late for Caesar and Brutus, perhaps we can learn from their drama. As we look to the rebirth of spring, I hope to be brave enough to take the chance to rekindle a lost relationship, to go deeper in a current one, or to simply "reach out and touch someone" (harkening back to a gentler time than "Can you hear me now?") By being more attentive to my words and actions, by checking my ego at the door and by being full of a generosity of spirit that is honest and non-judgmental, I'm hoping I just might resurrect a dead relationship or find a new one. I bet you could too. (Joan)
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