“As to diseases,
Make a habit of two things—
To help, or at least do no harm.”
Hippocrates, The Epidemics
I’m often struck by the way so many of us treat our loved ones compared to how we treat strangers on the street or acquaintances. It seems that often it’s our loved ones who get the worst of us and strangers who get the best. It’s as though we have been taught this crazy notion that the closer people are to us the more freedom we have to “let our hair down.” This often translates into being hurtful, uncontained, and thoughtless.
That is absolutely backwards. Intimacy doesn’t entitle us to be abusive, cold, brutally “honest”, or abrasive; in fact, intimacy entitles us to NOTHING. Intimacy is a gift we share with those closest to us. It is not a green ticket to be unconscious, thoughtless, and just “ourselves”. Sometimes–just being ourselves–is not the best way to be. Sometimes–the pause button we place on our actions in public is even more necessary to have in private.
When you’re allowed into someone’s inner circle it’s a privilege…and it should be treated as such. Start treating your loved ones like you would want them to treat you. Remember that your loved ones deserve to be treated better than anyone else in your life…and certainly better than strangers, acquaintances or co-workers. If you struggle, here are a few guidelines to help keep you on track…take them to heart, write them on a sticky note, and WORK THEM:
• First and foremost…DO NO HARM: Commi to do no harm to those you love. This means no: affairs, rage, physical/verbal abuse, disrespect/contempt, mean spirited comments/behaviors or otherwise hurtful/thoughtless actions.
• Act as though the entire world is watching. Many people are able to be very kind, calm, centered, and loving when in public yet bring none of that home. If you can control yourself in public, you can control yourself anywhere. It’s a decision. It’s a life choice. If you struggle with this, put a picture of the world all around your home as a reminder that the world is watching.
• At the end of the day ask yourself if you brought your family joy or sorrow. If you say both…it was not a joyful day.
• Every night, before you close your eyes, scan the day’s events and ask yourself if you are proud of whom you were that day. Would your partner, parent, children, etc., be proud if they watched your day on video? If not, work on it.
If you treat those at work, on the street, or at the stores better than you treat your loved ones, it’s time to wake up and get your priorities straight. All people deserve to be treated with respect, strangers and acquaintances included; loved ones however deserve to be treated with love. Don’t mix it up.
Don’t mistake love for comfort. It’s comfortable to yell when you’re mad, do nothing when you’re tired, and say whatever you want, whenever you want. Love leads to intimacy; comfort often leads to divorce. What’s your choice?
CHALLENGE: If you find yourself treating strangers better than your loved ones, commit to the relationship Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm. Start with this and use one of the tips above as a way to keep you on track. Make the decision today to bring joy to your family and create radical, loving change to those you love.