What Have We Seen This Month?
As we enter a new era in the American political landscape, the promise of change is in the air, as Derrick Carpenter so eloquently says. Like all promises, though, this one can lead to false expectations if we fail to recognize that lasting change has to come from within each of us, individually. It is a choice.
Dave Shearon’s simple framework “to happier” helps create a positive intention: “Hi, my name is Louis, I want to be happier, and I’m willing to work on it.” John Yeager’s piece takes this intention to will and says that while wishing is important, developing new habits in the direction of that wish is the key to a successful change process. Interestingly, it’s also at the very heart of hope theory.
In a very hopeful piece, Aren Cohen beautifully illustrates the importance of getting clear on what it is you want and then using all senses to visualize how getting that “wish” would look, feel, smell, and even taste: “How sweet it is!,” she says.
Margaret Greenberg and Senia Maymin suggest that it becomes necessary to pay attention to the questions we ask. Our inclination to focus on deficit or weakness means we must intentionally look for and appreciate what is already good in ourselves and each other. Finally, Marie-Josée Salvas urges us to activate our right brains to design pathways to achieving change. She argues that leadership in this age requires a connection to our emotional selves and thus, to each other.
Making Change In Relationship to Others
Let’s consider that leadership is shared, that leadership requires we each “be the change” we wish to see in the world. But when we change ourselves, it is important that we invite those in our spheres of influence in, unlike the anonymous quip, “We changed and forgot to tell each other.” How do you invite someone to observe your change and be part of that change? This happens daily when you have energetic and joyful dialogue with others about your visions, hopes, needs, and desires. I call this “relational responsibility.”
Perhaps I take relational responsibility so seriously because I have a twin. When I think about the dynamics of our inception, I get goose bumps: two sperm winning the race at the same time. A true win-win in a Wrightian sense of nonzero sum.
My twin sister Christine also happens to be my best friend. When I see her becoming a better person, I want to become a better person. This year, she launched her own business, and is working tirelessly each day to ensure its success. In a sense, her success is my success. Her love for her business is my love. It is shared energy.
Making Change When Forgiveness Is Hard
Surely, this energy is not always positive, as Bridget Grenville-Cleave writes. Like all relationships, ours has trying times. When those moments arise, though, I try to remember my responsibility to flourish. Certainly, this is not easy to do when I am living in my lower self – angry, fearful, and resentful, states of being I’d rather avoid.
Psychologist Michael McCullough reminds us that forgiveness is pro-social motivational change on the “victim’s” part. When we feel someone has wronged us, it is hard to be the bigger person. Deciding to forgive enables us to move away from avoidance and revenge, towards more positive possibilities for that relationship. Again, this is an individual choice we all have.
Author Marianne Williamson says, “Forgiveness is the choice to see people as they are now. When we are angry at people, we are angry because of something they said or did before this moment. But what people said or did is not who they are. Relationships are reborn as we let go perceptions of our brother’s past. ‘By bringing the past into the present, we create a future just like the past.’ By letting the past go, we make room for miracles.”
The Bee in Thee
Let’s work together with those on our teams (at home, at work, in school) to set the intentions, activate our right brains to ask the questions and create and stay accountable to the pathways that will lead us in the direction of our most positive futures.
Together, we must be intentional about positive change—to move and grow in upward spirals to ever-evolved states. While Darwin had a good theory, Hamilton made it even better: We have evolved socially. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt says we are like bees, “ultrasocial hive creatures.” Simply put, we need each other.
Yes, positive change starts with us. And in this relational space, positive change starts with love.
So, as we start a new month on Positive Psychology News Daily talking about love, I ask you to consider the paradox which surrounds it: to be loved, we must give love. Sometimes, this requires we forgive, move on, and intentionally create better for the circumstances surrounding our relationships. This is our responsibility.
Changes from the Oregon Government site.
Bee Love by Beth Berst-Gregory posted in her blog.
To Be your Best Self (Author Unknown)
The good you find in others, is in you too.
The faults you find in others, are your faults as well.
After all, to recognize something you must know it.
The possibilities you see in others, are possible for you as well.
The beauty you see around you, is your beauty.
The world around you is a reflection,
a mirror showing you the person you are.
To change your world, you must change yourself.
To blame and complain will only make matters worse.
Whatever you care about, is your responsibility.
What you see in others, shows you yourself.
See the best in others, and you will be your best.
Give to others, and you give to yourself.
Appreciate beauty, and you will be beautiful.
Admire creativity, and you will be creative.
Love, and you will be loved.
Seek to understand, and you will be understood.
Listen, and your voice will be heard.
Teach, and you will learn.
Show your best face to the mirror, and
you’ll be happy with the face looking back at you.
Louis, this article was such a nice transition from the Jan optional theme of Change to the Feb optional theme of Love! Bees we are, aren’t we? Thank you so much,
p.s. Do you think it’s more useful to think of two people enjoying each others’ company as responsibility or as fun? Or do you think both aspects matter?
Thanks for these thoughts and focus…
I think we are easier to love when we give love, but I am surrounded by proof that we need not give love to be loved.
We are loved because we are; the best love is unconditional === we are loved because we are, not because we did something to earn it. God’s love is like that; those who have or had great parents or are parents also know of such unconditional love…..
Indeed, I think it important that everyone know that they are loved even if they do not or cannot love.
The world is filled with broken people who today are incapable of giving love in their broken state…..My message for them is that they are loved, notwithstanding..
Like love, forgiveness is a freely given gift….The “forgiven” does not earn it or deserve it; it is a gift of grace…
Ironically, while forgiveness is seen as a gift to the forgiven, it is more often a gift to those who forgive, for they are thereby freed of the anger and resentment that they carried — sometimes for a lifetime
Forgiveness is also a great circle of life — if God forgives you (most religions have such a concept) and if we forgive you, who are you not to forgive yourself and others…
I know personally the freedom of forgiveness:
My mother abandoned me upon my birth; my father died when I was 9; I became a “Ward of the Court”;
Contemplate for just a moment: Who are you if not even your mother loves you?
I walked the earth unloved by parents, believing I was unlovable…
and, I knew it was my Mother’s fault
in my 40s, I decided that the most important thing I could do for another human being was to forgiver my mother and, presumably, set her free from the guilt she must feel
I found her and forgave her…
It’s a long story, but she did not accept my forgiveness or believe there was occasion for forgiveness
Thereby did I learn that she was incapable of love…..
So, forgiveness is a gift that sets the forgiver free; unearned, freely given…
Thanks for your laurels [which, by the way, is the English translation of my Italian surname :)].
To your post-script, I’d say that both matter. Enjoying the company of another person is not necessarily our responsibility; that is our right, our prerogative, our need as social beings.
When I refer to responsibility, I am suggesting that within the context of those relationships, we ought to build more than just pleasure–i.e. engagement & meaning–using the tools which the other pillars of positive psychology support.
Thank you for your honest response. I agree that we are loved because *we are* and that the best type of love is unconditional. But as you experienced in your life, this is not always the case.
Like most constructs in Positive Psychology, forgiveness done right is bidirectional. That is, it positively affects both the giver and receiver. However, this is not always the case either as only YOU know where YOU are when YOU CHOOSE to forgive. We cannot control or change other people. Only yourself.
In the case of your mother 40 years later, perhaps she felt put on the defensive or that your forgiveness came out left field…or that she did nothing for which she needed to be forgiven? Who knows?!? My point is–if you got something out of the process of forgiving then it worked. The process must eliminate “blame” and “fault.” And like anything in life, forgiveness can’t come with unbridled expectation . . . just with love!
My heart goes out to you,
Louis, I like that. Merci. S.
p.s. Very cool definition of your name!
Beautiful picture of the bees!
Great Article! And I love that poem, such a good reminder! Thanks.
Lovely article. So true. Great to hear that you are working with young people, schools, and leaders. Thank you.
Nikki and Melissa,
Thank you for the positive comments. Very glad that the article spoke to you.
Pay it forward, please…
Regarding forgiveness…Chris Peterson reminds us in the CSV that it is more blessed to thank than to forgive. Only a person asking for forgiveness wants to hear, “I forgive you.” To someone who has not asked for that sort of reconciliation laced with guilt, it can be a devastating reminder of a past injury to someone, perhaps at a time when you were already doing the best you could. Forgiveness is to benefit the forgiver…
I enjoyed your article and I especially connected with your closing: “intentionally create better for the circumstances surrounding our relationships.” It seems that it can be easier to create and innovate in work or other arenas of our lives, while in relationships we get stuck with old scripts where we somehow expect our partners to “read our minds” or love us the way we “should be loved.” You inspire and remind us that when we act intentionally to create and engage in meaningful engaging shared experiences and expressions of love, we evolve, both individually and together in a relationship of love. Thank you for your article.
Thanks for the reminder that forgiveness is namely to benefit the forgiver. I do think though that like gratitude and other positive psychology constructs, forgiveness *could* have bidirectional effects. This will depend on many variables, of course, and is not possible in every instance.
Consider that forgiveness need not always involve reminder of past injury. Just a decision to forge ahead with a new frame/outlook for the relationship in question.
Regarding “doing the best you could” — I would argue quite strongly, actually, that what we consider our best might just be our habit, or comfort zone, or our ego. Revaluations and fresh looks into our relationships could involve humility and forgiveness, if we so choose.
Thanks for joining the discussion,
It’s a pleasure to read your comments. Good point about innovating at work more so than home. Interestingly, Csikszentmihalyi & LeFevre (1989) show that we find more flow at work than at home too.
Being more intentional about our ways of relational being in all domains of our life is important. Evolution is imminent and shaped by our own designs. Time to tap into our creative selves.
Think back to what Dorothy learns in _The Wizard of Oz_. Perhaps our own “yellow brick roads” exist at home, behind our own picket fences, and if we just looked, listened, and dreamed together, we might find power in our own, collective wizardry. As she says, “there’s no place like home.”
As I wrote above, I have obserbed that the greatest value of forgiveness is often to the forgiver. Nevertheless, the forgiven are often overwhelmed with positive emotion from forgiveness. They are often relieved from guilt, remorse, shame, fear of retribution and other negative emotions. That is true not only of penitents in may religions (think Catholic confession) but also day to day relationships — the child told he is forgiven; the husband told “don’t worry about it”, etc… So, forgiveness can often be bidirectional.
The forgiven are overwhelmed with positive emotion – if they feel like they need to be forgiven. Otherwise, it’s negative emotion as you point out with the story of your mother.
Sometimes, the act of forgiving is something McCullough says is for the forgiver only. For example, you could write a letter to your mom explaining that you forgiver her, why you forgiver her and for what, without ever actually sending it to her.
In that sense, forgiveness is a state of being one allows oneself to enter . . . even to forgive oneself . . . part of the process of recovery & flourishing.
Thanks for your insight, weith wehich I agree. I carried a forgiveness letter to my mother (who I did not know was alive) in my briefcase for five years..
As for self forgiveness, I was led to one of the great homilists of the generation, R. Maurice Boyd, then at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in NYC. he preached on self forgiveness in perhaps the most moving “speech” I ever heard. It began with the following, in a Sctch irish brogue:
“If God forgives you, and if we forgive you, who are you not to be forgiving yourself???”
Yes! Why is it so hard to forgive ourselves sometimes? James Pawelski, Director of Education and Senior Scholar at UPenn’s Positive Psych Center talks about “the yielded life.” That is, the importance of accepting “what is” (or “what was”) as so crucial to our well-being.
I just noticed Wayne’s comment to Kirsten Cronlund’s article on mindfulness which includes The Serenity Prayer. Seemed apropos to include it here as we talk about forgiveness:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Louis, Thanks for this reminder about the power of intentionality and positivity in relationships. If we do nothing else, other than focus on increasing those two things, all relationships and the world would be better as a result. Forgiveness is the tool for getting through the inevitable bumps. What a Valentine’s Day gift to your significant other! Great article!
I agree. If nothing else, focusing on intentionality and positivity as we co-create our relationships will help the world become a better place. Thanks for summing it up like that. It definitely speaks to your work in positive parenting, which is a gift in and of itself.