It’s the holiday season and in most first world countries the jostling and bustle of the shopping malls and employee holiday parties have us thinking about buying gifts for others… and perhaps a little bit (if we’re honest with ourselves) about receiving them as well.
You might be looking for that one, perfect gift that perfectly summarizes how you feel about a certain person…and by purchasing and giving it, you could express to totality of your love and affection for that person.”
But that’s nothing more than a pipe dream. The perfect gift isn’t something you can purchase with your debit card. It’s not anything you can buy for someone else, nor is it something that another person can purchase for you.
Love & Acceptance are the Perfect Gifts
There isn’t anything you can purchase for another person that will mean as much as your love and acceptance. Physical gifts are only a reminder of whatever level of esteem you hold for a person. It’s why those on our shit list get to enjoy the fruits of re-gifting. 🙄
But the most enduring gift of all is your love and acceptance.”
Whether the other person is black, white, brown, yellow, or red; Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Mormon, or Shinto; Tall, short, round, or thin; ambulatory, in a wheelchair, or bed-bound; Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Labour; Homeowner or homeless; giving them your love and acceptance is the greatest gift of all.
Every person longs for these two gifts. They may not verbalize it, but every person you meet in your lifetime is yearning for love and acceptance. I have no idea if most, few, or all ever experience either. The data isn’t collected anywhere.
My own experience is that it’s a rare thing to feel loved and accepted.”
That’s Because We Aren’t Wired to Love
We arrive in this world utterly dependent on others to care for us. If we’re fortunate enough to have a parent, or two, who loves and accepts us unconditionally, then we have a blueprint for how to pay it forward. Even if you didn’t have a positive and nurturing role model, you, perhaps more intensely than others, feel the need for both love and acceptance. You and I know beyond any doubt that it’s what we and the rest of the world’s inhabitant’s need most of all.
You’d think that, armed with this innate knowledge, we would freely give both to all that we meet. But we aren’t wired for this. We become conditioned by society and the influences of our affiliations to do the opposite. We caucus with those like us and rarely with those that aren’t. We regard others as different and separate from our own tribe.
How to Rewire Yourself to Give Love and Acceptance
However, not all is lost:
If we are cognizant of this, we can break free of the constraints imposed on us by tradition, ritual, and culture and simply be loving and accepting of others regardless of their political, national, ethnic, racial, or religious affiliations.”
Here are four steps for rewiring your ability to give love and acceptance every day to those in need:
Step 1: Recognize your biases. We all have them; we’ve collected a lot of them over the years. Our biases are like lenses through which we perceive the world. By admitting this to ourselves and removing the lenses of bias we open our hearts and minds to accepting what differs from our own perceptions. For years I viewed the world through a religious lens and it hindered my ability to accept others with different faiths. When I recognized this bias, I was able to remove it and move on. Bias doesn’t serve anyone; it hinders ability to love unconditionally.
Step 2: Look for commonality. We have more in common with others that we think. Because we tend to look through the lenses of bias, we are focused on the differences between ourselves and others. But when we remove these lenses, we are free to see what links us to others instead of what separates us. We begin to see that they are essentially seeking the same things we seek: they want the best for their children; a safe place to live; and to make meaningful contributions to the world.
We are all the same when the lenses of bias are removed.”
Step 3: Reject separatist, fear-based thinking. You will hear it everywhere in both public and private media, especially in recent days when mass shootings and other acts of terrorism rise to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness. The world with tell you to separate yourself from those who are different. The world will tell you to actively blame those who differ for these acts regardless of there personal involvement.
The world is a very fucked up place right now and so are most of its narrow-minded pundits who attempt to sway you with nationalist and fear-based tactics. Reject all media messages that are fear-based and instead listen to those that are based on love and acceptance.”
Step 3: Do one nice thing today for someone in need. It doesn’t take very long in the course of our daily lives to come across someone in need.
- My sister Kathy has a habit of donating used clothing and other items to her local thrift store. She then walks into the store and seeks out someone who could use the discount coupons she receives for these donations and gives them away. It costs her nothing and it benefits others greatly.
- My youngest son, Jay recently saw a friend playing guitar on the sidewalk in downtown Santa Cruz without much success in the way of money in his open guitar case. Jay asked with he could play a song or two. His friend was agreeable. While Jay was playing and singing a guy walked up and emptied his wallet in to the open guitar case and walked away. Jay then walked on leaving the cash for his friend.
Open hearts coupled with a willingness to act changes lives.
Be the Change You Wish to See in the World
You and I can also find ways to help people in need each and every day. We don’t have to go far to see these people:
- The homeless person at the intersection with a cardboard sign
- The woman with an infant in her arms trying to unload her shopping cart in the store
- The elderly man who, bent from years of toil, can’t reach the item on the higher shelf
- The small child, crying and afraid because they’re separated from their parent
It’s easy to make judgements about the people listed above. “Surely they will will just buy alcohol with our cash.” “Hey, no one was there to help me with my screaming baby.” You know, that little voice that whispers fear-based messages when you’re confronted with an opportunity to help? Yeah, it will never stop whispering. But you have a choice: You can allow it to control you if you wish or you can do what you know is based in love and acceptance.
Unless we act, nothing will change. I would challenge you to be the change you want to see in the world. Just for today, give freely of your love and acceptance to those who need it most. In turn, you’ll receive the greatest re-gift of all: genuine gratitude from a fellow human whose life you’ve impacted and forever changed.