I was in Target the other day and saw two boys, probably around 13 years old, embracing each other. They weren’t hugging, really. More like, holding each awkwardly. I could sense that they were uncomfortable, but didn’t understand why until I passed them, making my way through a sale rack of holiday supplies. It was then that I saw their dad, who was calmly trying to discipline the boys after what I gathered was a little brotherly fight. His form of discipline? Forcing the boys to hug it out. Of course, they seemed repulsed and embarrassed by this idea, not wanting people to see their evident affection. It wasn’t until I was almost out of earshot that their father said something I couldn’t get out of my head.
“You didn’t seem to care when people saw you fighting.”
It was as if, in one sentence, he was able to capture much of what I’ve felt about social relationships throughout my entire life. I’ve noticed how difficult it can be for some people to express love to others — not because they don’t have any love to give, but because they find it socially unacceptable or embarrassing to share their positive feelings with another human being. The issue, to me, is a fear of vulnerability. Telling people that we appreciate them opens us up to the fact that they may not appreciate us back — or worse, they’ll think that our appreciation is strange and unnecessary.
I’m not saying all people are like this, but I’ve met enough to wonder why some think that love and appreciation are things to be ashamed of, rather than empowered by. Strong relationships are one of the biggest factors of a successful and happy life, yet it’s less embarrassing for strangers to watch us argue than to watch us embrace.
Are there any people in your life that deserve more of your gratitude?
Do you put up walls in order to decrease how much affection and vulnerability you have to give to others?
Would you rather people see you fighting with someone than expressing how much you deeply appreciate their existence?
If so, why?
Today, I challenge you to breathe new life into your relationships with others. Tell your family that you love them and don’t allow yourself to feel awkward about it. Send a note to a co-worker, describing how indispensable he or she is to your company, and to your life. Give sincere thank you’s to the workers who ring up your groceries. If they always give you a big smile with your receipt, let them know that is positively impacts your day. We cannot create perfect relationships, but if we strive to make acts of love more commonplace than acts of eye-rolling, we can get damn close.