My New Years’ Resolution for 2017 is to be more intentional about my relationships, to channel my love and energy into the people that genuinely care about me, to feed the relationships that matter to me. Because my energy and resources are limited, this means that I have also decided to stop feeding those relationships that act as weeds to my well-being. This second part is not as easy as it sounds. It’s much easier to let a broken relationship continue to eat away at your mind and body, than it is to confront it for what it is. So today, I’d like to offer a few guidelines for identifying the weeds in your life and then breaking the ties that need to be broken so as to have more energy for those that are worthy of your attention:
- Be vulnerable. At first, when a conflict arises, seek not validation, but truth and reconciliation. In today’s world of “likes” and “retweets,” we have been trained to constantly seek approval and validation for our thoughts and actions. If we feel guilty about eating a bowl of ice cream out of emotion… we post it to our Facebook page for a quick “you deserved it!” If we are testing out a new opinion, we summarize it into 140 characters and see how often it is re-tweeted. While these social media outlets have done wonders for spreading awareness and information, let us consider the detrimental effect they have had on the practice of self-reflection and re-direction. Vulnerability is a lost art. In its place lies a neediness for validation, a desire to control, to be right, and a vast and teeming ocean within which to find such affirmations. In its place lies a culture of argumentation.
- Respect others. In the midst of conflict, give love undeservedly. Respect all people, even those that act out of bitterness. Be above reproach. Love. Love. Love. Offer an embrace, despite what they’ve done. Tolerate other points of view. Listen.
- Respect yourself. When step 2 does not produce the desired effect, fail not to respect yourself. When you offer an embrace out of genuine love, and when that embrace is rejected, then YOU ARE FREE. You are free to sever the ties that have become dangerously worn. You are free to re-direct the narrative of your life, to re-create your family and your community with those that have offered you love and support.
- Move on. Love offers an embrace. And yet love cannot manifest itself in the presence of stubborn intolerance. It is time to remove the weeds and move on.
If you are someone that is feeling marginalized or bullied in any way, I challenge you, in 2017, to take care of yourself, to remove the toxic people from your life, but not without making a genuine effort to nurture the relationships that you want to keep. You must fill your heart with love. Fill your life with those people who have been authentic to you, and who are willing to put the work into true reconciliation when conflicts arise. These are not perfect people. These are not people that agree with you about everything. These are the people that love you, the kind of people you can invite over when you have dirty dishes in the sink, and the kind of people that like you when you aren’t wearing makeup and your hair is all wonky.
Keep the door to your heart always open, but fill your heart with a party of such genuine and loyal people that if someone wants back in, they’ll have to spend some time at the door waiting in self-reflection, and when a spot does free up, they’ll have to crawl over things, climb between people, and mutter “excuse me” several times to get back into your life.
I wish you all a safe and Happy New Year. I hope your holiday celebrations are filled with peace and joy. And for those that need to de-clutter their relationships, I wish you the courage to do so in 2017.