“At the time of the Silver Jubilee, I was a grumpy anti-monarchist. I didn’t celebrate and was appalled by the celebrations. In my idiocy, I missed out! I feel completely differently now compared with that time.” ~Helen Mirren
A baby rolls over and there is rejoicing.
Crawling gives way to the first step, it’s a celebration.
A goal is scored, jubilation.
It’s so easy to celebrate those early victories, isn’t it? They fall down, and we urge them to get back up. As children get older, as we become adults, there are more noticeable defeats. We succeed, we fail, we succeed. Between our victories, we suffer defeat. We set goals, and before we reach the next one we’ve often suffered a few defeats. I’ve had successes and failures. Accepting people we love regardless of their wins and losses is important. Whether they are in victory or defeat shouldn’t matter if it’s a relationship we care about, and Mirren’s own admission of missing out on a wonderful event makes the point pretty well. Maybe it’s a good time to reword the Golden Rule: Celebrate for others as you wish they would celebrate for you, and be prepared to be cast aside when you are willing to cast others aside.
Talking with a friend recently about families, it became clear that not all families are the people we call mom and dad, son or daughter, brother or sister. Sometimes, it is necessary to find friends who seem to fill the gaps that missing family members leave open. Why the gaps? Maybe you’ve felt that your failures have outweighed your successes in the eyes of your family, and maybe you’re right. Maybe you are the parent who has not shown up so many times that they’ve quit asking you to be present, or the kid who has refused to participate more times than your family can handle. It’s a hard place to be, this place called life. Whether we mean to or not, we decide that too many failures on the part of a person gives us the right to include or exclude when we deem they are worthy. It is our choice, but it might be another’s choice about us one day, as well.
In what is often deemed a disposable society, our inability to celebrate the victories and rally around the failures of folks is disposing of a lot of wonderful relationships and leaving a lot of hurting people in the path. It’s not just in families, mind you, but in relationships everywhere. We post things on social media, and the unfriending begins when someone decides that we are too conservative or too liberal, too earthy or too commercialized, too religious or not religious enough. In real life, relationships are falling apart, too, as we find it easier to be with easy people than to invest one more minute in a relationship with a difficult person who doesn’t adhere to our rules.
It is the people least like me who challenge me to be a better version of myself. If we are both willing to abide by the one rule that our differences are ok, then we are free to help each other grow into more balanced people. My children have definitely celebrated great victories and endured uncomfortable defeats. I’ve expected they might be much like their parents have been with our ups and downs that continue to make life both exciting and frustrating, just as my parents must have accepted in me.
Think about what you expect from other people. If there is no way they can meet your expectations, the choices are for you to lower your expectations or for them to improve on meeting those. I remember failing one time in particular, and the cost has been more than ten years of negative feelings toward a person, avoiding situations where we might both be present. I failed their expectations and was berated. Some of us handle our failure better than others, but when my failure presents such a great problem for you, it means the loss of relationship. That’s not as painful with an acquaintance, as in this instance, as it is when it is a close friend or a family member. With people we love, it can be excruciating when we feel punished for our defeats. The loss of relationship is so much harder to endure.
Maybe it’s not your family members you struggle to accept, but your employees or your co-workers. They will do things differently than you, sometimes achieving more and sometimes causing you headaches. If you can allow for their failures and rejoice with them when they get it right, both of your lives will be richer. Isn’t that what you and I want–to live richer lives?
We can be grumpy anti-many things and miss celebrations because of idiocy we’ll come to regret, or we can re-evaluate what, and who, means a lot to us. I’m checking my expectations today so I don’t regret missing out on people who matter, and I hope you’ll do the same. The truth is that there will be some relationships in which we cannot participate, and that is our choice to take care of ourselves, but it should be a choice we’ve made with much consideration for the cost we might pay down the road.