Live In Your Strength

I get my ideas for my blog from many sources, but this one happens to come from my tea bag. “Live in your strength,” proclaimed the tag in flowy purple ink. Actually, it’s a useful reminder. In my most recent post, I focused on ways in which we can manage, enhance, or refine our personal strengths and weaknesses as part of a lifelong effort to enhance our interactions with others. Today, I wish to shift perspectives somewhat and explore the primary motivations we summon when taking action.

The root causes for actions we take can be widely diverging, despite the fact that the deed itself remains the same. For instance, there are many reasons why I might pick up the phone: I may call someone because I genuinely want to connect with them, I may do so out of guilt and simply want to get it over with, or because I want to achieve a certain outcome and the fastest way to get there is by talking to this person this individual. Three very different incentives, but the telephone still rings. It’s not that we can’t have a variety of reasons for doing what we do; what makes the difference is whether or not our agendas are hidden.

Looking at this from a slightly different angle, let’s take a situation where an individual returns a lost item: the finder who returns it gladly with no expectation of anything versus the finder who feels resentful or cheated when all he receives is a “thank you” by the proper owner. The gesture of returning the item is the same, but the takeaway energy differs radically.

Whenever we engage in any activity or exchange, we bring to it the energy of our intention and it is this intention which can makes such a difference. It’s almost irrelevant whether the other person is aware of our agenda, what counts is what we know in our hearts and mean to achieve. It’s this inner knowing that I write about today. While there are innumerable instances in life where we are required to do things we’d just as soon not do and must grin and bear it, there is an enormous difference in the quality of overall energetic exchange if we can find some tiny kernel of positive that we can appreciate. Doing so doesn’t guarantee that every moment will feel worthwhile, but finding a modicum of satisfaction helps a lot—besides, much of life isn’t pleasurable. Whoever told you life was fun?

Taking the time and effort to be genuine and positive in what we do is a perfect example of living in your strength. For instance, I don’t always feel like preparing dinner. Although there are a wide variety of alternatives I could choose, I know that preparing fresh and nutritious food is a way I can contribute to the household (while sidestepping one of my father’s horrible spaghetti numbers). When I start grumbling about this chore, I remind myself that sharing this time together is far more important than what food is on the table. Slamming pots around or silently resenting having to sit there while I hear the same story repeated for the 16th time defeats the purpose of our breaking bread together. No matter how good an actress I am, the energy of my attitude gets communicated. Remember the film Like Water for Chocolate?

The same is true for you.

If I can pull myself back from my impatience and identify some aspect of the meal for which I am truly grateful, the end result will be radically different because the energy I’m transmitting changes. The same goes for my dad: if he arrives at the table disappointed by the menu or conversation, I’ll be able to sense that. Does what I’m suggesting make sense?

This energetic level from which we operate is where so much of our integrity comes from. The intentions we bring into any exchange make a huge difference in the long run, even if they don’t seem to impact the short term result. We can see this over and over in marriages where each pretends to like what the other is doing when it really drives them crazy. It’s not that we have to engage in full frontal honesty 24/7, feelings should be spared from time to time, but what happens when the pretending gets to be the norm? You know what happens. The exchange feels incomplete or dishonest; eventually, the two grow further and further apart.

Back in Santa Barbara, I had my world turned upside down by an astoundingly manipulative person who took thorough advantage of my naiveté. Now, while I bear responsibility for my willingness to turn a blind eye, hindsight has provided me with the perspective that despite my errors, I know, deep down, that the role I played in this relationship was one of good faith. I know that the intentions and efforts I made toward this person were genuine, the energy out of which I acted was positive. Even in the worst of it, I tried to summon something that I could believe in, that I respected and valued. I lived in my strength. Regardless of my efforts, the end result was the same, but how I feel about differs radically than had I decided to give as good as I got. I cannot tell you how much this knowledge has comforted me over the subsequent years. And the converse is, whether they ever admit it to themselves or not, the deceitful way they behaved with me will haunt them. Remember the Ghost of Christmas Past?

Living in our strength makes us better people. A commitment to bringing integrity into every interaction is the sort of navigating star we need when confronted by people or situations we’d rather avoid.

So, when it comes to your life, how might you do a better job of living in your strength? What sorts of perspectives can you call upon which makes it easier to deal with challenging people or situations? What can you find about this relationship or situation for which you can feel genuine gratitude or fulfillment that you are there?

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