While ago I decided to take out time once a week to connect with friends in my circle who had perhaps moved away, or been lost in the busyness of life. And so I called up 3 friends I hadn’t spoken with for over a year.
Although it was lovely connecting, I was moved by the struggles each was going through, and touched by the amazing support that was helping them find the strength to carry on.
It reminded me of Nassim Taleb’s quote from his book Antifragile: “A wind extinguishes a candle but fuels a fire.” Yes, we’re each a candle, fragile and delicate, easily blown out by a harsh word, a layoff at work, a bit of bad luck.
But we’re also stronger than we know when we reach out to others for support, or to help. Because relationships lie at the very heart of being human. Its relationships that help us build inner strengths, and relationships that buffer us against the inevitable darts of life.
And yet we forget that often as we walk around believing in our independence. It’s a farce that blinds us to our vulnerabilities and imprisons us in self-centered bubbles that float away from each other into emptiness.
Appreciating fragility, both in ourselves and in others, helps us be gentler, be kinder, more humble, more human. It reminds us of the interdependence we have on each other, of the threads that bind us together, and of the power of words to build us or break us.
And so here are two things I will try and remember in my interactions with others:
One, that there is always suffering in the room. There is suffering beneath the external layer that we all wear to show up in the world. The aggressive co-worker, the misbehaving child, the angry partner – they are all fighting their own battle. It may not justify their behavior, but it’s a reminder that suffering is the glue that binds us all together.
Two, that we are each empowered to make it a little easier for others. A genuine smile, a nod of understanding, a gentle touch when appropriate can all go a long way in lifting other people’s sense of worth or well-being. And the beauty of mirror neuron networks is that what we get back in return in a deep sense of strength and fulfillment.
What about you? Think about it, and then practice what you believe will help you strengthen your relationships – and thus yourself.