Another way you can take care of the “we,” in your life is to go out of your way to do something nice for those closest to you.
In my first “we” post I listed who I considered to be part of my close circle (those who I consider to be the “we” in my life). Remember:
My spouse or beloved
My extended family (Parents, Brothers and Sisters)
Neighbors (on my street)
So, for these people you can do any of these things:
Wash the dishes for them (I was thinking of my wife and kids on this one. It might be a little strange to walk up to your neighbor’s door and offer to wash their dishes).
Mow the lawn for them
[Offer to] watch the/their children while they take care of errands, shop, or go to the spa.
Teach them about philosophy (or just plain right or wrong…like your kids).
Ask them, “How are you doing?” and really mean it. Wait for an answer. Just listen.
Offer your professional services at a discount or for free (accountant, tax prep, personal training, electrician or whatever you may be good at/certified to do).
Let them know about opportunities that they might be interested in. Of course, you would have to know them fairly well to have a good idea if it would be right for them.
Help them with an annual household chore: cleaning gutters, changing air filters, raking leaves, removing a stump, changing oil.
Talk with them, be friendly, make the effort to connect without being nosy or pushy.
For your coworkers, help them with a work project when they need it.
Always be tactfully honest with them. (An example of not being tactful is if a coworker is having a “bad hair day” and you say, “Oh my gosh, your hair looks terrible!” Depending on your closeness to the individual this might be OK, right?)
Just a few suggestions for looking after “us.” Of course some of these are more or less appropriate based on the situation.
So, how about REALLY listening to those around you? Once you master that, then maybe you can go out and fix the world beyond. I cannot tell you how many times I have committed to doing this…to really listening. I would compare this effort to speeding, when I was younger. NOTE: Now, I regularly drive about 5-7 MPH over the speed limit. I do not do this for safety or because I think that the speed limits are correct. It is just not worth it to me to get a ticket AND have my time wasted by a stop. Anyway, back in the day I would speed EVERYWHERE, then I would get a ticket and drive around at speed limit-speeds for 6 months. Eventually, my probation would expire and my carefulness would wear off. Then, I would speed again.
This is a lot like how I listen in my life. I am ALWAYS preoccupied with something (with a lot of things, actually). My child, my wife, or a coworker will be talking to me and I suddenly realize that I was not listening. Even worse, the talker will realize it and then ask, “Are you listening to me?” BUSTED! Whether I realize it or I am busted by the speaker, this is like getting that speeding ticket. It is time to slow down and really listen. But how do I do that? My favorite way to do that is called Active Listening.
Stop what you are doing (no typing, watching TV, texting, writing, etc.).
Turn and look at the speaker (as long as you are with the speaker).
Really, really try to comprehend; stop thinking of other things.
Do not formulate rebuttals in you mind. Be open to what you hear.
When there is a pause, repeat what the speaker is saying in your mind.
When the message has been delivered, then you can paraphrase what the speaker has said to you: “So let me see, what you are saying is…”
Ask questions at opportune times, if you do not understand: “One moment, did you mean that…?”
Take the time afterward to reflect on what someone has told you. If you are unclear, follow up with them. This shows that you took the time to receive the message and have thought it through.
This is just one way to be virtuous with your “we.” Your interactions with those closest to you define who you are. If I am not listening to them, then I am not a good listener, and that does not honor those closest to me who are trying to communicate with me.
I think living a virtuous life is a balance between tending to me, we, and they. It starts with tending to “me,” but at some point I move on to “we” and “they.” As I move on to “we” and “they,” I always return back to “me” again, cultivating my own virtue. Certainly, part of virtuous living is how effectively I keep these in balance, and how smoothly I transition to tending each. A good balance I think, is about 50/30/20 (me/we/they).
Starting with “me.”
I will discuss this in more detail soon. Starting with, “me” of course.
…then “we” and “they”
“Root out the violence in your life, and learn to live compassionately and mindfully. Seek peace. When you have peace within, real peace with others is possible.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh