Recently, I shifted my entire perspective on people. Honestly. My entire perspective toward people changed.
I got kind of tired of hearing and using the word ‘crazy’ when talking about people. Yes, people can act crazily. I remember during and after one interaction, all that ran through my head was a line from Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart: Go and hide your crazy and start acting like a lady. Yes, people do things that make no sense whatsoever. Sometimes, you’re having a conversation with someone and you’re wondering if you’re even on the same planet, let alone involved in the same conversation, despite the fact that your words are directed at one another and you’re both doing a good job of pretending that you’re on the same wavelength. Maybe you’re not doing a great job of pretending, I don’t know. My facial expressions give me away every time.
Either way, I started to wonder if I could help these people (instead of gossiping about them) by shifting my perspective and even changing my language. Here’s how it happened:
First, my pastor challenged us to look at people as walking stories. Not just people with a story, but walking stories. Well, for a storyteller and story lover, that was like a wake-up call. Of course! Walking stories, still in the middle of being written. Walking stories, with a beginning, dramatic highs and lows, but not yet an ending because it’s still being written.
Imagine striking up a conversation with someone in a bar. You’re shooting the breeze, and all of a sudden he tells you something deeply personal. He says it like it’s no big deal, but seven alarm bells just went off in your head because you’re thinking this person is seven kinds of c.r.a.z.y. But what if, instead of that response, you take in the personal detail and you run with it. You treat him as a walking story. You continue the conversation like you’d continue a book. And you find out where that something-personal stemmed from, and you might even find out how he’s trying to change course to make sure that something-personal doesn’t ruin his life. And then you give him some kind of powerful encouragement to push him forward on his journey. Hmmm…. (**Disclaimer: do not continue if the other person is highly intoxicated. I don’t advocate putting yourself in a dangerous situation.)
Second, I read Brene Brown. And she’s ruined me. In a great way! Once you read something that shoots an arrow into your heart for the truth it speaks, you have no choice but to embrace it, even if it hurts. The Gifts of Imperfection, as I’ve mentioned before, is all about courage, compassion, and connection. The words Dr. Brown included in this book are powerful, and she gives compelling evidence to being more vulnerable with those around you. She emphasizes that there are people who have earned the right to hear your story, and she’s absolutely right. But one of my biggest take-aways from her Guideposts, as she calls them, is being more open with the stories I meet on the street. Not being so worried about what they’ll think of me. Being openly interested in what they have to share right there in that moment. Sometimes it’s a complaint. Sometimes it’s a joke. Sometimes it’s a smile. Sometimes it’s nothing. But what an opportunity to help our world become more connected, if we remain present, pay attention to our surroundings, and interact with the stories by which we’re surrounded.
These two ideas have profoundly impacted the way I approach my personal relationships, my work, my family, my writing, my errands, my prayer life, my relationship with God… everything. The more connected we are to one another, the less alone we feel. The less alone we feel, the more loved we realize we are. And the more we realize we’re loved, the faster healing and joy and peace and all that good stuff can sweep us up.
May you enjoy the magic of genuine connection today.