… but by learning to choose which people you let get close.
I was in the waiting room of a physician’s office when I overheard the receptionist ask a woman for an emergency contact. The woman flatly said, “Just call the morgue because there is no one to contact.” The receptionist kindly replied, “How about a neighbor, friend or co-worker?” The woman sternly said, “There is no one. I don’t want anyone.”
It hurt my heart that someone wanted to be that alone. Yet, there was a time when I felt the same way. I grew up in a dysfunctional family and screwed up society. Abuse, disloyalty, ridicule, and bullying seemed more acceptable than kindness, respect, trust, and support. Over time I retreated inward, into a fantasy world filled with imaginary friends – those who never hurt me. I thought distancing myself from my emotions, other people, and my heart would keep me from being hurt.
I am grateful that one day I woke up to the truth. Closing my heart did not stop stress, unhappiness, rejection, pain, and disappointment. Life is filled with challenges and people whose behavior is hurtful and unkind. But being distanced from the love and responsibility of my heart actually caused life to lose meaning, direction, and prevented me from having intimate relationships – with myself and others.
We are emotional beings. We are designed to feel our way through life. We cannot prevent each heartbreak or every hurt and pain of life. We are no longer children without power over ourselves and the choices we make. As adults we can dramatically lessen the likelihood of being hurt by choosing to surround ourselves with like-hearted people, those who value the same positive behaviors we do.
The saying, “birds of a feather flock together,” is true because the safest, most respectful, and supportive relationships are those based on shared values. That is, patient people like to be around calm people. Compassionate people seek out those with big hearts. Honest people like truthful people. Self-disciplined people relate to other people who share their level of self-control.
You can do your very best to screen the people you allow to get close to you. Determine what behaviors (honesty, kindness, acceptance, patience, forgiveness, etc.) are important in the relationships you have. Then work on establishing friendships and relationships based on the mutual exchange of the behaviors you value.
It is absolutely okay and necessary to protect your heart. The most positive way to do so is by creating your own group of loving, kind, and encouraging people who you call family; those who prove through their consistent behavior.