Love with Your Heart Wide Open

Spending time with the different people in our lives can teach us many life lessons. But the one I want to focus on today is the importance of loving people wherever they are at on their lives’ journeys. During the holiday season, many of us spend more time with families, friends, co-workers, or neighbors than we usually do. And even if our time with them is limited, many of them are still on our minds. Whether we are scanning the aisles in desperate search for the perfect gift (Christmas sweater, anyone?) or pondering why Grandma’s fruitcake is still on the menu, friends and families are a part of our lives – although sometimes, spending time with them can be challenging. When things don’t go as planned, we find ourselves feeling frustrated and disappointed. But, the people in our lives are who they are. So, that’s why it is so important to show them as much acceptance and love as we can.

Our relationships with others often contain many different dynamics. Sometimes, we feel close connections with certain people while with others we find it difficult to reach common ground. With so many varying personalities and opinions, it can, at times, create conflict and anxiety. Past hurts can linger, and the emotional scars they leave behind can often impact our present interactions. And, that’s not all. Sometimes, we feel judged or criticized for the choices we make, and the words are hurtful. This can be an especially challenging situation. Do we remain silent and try to love the person unconditionally, or do we speak our truth – not from anger, but from love?

Dr. Lissa Rankin, New York Times best-selling author, believes that the best way to navigate situations like these is through healthy boundaries. She emphasizes the importance of accepting and loving others with our hearts wide open, giving them unconditional love without any expectation or judgment. But, as many of us already know, this is a very difficult thing to do. So, Dr. Rankin encourages us to take it one step further. She believes that loving people unconditionally doesn’t mean we let them hurt us over and over again. Instead, it’s about establishing appropriate boundaries. We give our love freely, but then we choose who we allow into our “inner circle.” These are the people with whom we choose to spend our time. So, if someone repeatedly doesn’t treat us well, we don’t have to talk to her every day on the phone or meet her for dinner every week.  As Lissa says, “That way, if someone isn’t treating you with impeccable respect, you simply limit access without making up a story about it. No point becoming the exploding doormat.  That’s not enlightened either. Your heart stays wide open. The boundaries close up though. Unconditional love, absolute freedom, conditional access.”

We have the power to determine whether someone else is treating us right. And we get to choose how we respond to that treatment. We can be loving without being a “doormat.” We can choose to speak our truth not from judgment, but from love. And if people continually hurt us with their words, we can establish appropriate boundaries and limit our contact with them. Unconditional love doesn’t mean we willingly accept how people choose to treat us. But it does mean we choose to love and accept people wherever they are at on their respective journeys.

This holiday season think about your relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. How do you interact with them? Do you love them unconditionally and accept them for who they are? Can you open your heart to loving them without judgment? Can you speak your truth from love when someone has hurt you? If you live from love and let go of your expectations, amazing things can happen. Establishing healthy boundaries and spending time with those who fill you rather than deplete you can make all the difference. Open your heart and love unconditionally and see how acceptance and love can not only change your relationships, but your whole life as well.

 

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