For the past year, I’ve had this tattered old paper sitting above my desk.
I don’t know where it came from and I don’t know where I got it, but every time I look at it, it reminds of what is most important in life.
The page is essentially written like a poem with each line being a little ‘bit of wisdom’. It’s written for parents and their children, however, the funny thing is everything it says also applies to us as adults.
It’s all the same. We grow up, but the things that affect us as human beings don’t change. And I find these little sayings to be especially relevant with respect to our relationships. I suppose the way we raise children with regards to transmitting wisdom is also the way we should strive to treat all of our loved ones.
Cherish your human connections – your relationships with friends and family.
– Barbara Bush
Below are seven of the most memorable mantras from that tattered old piece of paper, each with it is own important message. However, you’ll see in the end that they all tie together as well and finish with a central lesson.
1. “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.”
Constant criticism in any relationship is one of the most dangerous and damaging things for an individual to experience. If endured long enough, it will have a significant negative impact that is extremely difficult to decondition.
Such continuous criticism causes us great pain. And, for most of us who experience it, this pain causes us to lash out at others in an effort to quell the pain we feel within, essentially copying the behavior towards others that we experienced.
Much of the conditioning we develop throughout life causes us to search out situations that allow us to repeat what happened to us, so we end up searching out people that we can treat the way we were treated and end up causing them the same pain we feel inside as a twisted form of psychological “comfort”.
But by learning from this example we can stop the cycle of criticism and come to a place where we feel accepted. When this happens, we can begin to heal the pain we feel inside and stop treating others the same way.
2. “If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.”
Criticism and hostility doesn’t just make us reflect that anger back onto others, it can also make us turn inward and close ourselves off from the world.
One of the easiest ways to tell whether someone is in a healthy relationship is whether that person acts as their cheerleader or seeks to hold them back from their pursuits. This kind of pain we experience from consistent ridicule makes us feel weak and worthless.
That same person in a relationship with someone that brings them up will magically rise up and become something great. That is, if they receive… well, I’ll let the next mantra spell it out.
3. “If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.”
On the flip side, if we treat those we love with encouragement and communicate to them not just how much we love them, but how much we believe in them, they’ll open up like a flower for the world around them.
By encouraging our spouse, friends, siblings, or whoever it might be, they feel as though they have someone in their corner fighting for them. And they feel validated, like what they’re doing or creating is of real value to others. This often holds us back because most of us question our self-worth.
But when we have someone cheering us on? We gain a strength no one can take away from us.
4. “If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.”
If we praise those around us, they feel worthy. And when we as people feel worthy, the hole we once felt in our heart is filled.
What’s so special about this is, when our heart is filled up, it pours over onto others. That sense of love we feel towards ourselves spills over and touches those we come in contact with in significant ways.
We then go out and seek to make others feel the way we do. We appreciate others and communicate this more than someone that lives without this regular praise.
5. “If children live with fairness, they learn justice.”
This is one of those things that seems irrelevant to adults, but that’s just because it stretches beyond simple one-to-one relationships.
So much of what we do every day brings us in contact with strangers. The grocery store clerk and the mom buying groceries for her family, the doctor and the patient being diagnosed, and the stranger holding the door open for you as you walk into a restaurant. Each of these are opportunities for us to connect in a way that appears small, but in reality, affects us in a big way.
And these simple, unassuming touch points have a big part to play in affecting our outlook on the world at large, believe it or not. This is because it affects how we see the basic nature of people (think about that the next time you hold a door open for someone).
But perhaps more unbelievable is the fact that this, in turn, affects how we act in our relationships. It’s a sort of indirect effect, so we’re more looking out for each other at large by doing this than ourselves or our loved ones.
6. “If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.”
Many of us are constantly trying to project onto others how we believe the world should be. This causes us to treat others unfairly and make them feel rejected for simply being who they are.
This occurs in everything from parent-child relationships to intimate relationships where one partner is more in love with the idea of what they can make the other person into than the actual person themselves.
But if we can see beyond this prejudice to witness our loved ones as they are without these filters, we can learn to love and accept them for who they are instead of projecting these expectations onto them. And when we do this, they grow more confident in themselves. By us accepting them, they can bloom into their true selves without obstruction.
7. “If children live with acceptance and friendship, they learn to find love in the world.”
To come full circle, when we treat those around us with acceptance and make them feel loved, it makes it easier for them (and ourselves) to find love elsewhere. If those around us are real friends who are there for us when we need them, we feel appreciated and find confirmation in them that good people really do exist.
An often unseen force in the world, the way we’re treated reflects how we treat the world around us. It’s an easy thing to overlook, but so critical to everything that goes on in the world.
These lessons might seem most relevant to children, and perhaps they are, but they never stop being critical to us as adults moving through the world, coming together romantically or as friends. Being social creatures (all the way down to our biology), we live and die off of these connections; so it makes sense that the quality of our connections would determine, in large part, our happiness.
Use these mantras to create healthier and more empowering relationships with your loved ones. You never know what might happen, so make the most of the time you have with them.