There’s a lot that people speak even when they say nothing. A successful leader of one community told me, “If a person never cries, he could very well be weak inside. If someone laughs out loud, even at not-so-funny or insignificant things, he could be lonely within. If tears fill up a person’s eyes, she could very well be innocent and pure-hearted; if you see a friend gobble up food unnaturally, he could be terribly disturbed; and if he flares up on trivial issues, he needs love. But the more important question is: are we willing to discover their needs? Unfortunately, we prefer not to understand others because we live in the illusion that we know them. Einstein said rightly, ‘any fool can know, but the point is, do you understand?’”
Of course, both appreciation and understanding are equally important and go hand in hand. You can’t really give love and empathy if you don’t appreciate the person for who he is, and you can’t truly appreciate him without sincerely understanding.
But what about my needs?
It’s crucial we take responsibility for our lives. That means we appreciate and understand ourselves as well. In our relationship with self, it’s important to recognize and understand our needs. Remember the stewardess’ on-flight safety announcement, “First put on the oxygen mask on yourself, before helping others.”
One who serves others without connecting to his own needs is more miserable because he’s now put on an additional mask of a messiah! – He could land up as a victim of an external image he creates for himself. When we live in our outside world so much that we ignore our authentic self, we fail in self-care. And if you don’t understand your own needs, how will you know and care for others? It’s essential we appreciate and understand ourselves as much and not hover on the extremes- selfishly focus only on our needs or understand others’ to the extent of ignoring ourselves.
To improve self-awareness and to legitimately fulfill our needs is honorable, but in our self-care let’s not forget the pain of others. We live in an interdependent society where our contribution to the community is as important as our connection to self. That’s because of a simple reason: many systems beyond our creation help us fulfill our daily needs- the transport arrangement in the society takes you from one place to another; the telephone, water supply, the park you visit to relax, and the gifts of nature are for us to use. And as a mark of gratitude, we give back to the society the best way we can.
A balanced life involves both- to receive and give care, and in our relationship with others, it begins with a desire to understand the other person first, and then it’s perfectly legitimate to seek to be understood.
By this service, we’ll surely earn genuine friends on the way, and they’ll understand and help us on our journey of self-discovery.