You’ve probably noticed that your relationships with the people closely associated with you such as your spouse, partner, other family members and people whom you work with bring you the greatest challenges and stress.
The tension may come from various reasons such as differences in personalities and unsaid expectations for people to be a certain way or do certain things.
As difficult as they can be, these relationships have the potential to bring you great growth.
Relationships are sacred
Your relationships with the people in your life are sacred because they help you discover who you are.
People give you immediate feedback about how they feel about you. They do it directly through their words and behaviour, and indirectly through their vibes.
While you may think that their reactions show you who they are, they are in fact, showing you who you are. This is because relationships are a mirror.
In fact, Vedanta, the spiritual science of life, explains that the whole world is a mirror. The beauty or ugliness that you recognise in the outer world is simply a reflection of your own inner world.
If someone makes you angry or irritated, it’s because there is anger and irritation inside you. If you feel happy in someone’s company, it’s because she is showing you the joy within yourself.
Whatever comes out of you is what you already have within yourself.
So, to change what you want to see and experience outside, you’ll have to change yourself first. But you can’t do it half-heartedly. It has to be a genuine desire to change, followed by a corresponding change in your thoughts, feelings and actions. It is only then that your relationships will improve.
Treat them as your best friends
A powerful way to take the stress out of your relationships and grow in the process, is to relate to those people as you would to your best friend.
The relationships with our best friends are special. We tend to overlook their differing opinions, lifestyle, and interests, and enjoy them for who they are. We don’t expect them to be a certain way or do certain things to please us.
But who is a true friend?
I once came across a description of the qualities of a true friend in the ancient Indian epic poem, the Ramayana. This description holds true for our close relationships.
Who is a true friend?
A true friend…
Gives with no ulterior motives: In every relationship there is reciprocal giving and receiving, but when the giving is done with expectations of some return favour, it shows that the giver is more concerned with getting rather than giving.
The receiver senses the underlying expectations and this infuses a subtle undercurrent of doubt and uncertainty into the relationship. A strong relationship is built on mutual trust and genuine caring.
Supports you in times of need: When you are in distress, the Ramayana tells us that your friend’s heart will melt and she will love you a “hundred times more” in sincere empathy. She will regard her own “mountain-like sorrows to be a like a mere grain of sand, and the troubles of her friend to be mountain-like, even though they may be as trifling as a grain of sand.”
Such a person would do anything to lovingly support and help you through all difficulties.
Hides your faults and brings out your good qualities: How often do we criticize our family members and complain to others about their faults? A true friend understands that no one is perfect (including herself) and so accepts and loves you for who you are. She encourages you and lifts your spirits by validating your good traits and downplaying your weaknesses.
Stops you from taking the low road: This is a very important trait. A relationship that is based on pleasing each other for the convenience and comfort of keeping it going is not a true one.
If a friend sees you making choices that are detrimental to your higher good, she will firmly but kindly restrain you and lead you to the right path. A true friend always has your back and wants to see you grow and succeed in life.
We are essentially spiritual beings in human bodies on an evolutionary journey to rediscover our true spiritual nature. This is the ultimate purpose of our lives.
On this journey, relationships play a vital role in providing us with the opportunities to bring out our divine essence. We do this through genuine loving, selfless giving and caring.
If we can identify with our close relatives as we do with our best friends, we will not only eliminate the stress, but also enhance our relationships, and grow spiritually too.
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