How to Be Friendly in a Divisive World (and Why)

It’s so hard to be nice these days.

And why would I want to be? People seem to be looking out for only themselves, and they’re nasty about it. Common courtesy seems to be rapidly disappearing from our interactions, and disagreements seem to quickly devolve into personal attacks. It’s us and them, and there can be no civility if we happen to be on the wrong side.

How can we be friendly in such an environment—and why would we want to be? The answer is both simple and complicated. We can always be friendly. If you’re a friendly person, you can (and should) continue to be friendly, even when it seems the world’s just not a friendly place. If you’re not a friendly person, you should try it out: It’s a pleasant way to live your life.

Maybe the harder question is why would you want to be friendly? Why would I want to be friendly to a group of people whose worldview is off kilter and who are so unfriendly to me? The answer to this one is a bit more complicated, but ultimately, the answer is because that is the only way we (society) will move beyond the divisiveness and begin to act civilized again. It’s the only way to turn the corner.

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That one thing

Past the Holy Grail—Looking Beyond That One Thing

I’ve had several times in my life during which I can only think about one thing. Everything else was relegated to brief attention when absolutely necessary. These “one things” included romantic interests, upcoming trips to new and interesting places, and life transitions. During these periods, my focus is unmatched, and my will is extremely strong. I find ways to mold reality into what I want it to be. I manipulate circumstances and people (mostly in positive ways) to ensure that my goals are achieved. These periods in life are exciting and truly meaningful, but they can also be fraught with anxiety, stress, and desperate longing. These are the moments when you feel most alive, existing with overwhelming intensity. However, during these times, you tend to lose perspective, as all that can be seen is the object of your attention. This state can make you highly effective, but it can also chip away at your mental and physical health. You seek your holy grail, and in your mind, it’s that one thing that can bring you happiness and fulfillment

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Cross the Border—Owning Your Existence

Master of the Universe – Owning Your Existence

We each have a border – an event horizon in our existence – that we cross over and over, back and forth throughout the course of our lives. When we’re within the border, we’re completely taken up with the day-to-day details of our lives and the associated headaches and heartaches that go with them. But when we can escape that part of our lives and get past the border of our day-to-day, we gain perspective on our existence and can see the big picture. In this state, we are significantly less impacted by what is happening around us. We’re aware of it, we respond to it, but we are not controlled by it. Some people live their whole lives within the border of the day-to-day – they have a limited perspective and they are unable to step back and take a deep breath. Others have learned to live beyond the border. They engage and they take care of business, but they don’t allow the details to control the flow of their lives or their emotional landscape. If you can be aware of this border, you can learn to live beyond it and control your existence.

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Long-Term Relationships

Hanging in There—Joy and Pain from Long-Term Relationships

New people are easy. You meet them, you chat, you get to know each other—there’s no long-term baggage or expectations. There’s also no lingering bad blood or long-term irritants. It’s a fresh canvas and you’re both painting. But as time goes on, you develop a history. Much of that history is likely very good—you wouldn’t stay connected so long if it wasn’t. You may have periods where you don’t see each other that much, but when you do get back together it seems that no time has passed. You pick up right where you left off. You have a true and solid connection with each other, and it’s part of who you are. But there are also elements of the relationship that aren’t ideal. It may be a personality quirk that irritates you (and irritates you more over time). It may be a certain belief or opinion they have that doesn’t jibe with your worldview, and they have to bring it up. It may be some incident in your past that’s hard for you to let go. The relationship is not all wine and roses, but ultimately, no relationship is.

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Too much

Too Much of a Good Thing

Imagine a world where you could have anything you wanted, any time you wanted, for as long as you wanted. When I was a kid, I thought that’s what heaven must be like, but in time, I came to realize that it’s a more apt description of hell. Why? Continue with the mental exercise. Choose something that you love, make it unlimited, and take away any challenge or effort required in getting it. It will invariably lose some or all of its appeal—nothing would be special anymore. Of course there are nuances to the question. Does having an unlimited supply mean you have to accept an unlimited supply? Something might only lose its appeal if you imbibe it constantly. Ultimately, our trade-offs and struggles are a necessary part of a fulfilling life. Without them, life would be less meaningful and less happy.

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