“You do know, don’t you, that the people you are most threatened by are invariably just like you?” – Richard Rohr –
I met a friend near the beach yesterday afternoon. We planned to sit and have some conversation, opting not for the coffee shop but for an ocean view. It was low tide and the beach was expansive, endless flat sand stretching away in either direction.
My friend suggested we take advantage of the tide and stretch our legs. Normally, that’s an easy “yes” but I hesitated in light of the fact that I was dressed for “business” – button down, slacks, dress shoes – having come directly from other meetings.
But the beach was calling and it is surely some kind of sin to ignore it so we did not. I quickly and awkwardly transformed from “business guy” to “business guy who just decided to take a walk on the beach.” Dress shoes off, socks stuffed inside, pants rolled up and very white feet exposed to sun and sand, we set off. I was the fish out of water. But only to me.
I have always had a complicated relationship with relationships. Part of it – a healthier part than I may be able to admit – is due to the fact that when I am surrounded by talented people – smart, funny, accomplished – I often choose to allow their qualities to serve as a measuring stick to which I am not equal. I would like to be one who celebrates others more freely, reveling in their achievements without it having to have something to do with me, good or bad. Sometimes I am able to do this, sometimes not. When I operate from my lower self I know that it is because I haven’t met my own standard and I can’t tolerate being reminded of it with the example of other’s good work. The easy remedy is to reject and isolate.
But I can’t go it alone. I need others and knowing the depth of that need creates a vulnerability that can be hard to take. Others – those most important others – can build us up, make us stronger, accept our awkwardness. Others reflect back to us with precision the truth of who we are. Sometimes, like the glare off of a sparkling ocean, it is impossible to see it without squinting and turning away. It can be hard to look at ourselves.
As I keep learning how to walk in the world, the more I am able to see and understand the complications and possibilities embedded in understanding the self, others and the new entity that is formed when they come together. It is awkward at times, sort of like a man in business attire casually walking the coastline, but getting your feet wet always is.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world, especially the parts where he doesn’t handle it very well.