"Where There are Friends, There is Wealth"
- Plautas (3rd century)
Why is this such a daunting question? It should be simple to answer, right? This is our life’s work, to figure out who we are, deeper and deeper, even as we evolve, until we stand firmly and declare unapologetically, “I am…”
In the movie Gladiator, Russell Crowe hides his identity with his warrior helmet that covers his face in battles. After a decisive victory, the Emperor comes down to congratulate him and commands him to remove his mask and show the world who he is. For fear of death, he did not want to remove his mask, but then bravely turns around, shows his face and says, “I am Maximus…commander of the armies of the north, servant to the true emperor Marcus Araleus, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and I will get my revenge!” He knew exactly who he was and his purpose. Here’s the clip if you want to watch it. This is our true work, to stand firm and declare who we are in the face of fear, judgement, ridicule, and not care what others think about us, because we know who we are, and know our purpose.
“Behind every complaint is a wish for one of the five A’s”
-David Richo, How To Be An Adult In Relationships, p.33
We all crave something in relationships. This is why you are reading this blog. This is why you have sought out relationships of every kind for your entire life. We are innately social creatures, constantly seeking something from others, and giving that something back to others in the process we call relating. We’ve seen it in the movies, romance novels, success stories, and the like. We seek it subconsciously every day, but how do you describe it? What is it, exactly? The closest I’ve come to understanding what “it” is came when I learned the 5 A’s of relationships.
In my quest to learn about relationships, why my first marriage failed, and how to identify and create healthy relationships moving forward, I came across some invaluable lessons. The 5 A’s from David Richo’s book cited above was one such gem.
The 5 A’s of relating:
At first it may seem counterintuitive but building relational wealth is not the same as building financial wealth. The financial world has its rules and maxims. I propose to you this one for the relational world: Continually invest in yourself and paradoxically, you will also build greater relational wealth with others.
As a musician, I can tell you that there are few things more fun and exciting than jamming with some excellent musicians. Every good musician knows that there are really no shortcuts to being a good player. You have to practice on your own, perfecting the fundamentals of scales, chords, and rhythm. Only those who have done the hard work and preparation are enjoyable to play with. Rather than thinking about the basics or just trying to keep up when they play in a group, these excellent musicians can also be listening intently to what others are contributing and playing what is appropriate. They can fit into the groove. They can add their voice to the music without taking over.
Novice musicians, by contrast, have not yet spent the time investing in their own craft, and therefore not very enjoyable to play with in a group. Their timing is off, their pitch accuracy isn’t great. But the excellent musicians have first done the work of investing in themselves so that they can play well with others, making a much more enjoyable experience for all. So it is in the world of relationships. You must invest in your own self development in order to play well with others.
This is a post for those going through the tough ending of a significant relationship. I feel compassion for you because I have been there. I know what that road looks and feels like and I want to offer some truth and tools for the journey as well as some words of hope and encouragement. I promise the next post will be uplifting for the masses, rather than this heavy hearted material for a few of you. But for those going through the rough stuff, I want to share some heart felt advice:
First of all let me remind you that you are loved. You don’t feel like it right now because you are in the pain of being left, which feels like a truck load of rejection. But you need to hear that you are loved by your friends and family that are all around you. [For our purposes here, it doesn’t matter whether you were the one left or the one who had to make the decision to leave].
You also need to know that there is absolutely hope for healing and happiness again after you get through the tough stuff. There is not only a light at the end of the tunnel, but a whole new world of good things to look forward to. The thing is, you must not just survive the tough times (I know some days, that’s all you can do), but dig in and do some active work toward a better life.
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Joel is a husband, father, musician, and lover of life; especially life that is shared with the wealth of amazing friends and family he is blessed to have near.