Mindfulness of Others

Excerpted from Chapter 27 of Daniel Montgomery’s just released “How to Be Present in an Absent World” book.

After two DUIs in three months, James, a successful finance executive, called my office hoping to expunge his record by pursuing treatment and therapy. During our first appointment, James admitted that he couldn’t tell anyone besides his wife and business partner what had happened.

Like many others, James’s life didn’t start out this way. He grew up on a farm, and as an adult he was committed to living near extended family, work, his kids’ school, and his neighborhood. But as his business, wealth, and collection of vintage hot rods grew, he justified moving across town to a gated community with neighbors he never had the time to meet. James’s daily life slowly drifted away from family get-togethers to late nights at work while his kids shuttled themselves around to activities and social events. The exchange seemed sensible until James was forced to reevaluate his isolated state and saw how unmanageable his life had become.

Are you like James, feeling like you never have enough time for yourself, your work, and meaningful connections?

Vulnerability Is a Strength

If American individualism leads us to isolation, what guides us toward mindful and meaningful relationships? How do you measure who is a healthy, autonomous, securely attached adult?

The framework we will use to track healthy development has three main stages. In dependence, from birth to age eleven, our survival depends completely on others. Next, in independence, from ages twelve to twenty-four, children move toward autonomy, self-definition, and new attachments outside the home. Finally, interdependence, the end goal of human development, is a blend of dependence and independence. A healthy individual knows when help is needed and what can be done independently.

We see many Americans stuck in the second stage, independence, including many business leaders, because independence has become a cultural virtue and therefore has been promoted as a sign of strong leadership. In interdependence, however, vulnerability is no longer perceived as a weakness.

Let’s talk a little more about vulnerability. Why do we believe having needs is bad? Why are we afraid to ask for help? Why do we think that being vulnerable is a weakness?

We come by our beliefs regarding vulnerability honestly, but we can change those beliefs by practicing vulnerability with others who we trust to offer attention and respond with nourishment. Vulnerability is very difficult for performance-driven types. Our society celebrates the expert and the perfectionist, which means we celebrate the invulnerable. This is how we, like James, drift into isolation. No one wants to admit their incompetence.

Yet we are wired for relationships. Everyone needs people to feel safe with, people from whom we can learn. Who are those people for you? If you don’t have these people around you, eventually your false sense of competence will be exposed, and you will feel like a fraud.

Healthy vulnerability and true competence leads to healthy, secure relationship with those around you.

Answer the following questions to help you identify the relationships you have in which it is safe to practice being vulnerable:

  • Who do you keep close?
  • Who is in your inner circle?
  • Who do you go to for safe harbor?
  • When you feel threatened, who can you go to?
  • Who do you find a face-to-face connection with? (Who sharpens you? Someone who challenges you without it being threatening.)
  • Who do you find a side-by-side connection with? (These are your ride-or-die friends, those who will walk with you no matter the consequences.)

Being in these vulnerable relationships requires saying no to some things to be present to those around you. Attune yourself to be mindful of overreactions or underreactions. We can’t know the thoughts of others, but we can pay close attention to them.

Practicing Self-Compassion

Being present with others begins with practicing self-compassion. Knowing and being present to your body, emotions, and thoughts leads you to empathy. Naming how you suffer enables you to move from being a victim of your story to a survivor that can grow, heal, and build bridges of compassion for others.

Self-compassion leads to deeper connections with others. And when you approach relationships mindful of yourself and others, it leads to compassion, which in turn leads to kindness and, ultimately, to genuine connection.

Note from Bob:  You will want to get your hands on my friend, Daniel Montgomery’s just released book: “How to Be Present in an Absent World.”  His book is filled with incredible questions that you will want to ask both yourself and many others in the shadow of your influence!  Click “HERE” to purchase now.

Daniel Montgomery

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Daniel Montgomery is the founder and CEO of Leadership Reality, a learning and development agency.  Daniel founded and led Sojourn community Church for over seventeen years and is the founder of Sojourn Network, a church planting network in North America.  He coaches, writes and consults on the topic of leadership, theology, and mission for businesses and churches around the world.

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