Category Archives: harmony

Watch Your Ripples

I was busy revising my first book today, when I came across this article. I wrote it in 2004, but it seems especially relevant today. So here it is again

With all the trouble and bad news in the world, people may wonder what the point is of being nice to each other. It often seems that over time, society is becoming more callous and people are spending more of their energy meeting their own needs rather than looking out for each other.

While you may be able to get more money or things by always putting yourself first, there is a price to pay. The price is that money and things become your only companions. You let others know you care only for yourself or are at best irrelevant to them. By thinking only of your own needs, you teach others to avoid you as a threat to their well being, since you are only interested in yourself and not them.

I have heard many sermons over the years. One of the few which has stayed with me has helped set the course of my life. One Sunday morning many years ago, Father Brendan Breen talked about our actions as being similar to a stone thrown in a pond. The stone creates ripples that travel far out from where it lands and changes the surface of the water for quite a distance. I have heard of waves which travel all the way across the Pacific Ocean.

In a similar way, how you treat your neighbors carries on down the line. Sometimes you discourage idealists who want to change the world. Even though you can’t recast the world to suit you, you can have a rippling effect on many people. Who knows how far the influence of your actions will carry?
Thought of in this way, everything that happens between you and others has some effect on the welfare of the human race. If you do something negative, the world is a little worse off. If you do something positive, the world is a little better place to live.

It is easy to see your life as insignificant among the billions of people inhabiting the planet. Your life is quite brief in the context of the thousands of years of civilization. You most likely are aware of the momentous contributions some people have made during the course of history. Your small contributions may not make the history books, but may brighten the lives of those you meet and maybe countless others you have not met.

How often do you think about the effect careless criticisms may have on others? Likewise, you may not be aware of the positive effect you have through your kindness toward others, and how far the effect may travel.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, can be to leave the world and its inhabitants a little better off than you found them. Rather than selfishly seeking to meet only your own needs, or being critical of others, you can care for others in little ways. The ripples of your actions can travel far and wide, eventually returning to enhance your own life.

Action Steps

  • Do you feel a need to put yourself first?
  • Do you feel you will lose out if you don’t?
  • How often do you consider others’ needs?
  • Try putting others’ needs first just for today.
  • See if they treat you differently as a result.

(Excerpt from my forthcoming book, Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life, 2nd. edition)

Signs of Relationship Harmony

Signs of Relationship Harmony

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.
~Thomas Merton~

Lately it seems that everyone is at each other’s throats. Maybe it’s time to start reconnecting with each other. How can you tell if you are in harmony with another person? Here are some signs:

  • You can talk openly about a wide range of topics without needing to filter what you say or worry that you will be misunderstood or criticized.
  • You are both on the same emotional plane.
  • You understand the feelings expressed by another and he or she understands your feelings.
  • You are both aware when your feelings start to head in different directions and know enough to discuss it so you can avoid conflict.

People in harmony generally agree on issues. That is one of the reasons they are conversing in the first place. Of course, no two people agree on everything. How could they? No two people have the same set of experiences on which to base their opinions. But people in harmony respect each other enough to listen, try to understand and then accept their differences as one of the challenges in maintaining a relationship.

People in harmony usually share the same or similar outlooks on the meaning of life. If they are headed in completely opposite directions they are not apt to be of much help to each other and don’t consider themselves compatible. More moderate differences can be helpful to both people if heard out and discussed.

Harmonious people are helpful to each other, finding minor course corrections which can bring together their life paths and make their interactions more productive. People in harmony usually support each other’s life goals and offer mutual help when they can. People with completely different goals usually have little to offer each other and may well find each other’s personalities grating on them.

People in harmonious relationships find it easy to relax around each other. They don’t need to feel defensive or ready to protect themselves from physical or verbal attack. On the contrary, they anticipate kindness and understanding. They also feel validated.

They know that how they live their lives makes sense to each other and that neither has to keep explaining why they think or do certain things. They are comfortable sharing their opinions and feelings knowing that however they feel or think, the other person will agree with them or at least accept their positions, perhaps asking for some clarification.

Being in harmony with another person leaves you with good feelings as I just mentioned. But is there more to the story than how you feel? Fortunately, the answer is yes.

Cooperation literally means working together. Harmonious relationships go beyond shared thoughts, feelings hopes and dreams. Based on all you experience with each other you are in an ideal place to share and support each other’s unique creativity in approaching life.

You understand each other, know how you think, plan, and do things. You don’t waste time explaining everything you do and why you do it. You don’t worry about being told your plans are stupid. You already know the other person respects and backs you even when your plans differ. As your relationship deepens, you find more common goals. You may have discussed how to reach them and are now in a position to pursue them together.

Your expectations of each other, of people in general, and of yourselves match. For the most part, there are no great surprises or disappointments as you work together. You know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You learn to compensate for weaknesses, learn new skills, or bring in others to supplement your work together. There is no guessing or assumptions. You know you can talk directly with each other. You can do so in a spirit of cooperation, respect and kindness.

When you reach a crossroads or fork in your journey, you can negotiate constructively to arrive at the best solution. You do this cooperatively with no power struggle or conflict and agree on the best solution no matter which one of you discovers it.

At the end of a shared project you can evaluate the results impartially. If you need to go back and make changes you do so harmoniously with no thought of blaming anyone because you could have done a better job. You work together on revisions until you are both satisfied.

Harmony also creates a safety zone for both of you. You know you can count on each other in a crisis or even to help with minor needs. You also know that you will not be judged by each other and that what you say will be received with love and understanding.

Life Lab Lessons

  • How many of the people in your life are in harmony with you?
  • Are you satisfied with how things are now?
  • If so, thank the people with whom you are in harmony.
  • If not, what can you do to make these relationships more harmonious?
  • Your efforts will be contagious and make the world a little more peaceful.

(Excerpt from my forthcoming book, From Rage and Violence to Peace and Harmony)

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