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We cherish our friends.
How can we be there for them?
How can we make them happy?
How can we be close to them and stay close?

By being interested in them, curious about their stories
By listening to them and responding to what’s on their minds
By hearing what they need from us and how they’re feeling
By letting them know we are with them.

What can tell us what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling?
What they need from us?
What can we offer them that will make them happy?

Here are gifts that are valued by everybody
Gifts to be shared
Our best guides to what make us best friends
With thoughts on how our guides can show us the way

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Friends need the gift of Love

We can speak the Five Languages of Love:

• Make time for friends and be accessible
Give them our respect, our undivided attention, and our trust
Connect with them by being open --
By sharing our thoughts, our feelings, our lives

• Be there for them when they need help
Do things for them that let them know they can count on us

• Show our love and appreciation by being affectionate
Let them know that their friendship touches our hearts

• Reward their kindness with generosity
With gifts that let them know we appreciate them

• Encourage them by admiring their talents and achievements
Let them know that they matter, they are important, they are the best

Friends need the gift of Community

We can make friends feel welcome in our lives, so they know they belong
Welcome them into our circle of friends and family
“Treat friends like family and family like friends”

Friends need the gift of Health / Wholeness

We can have fun with friends that’s wholesome and disciplined
That makes happy without risking abuse, injury, or sickness
Without pressuring, or being pressured, to do things that aren’t good for us

Friends need the gift of Freedom

We can give friends space to think and choose for themselves
To express themselves as they are
To reciprocate (return) our kindness or not
Without judging them, blaming them, or pressuring them to be more like us

Friends need the gift of Worth

We must always practice good manners and be polite, to show respect
We can respect friends for things they do well but also for just who they are
By giving them our attention, our gratitude, and encouragement
By letting them know, when they are with us, no one is more important

Friends need the gift of Empowerment

We can let friends take the lead and be in control sometimes – take turns.
Let our friends win sometimes if we’re better than they are
Learn from our friends if they have something to teach us
Let everyone in on the fun and make it fair for everyone

Friends need the gift of Abundance

We can share the fullness and joy of life that’s in our hearts
The wealth that wants and needs to be shared
Let it join us in happiness when we are both feeling it
Or lift us up by sympathizing and caring for one another when we aren’t

Friends need the gift of Safety

We can make it safe for friends to trust us and play with us
Where it’s warm and welcoming
A place of tenderness and gentle loving kindness
Where they can be themselves without fear of being blamed and attacked
For who they are – personalities that aren’t like ours

Friends need the gift of Hope / Purpose

We can share what we see that leads the way forward
That renews our friends’ faith in themselves, their work, and their futures
Friends don’t let friends give up!

Friends need the gift of Beauty

Share the moments, the passion, the beauty, that inspire and move us –
Our triumphs against adversity, our discoveries
Stories, images, and music that make our spirits soar
That express the beauty, the spirit, of friendship

To all my shining stars, my friends
Who have the gift of Love and Abundance in their hearts
Doing their very best to share it
Thankfully.

The five languages of love are acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, and affirmation.
Thank you Gary Chapman: The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts (Northfield 2015).
My favorite is affirming a person's worth, because the world keeps trying to take us down.

Quality time means intimacy, sharing lives.
• Being accessible mentally and emotionally, being honest and truthful.
• Being spontaneous, which means being with your friend-partner in the moment where they're at
• Being in their circumstances subjectively as well as ours
• Being always subjective, never objective, always intimate, never social.
• Letting "social-group" be the servant-protector of the individual rather than the other way around. I.e. rather than subordinating individual intimacy to social-group control / insincere superficiality.

Happiness in individual intimate relationships is sharing, empowerment, affirmation.
• it is never wealth-possession, power-control, competition / dominance-winning.
• It is never superimposing our circumstances-facts / agenda on our partner-friend's.
• it is subjectifying, never objectifying.

Love is one part coupling-connecting, one part uncoupling-letting go.
It is one part binding embrace, one part liberating freedom.
It is never any kind of predatory entrapment, coercion, or captivity.

Personality types who excel at love-intimacy and happiness are introspective, intuitive, and thoughtful.
They are also conscientious and disciplined, endowed with a strong sense of universal values.
They have an internal moral compass that doesn't need social norms for guidance.

Personality types who prefer superficial social relationships crave belonging that absorbs the individual into the group.
Not the kind of belonging that provides a safe sanctuary for individuals to experience intimacy.

Practice an intimacy of openness that fosters honesty and trust and happiness will follow.
Allow rules of possession, control, competition, dominance and winning to intrude and happiness will vanish.

Further reading: the gold standard is A Course in Miracles.
And a little something I wrote for kids: "Creating Great Friendships", my next post.

Be assured that anyone who takes the time to read this has the perfect personality type and the wisdom to achieve intimacy and happiness.

Go in peace with my blessing.

To my two shining stars,

Learning

Our world is a laboratory where we have to figure out how to make things work, including relationships. Families are laboratories for figuring out how to get along when everyone has their own personality. It helps us get along at school, at work, and at play when we’ve learned to get along at home. When we understand that our differences can be our friends that show us how to grow. How to unlock abilities we didn’t know we had. How to experience pleasures we didn’t know were there to be enjoyed.

Different personalities that seem to make our lives more difficult may actually be teaching us how to be happier. We just have to be aware that we have our personalities and others have their personalities. Respect the differences, let others be our teachers, and learn from them.

It’s what I’ve been doing with you: learning from you. One of many reasons why you make me happy, because you’re my teachers and you’re good at it. I don’t have to be like you for us to get along. I can be myself and you can be yourselves. You’re very good at it. Thank you for being my friends. Thank you so much for being my teachers.

Adapting and growing

What did I do when my wife left and took my boys? I went to work, came home to empty rooms, and cried. Then the day came when I stopped crying, moved away, and began a new life. I reconnected with old friends and made new friends:

* Sally, who became my mentor and led me on a journey of personal growth to what I could do to make my life better.
* Judy, who led me on a journey of spiritual growth, to a Guide who would help me from within to make every life better.
* And Larry, who threw open the doors to professional adventure, to a world of friends and acceptance I never knew existed.

I went from being a solitary life in an empty room to a life of abundance and purpose. To being blessed and thankful and wanting to share. To never looking back.

The Why and the Who of Easter

Our world is a laboratory for figuring out Why to make things work. The story that made Christmas and Easter part of our lives is the story of one life, a brother who tried to help us with that. He was born on Christmas and on Easter showed that no matter what he will always be trying to help us. He is here now, a presence to share with everyone because he set a good example. He is the Guide that I was led to and he is the nicest.

He helps me understand every day Why it’s important to learn: to change and grow. Because our personalities aren’t supposed to lock us in. They’re opportunities to open up. To unlock. To be more than who we are. To be stronger and freer, more creative, more imaginative. And happier. By being who we are and allowing others to be who they are. By teaching others and allowing them to teach us.

What does Easter mean to me? Faith, Purpose, and Hope. It’s what it means to everyone touched by its story. It’s what I would like for it to mean to you.

And, by the way, he was also a she. In our minds, that is, where she belongs, now and forever.

Happy Easter!

David Clark Harrison
In memory of Owen Clark Harrison
March 31, 1970 – March 2017

Not long ago, I asked a friend for a favor. It was a bit unusual and I knew it would require some thought, but not so unusual that it could upend a friendship. But it did, at least for a while, quite emphatically. The way my friend and I interpreted what happened was a study in contrasts. It was as if we lived in two separate realities, spoke different languages, and transacted business with different currencies, hers as worthless to me as mine was to her.

It was one of those things, a train wreck in a relationship we’re all familiar with. And yet it turned out to be very interesting. It revealed that my friend and I, who have been close over the years, are exact opposite personality types. I’m an INTJ and she’s an ESFP: INTJ for Introvert-Intuition-Thinking-Judgment, ESFP for Extravert-Sensing-Feeling-Perception. These are from Isabel Briggs Myers’ Gifts Differing, not as “scientific” as other theories some might prefer, but my Intuition trusts her Intuition.

The holidays are all about one universal value: everything that makes us family. Forgiveness is one of those things, and let me be the first to admit: If you’re reading this it probably means you’re a big nuisance but you’ve been forgiven – many times. “I love you in spite of your many faults” my dad liked to joke, usually to a good laugh. But it’s no laughing matter, because real forgiveness is beyond reach. At least it is for me. Especially if the big nuisance happens to be my exact opposite personality type.

My instinct in this case was to bail for good. I was on my way out the door. Then I read Gifts Differing and discovered that Isabel’s theory doesn’t stop at showing us how opposites wreak havoc with relationships. It shows remarkably how opposites can be used to bring us closer together and, in the process, promote personal growth and self-awareness. What philosophy, what faith, couldn’t use an analytical tool like this to bring about peace and forgiveness!

It’s done by accessing the opposites of your weak personality traits – mind-Intuition, for example, if you’re a body-Sensing type, -- preferably in consultation with someone who’s your opposite. You “pool your resources,” and at the end you’re both more fully developed, better balanced personalities, more sympathetic, more adaptable to change, and better equipped to forgive. That's the theory and, so far, it's working for me.

Isabel’s theory is inspired, not least because the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles calls for its practical application to individual circumstances, and students of the Course intent on practicing forgiveness will find that it’s a big help. If my friend is reading this she might be incensed that I’m talking about us, but not if her Feeling has accessed Thinking, and Perception has accessed Judgment. You see, what this is all about is making everyone more like me. Proof that what I've learned from her is the joy of spontaneity and laughter. Pity the poor INTJ Scrooge who never learns it!

Wishing you the Joy of Life and laughter for the holidays and all through the New Year.

The warmth and light from time
The fire that consumes all evidence of my being
Draws me to it in my grief

As if its embers home to my tears
Could bring us back together again
As if the dog curled up by the fireplace
And those of us still living

Could summon forth those who are not
Could restore the tenderness
That flickered in my child’s soul

A moment of having and touching
Before it was taken away

Our values are what really matters – love and family; friendship and community; health and healing; freedom and free will; self-worth; purpose, learning, striving, growth and achievement; abundance; protection and trust; beauty, purity and innocence; empowerment and control. Whenever we’re in doubt, these are our conscience. These are our best guide to avoiding mistakes.

Grandparents know all about mistakes because they’ve seen and made lots of them. They know a lot about values, too, because experience has taught them what’s important. Kids might do fine without a grandparent. But it’s possible they’d do even better with one. Grandparents want kids to have this resource: helping them with values so they avoid mistakes.

This is how grandparents want to be there for their kids. They applaud kids' performances and cheer them from the sidelines. But when kids are ready for more, grandparents are ready for more.

Grandparents don’t tell kids what to do. Setting a good example, standing up for their values – that’s their job. If they follow the wrong example they won’t be role modeling their values. They won’t be role modeling the values they want their grandchildren to have.

What kids need from their grandparents is good role models.

Here are some thoughts about grand-parenting, relationships, and role modeling based on one grandparent's experience:

Respect and affection between friends can never be taken for granted, because that would be telling our friends their needs and feelings don’t matter. That they don’t matter. It would tell them that they’re worthless when friendships should tell them the opposite.

Differences between people can cause serious problems. Our reading and entertainment tell us that every day. Our minds work differently. Our personalities aren’t the same. We value different things. Our priorities are different. We present ourselves differently. We try to connect and communicate differently – the list goes on and on.

Our circumstances are always changing. And our needs and feelings change with them. Because everyone’s circumstances are different, no one has the same point of view.

Our physical, biological, and social environment is a dynamic system driven by powerful forces. Understanding these forces is the purpose of every field of learning -- physics, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, social science, political science, ethics, theology, biology, and more. We are brought together in one great human enterprise: learning.

One of the great lessons of life is the need for continuous improvement -- for learning and personal growth. This is as true for groups as it is for individuals. It is our purpose. We can’t stand still. We must move forward.

Learning takes effort. It takes thought, and kids are capable of that. If grandparents didn’t believe in their kids they would say, “They’re just kids” and ignore them. Grandparents don’t ignore their kids. They think their kids are worth a whole lot more than just one birthday gift. They're worth a million birthday gifts! They're not “just kids.”

As Vince Lombardi would put it: What’s best for our kids isn’t everything: it’s the only thing. Being useful to their kids is why grandparents exist. A good grandparent will try to be useful even if it means doing without the affection, kindness, joy, and laughter that their kids bless them with. Their kids are worth a trillion birthday gifts!

Relationships usually survive misunderstandings and hurt feelings without too much damage. But when we don’t respect our differences it can have more serious consequences. It can cause wounds that take away trust and safety. It can even bring close friendships to an end.

In the end, there is only one way to save a friendship and that is to earn it. To have strong values, share them, and to stand up for them even if it takes work and may not succeed. What is friendship worth, anyway, if it doesn’t ask something of us? If we don’t risk something?

Living a truly good life and doing what’s right aren’t things to be casual about. They require thought and deliberation. They require care and concentration, because it can be very easy to lose sight of what really matters and make a mistake.

It’s up to each of us to determine for ourselves what’s right. It’s everyone’s duty to affirm the truth about who we are and what we believe in everything we do. It’s all about Character. It’s all about Purpose.

Modesty is being aware that a higher power knows what’s best and letting this awareness guide our conscience. Anyone can find fault with what’s wrong, but who really knows what’s right? This is modesty, a virtue that is everyone’s duty to share, and grandparents would share it with their kids.

Miracles happen when power that we’re not aware of works quietly through our minds and hearts to overcome barriers to change and lead us forward. The barriers to change necessary for friends to move forward may not come down without a miracle. This is as true for brothers and sisters as it is with fathers and sons.

“Happy endings” aren’t a given but neither is disappointment. What we think are “happy endings” may also lie beyond our understanding. We should be prepared for both, because whatever comes may be for the best – we don’t know.