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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.