“So if we love someone, we should train in being able to listen. By listening with calm and understanding, we can ease the suffering of another person.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
Post written by Leo Babauta.
It’s Christmastime and it’s the season of giving … what are you giving your loved ones this year?
The holidays often mean giving a lot of gifts, sometimes expensive, but often we lose sight of what’s most important.
What gifts do your loved ones really want, whether they’re your children, your significant other, your parents, your friends, or other family members? Is it an expensive electronic item, or some other material or tangible item? Perhaps.
But the gifts I list below are more important. Sure, they might not be as fun to open on Christmas morning (or whatever other holiday you might celebrate), but in the long run, they’ll value these gifts more.
1. Your Presence. This means making it a priority to spend time with them — if they are truly important, you can make the time. You might have to change things in your life to make the time, but it’s worth it.
Beyond just making the time, though, you have to actually be present when you spend time with loved ones. That means learning to stay in the moment, rather than having your mind on other things, checking your iPhone or Blackberry every two minutes, or trying to take care of other tasks and chores while spending time with them. Instead, drop everything else and focus on being there with your loved ones — really listen, really have fun, really be present.
2. Your Love. This is perhaps an obvious one on the list, but it’s too important to gloss over. It’s imperative that you tell your loved ones that … well, that you love them. Regularly. But just as important is that you actually show them you love them, in your actions every day, throughout the day. Hugs, intimacy, smiles, doing kind things for them, considering their needs and feelings … just little things that mean a lot.
3. Your Compassion. How is this different than giving the gift of your love? Well, it’s possible to love someone and not show compassion. For example, we parents often discipline our children and love them at the same time … but often compassion is even more important than discipline.
Compassion is finding empathy with your loved one … trying to see things from their eyes, trying to understand what they’re going through … and then doing your best to be kind and to end their suffering and to make them happier. Read more.
4. A Voice. We can give so much just by paying attention to a loved one, and really listening, and showing that we’re interested in what they have to say, and showing that what they say is important and respected. Too often our children or spouse might talk to us but are only met with a disinterested nod or other small acknowledgment, or we’ll make light or fun of what they say, as if it’s not important. But giving a person a voice, and showing that their words matter, will have a long-lasting different in their lives.
5. A Healthy Lifestyle. When you spend time with your loved one, try to do so while enjoying a healthy and fun activity, such as going on a hike, playing a sport, tossing around a Frisbee, going for a walk or jog, doing some yardwork, and so on. When you get together to eat, try to eat healthy foods. Make the habits of good health a part of your lifestyle, and encourage your loved ones to do the same — it could save their lives.
6. Your Belief in Them. Simply believing in another person, and showing that in your words and in your deeds, can make a huge difference. Studies of people who grew up in dysfunctional homes but who grew up to be happy and successful show that the one thing they had in common was a significant adult who believed in them. Do this for your child, and for the adult loved ones in your life as well. Support their dreams and passions and hobbies. Participate with them. Be nothing but encouraging. Be their greatest cheerleader. Whether they actually accomplish these dreams or not, your belief is of unlimited importance to them.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” - the Dalai Lama