Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Treat People

"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This is more than just a pretty little quote, it is a creed I live by. I have practiced it for years and can think of only three people who ever resisted its gentle encouragement, and I have not given up on the notion that someday they will live up to the promise I see so clearly. I would feel like I assisted in any failure they suffered if I withdrew my belief. Unconditional love does not demand that we condone bad behavior, but it does ask us to love in spite of it.
Loving the lovable is a breeze. When no effort is necessary it is a comfort for the heart to swell, but when it takes real muscle the delight is magnified. A perfect analogy is the difference between store bought and homemade ice cream. They are both ice cream, both delicious, but homemade is special, richer on the tongue, and well worth the effort.
Seeing the best in other's is easy if you do not use judgmental eyes when you gaze their way. Responding to the best highlights it, and the mirror of pleasure they see in your response can change the way they view themselves. There is nothing quite as encouraging to the human spirit as basking in the beam of approval. Shine that light on the ones who need it the most and before long they evolve into the ones who constantly merit it.
Remember that it is much easier for them to imagine themselves capable if they see that you think so too. If they do something noble just for your sake it is still their deed and still noble. If for a time all acts are performed so that they can live up to your greater expectations the result is the same. And when they travel past the point of doing just for you and begin doing it for their own sake it is a victory for you both.