One of the most impactful things I’ve heard in the last several years is Jill Bolte Taylor talking about the stroke that left her without language for many months. She was completely unable to even form words in her brain—all she had was how it felt in the room. She could sense whether the doctors in the room respected and cared about her or not. She could sense if people were dismissive or loving toward her, all without having any words to process it. She shares a memory of her mother being with her, and the pure love emanating from her. And then she says something that has stuck with me for years:
We are responsible for the energy we bring into the room.
All of us, in big and small moments, leave an emotional wake. Picture a motorboat cruising through the water, and the churn that follows it. The boat cannot function without leaving a trail, just like we can’t show up without making an impact. The question, of course, is what kind of impact?
This isn’t about being nice. The core of niceness is fear. It’s about being PRESENT, and the practice of soulfulness. Richard Rohr says that the soul cannot be offended. When we’re operating from that innermost place, we are better able to leave a wake of love, curiosity, humility, playfulness.
I had the extreme honor of being at my friend Bobbi’s memorial last weekend. Along with hundreds of other people, we remembered Bobbi’s legacy of love. Her son said, “A lot of you have asked what you can do. Nothing, really. But I do have one request of you: Love like my mom did. All of you are here because she made you feel loved. And she wasn’t an angel. She was human. She had a lot of trauma in her life and worked really hard to become the person she did. That’s available to all of us.” Wow.
I’ve also been around some extremely bitter people lately. Bitterness and resentment are the biggest culprits in leaving damaging emotional wakes. Sadness and anger? No problem. Let those move through you, let those make your relationships more human. But bitterness and resentment will poison things every time. Especially for yourself.
I’m very influenced by Fred Luskin’s book Forgive for Good. (You can find the book summarized in a set of slides here!) He says that forgiveness is for the forgiver, not the offender, and that we can forgive without excusing the wrongdoing and even without ever having a conversation with the offender. The work is to free ourselves from the bondage of bitterness, to take back that space for the best things in our lives.
That’s the shortest (and hardest) route to freedom. And if we’re willing to take it, we might find that people want us in the room with them. And afterward, they have a feeling of being loved and accepted, even if we are saying hard things. A client gave me the highest compliment possible recently when they said, “You are giving me really hard feedback, and I can’t believe I’m paying you for it! But I know you really care about me and my well-being.” Yes, yes. What I desire more than anything is that my legacy, your legacy, our legacy, is LOVE. I’m rooting for you.