Do you want to get ahead or get even?

Alyson Griffith is in her early 60s and has relationship problems. For example, she was falsely accused of theft by a relative and asked to take a lie detector (polygraph) test. She was hurt by the accusation. After clearing her name, her immediate impulse was to end the relationship, but now she wonders if that’s the right thing to do.

Also, instead of being caring and supportive, her father was mostly an angry man. Today, they no longer communicate. When her dad did answer Alyson’s emails, rather than commenting on what she had to say, he would merely write a few lines about playing golf and how happy he was that his dog was still in good health.

Even Alyson’s friendships have fell by the wayside. With a string of broken relationships behind her she can’t help wondering whether she is a victim of bad luck or merely doing something wrong. And if the latter is the case, what should she do to turn her life around?

The path to a gratifying life and trouble-free relationships is to follow the AAAAA formula; that is, to practice Awareness, Apprehension, Authenticity, Acceptance, and Appreciation, Let’s look at each, one by one.

1. AWARENESS. Awareness is the key that unlocks your heart, allowing the pain to leave and peace and happiness to flow in. Alyson, imagine leisurely walking down an uncrowded street, when you are suddenly struck from behind with such force that you nearly topple over. How would you feel? What would be your thoughts? Probably something like, “Who is the jerk that just ran into me? I could have been a young pregnant woman, fallen, and suffered a miscarriage! I might have been carrying a baby and dropped him! I could have hurt myself! It infuriates me that reckless people endanger our lives.”

As you turn around to face the hateful perpetrator, you discover it was a blind man who was running at the sound of his approaching bus. Gasping, he quickly apologizes and asks if you are okay. Now, how do you feel? Ashamed and guilty. But notice how all anger and resentment has disappeared. At that moment you are aware. You have awakened to the fact that the viciousness of the attack existed only in your mind, and the man who bumped into you was innocent.

If you wish to be free of suffering, Alyson, you must become aware that your father, relatives, friends, and acquaintances are blind men and women, stumbling through life in the only way they know how, as you are. They are perfectly innocent, as you are. And they are worthy of love, as you are.

Yes, in human relations some friction is unavoidable, but as Rev. Dr. Rowland C. Croucher writes, “Just as friction between certain types of rocks produces sparks of light, so it is the friction of our individualities rubbing against each other that illuminates who we really are.” When sparks ignite in the friction you experience with your dad and relative, Alyson, what do you see? Can’t you see that they are wounded and in pain, and they lack the skills to deal with you and life appropriately. Disappointed by life, they feel bitter. What they need to experience is sweetness, not anger and resentment. They should elicit compassion, not abandonment.

2. Apprehension. Apprehension has different meanings. The one I am using is that of understanding. Understanding what? Understanding that we tend to do things backwards. That is, we focus on the wrong things. We look in the wrong direction. For example, Alyson, don’t focus on how your dad, relatives, and friends should behave. Rather, focus on how YOU should behave. Don’t concern yourself about what others should be; only worry about what YOU should be.

Here are a few examples, Alyson. Hurt by the relative who demanded you take a polygraph test, you are debating whether to sever the relationship, and you write, “The truth is I won’t miss her much.” That’s looking at it the wrong way. The question isn’t whether you will miss her or not, but whether she will miss you. You have a choice. You don’t have to punish her. You can forgive her. Isn’t that what life is for? Life is forgiving.

When it comes to your dad, you write, “I have to accept the reality that he will never be there for me.” Again, that’s the wrong view. The question is whether YOU will be there for him. After all, he won’t be among us much longer. You can make life easier for him by regularly sending “Thinking of You” cards. They don’t require an answer, and they tell your dad that you haven’t abandoned him. Remember, Alyson, you don’t have to live with your dad, but you do have to live with yourself. Make that experience a pleasant one, make sure the person you live with (yourself) is a caring, generous, thoughtful person, one that you will always be happy to be with.

3. Authenticity. We have to be honest with ourselves. When we are, we will realize that friends, acquaintances, and coworkers don’t abandon us, we drive them away. We need to ask ourselves why this is the case. “Am I being too needy? Do I make demands? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Am I cheerful or gloomy? Am I encouraging or critical? Do I spread warmth or disapproval? Do I share good news or spread gossip? Do I look for the good in others or do I look for the bad?”

Don’t confuse people’s actions with the people themselves. True, you dad, relatives, and friends may have done some nasty things, but that does not mean that they are nasty. The fact is, they are nice. Believe me, it’s true. If you cannot accept this fact, you will be unable to accept yourself because we all share the same nature, feelings, and needs. So, if they are no good, I am no good, and if I am a nice person, they are nice people.

4. Acceptance. Hurt by your dad’s failure to comment on what you write about, you write, “It seems to me that a relationship has to have some reciprocity.” Why does it HAVE TO? To assume it must is to make a demand. It is like saying, “When I write to you, I expect (demand) you to write back to me in a manner that I consider acceptable. If it’s unacceptable, I may end the relationship.”

Making demands is flawed thinking. You see, many of our demands and expectations will not be realized. So, by making demands, all we do is set ourselves up for frustration, disappointment, and resentment. But those who are awakened, or aware, accept their parents, relatives, and friends as they are. They accept life as it is. We can always enjoy and learn from what IS as long as we approach it with an open mind and look for the good.

5. Appreciation. Imagine giving a gift to someone who then complains it isn’t good enough. How are you responding regarding the gift you received? I’m referring to the gift of life given to you by your Creator. Do you appreciate it, or are you complaining that it isn’t good enough? What about those other gifts you got? Some mistakenly refer to them as “problems.” But those who are awake realize that they are not given problems, but opportunities to serve.

Alyson, your decisions affect others, so choose your actions carefully. You are not facing ‘problems,’ but opportunities to feed those who hunger for compassion and opportunities to give drink to those who thirst for understanding. Can your thoughts resonate with Ulrich Zwingli (1484 ~ 1531) who said, “A generous mind does not consider itself as belonging to itself alone, but to the whole human race.” When you accept this challenge, you will fill you life with purpose and leave the world a better place. You don’t need any advice from me, all you have to do is follow your conscience.