A Jewish publication ran an advertisement dominated by a drawing of a verystern-looking, bearded rabbi of the nineteenth century, the Chofetz Chaim,who wrote a book about gossip called Guard Your Tongue. At the bottom ofthe page was a “hot-line” number to call anonymously if you haveinformation about someone’s potential marriage, business dealings, orwhatever.
A rabbi at the other end will tell you whether your gossip isimportant enough to pass along. If not, you are counseled to guard yourtongue.Jesus understood this when he said, “Therefore whatever you have spoken inthe dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear ininner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”We need to tell secrets our secrets. It helps us explore what’s troublingus and sometimes leads to helpful feedback. Sharing our secrets lets ustest the reaction to what we’ve been holding in our heart. Not only that,it’s a relief not to be the only person who has experienced a certaintemptation or tragedy.
It makes us feel less alone when we unburden oursoul and a friend says “me too” or “I understand.”Sharing a secret can bring us closer together and deepen our relationship -but only if the relationship is healthy. Healthy people consider it aprivilege to hear what’s on our mind, and they leave it at that.
When itcomes to keeping a confidence, healthy people are a human vault.People deserve the respect of knowing the truth. They deserve to know ifthey are hurting someone’s feelings, being too aggressive, too lazy, tooanything. And healthy people know they can’t live without this kind offeedback.
For without it, they cannot achieve unswerving authenticity, orunderstand themselves well enough to be able to empathize with others andextend self-giving love freely, without conditions or restraints.They follow Emerson’s advice: “Better be a nettle in the side of yourfriend than his echo.” Translation: Speak the truth, because if you areafraid of making enemies, you’ll never have good friends.Emotionally needy people don’t understand the meaning of space.
Theymother and smother us with their very presence. Their constant connectingbecomes oppressive – if not possessive. This kind of person has noappreciation for what C.S.
Lewis meant when he said: “”In each of myfriends there is something that only some other friend can fully bringout.”In other words, Lewis recognized the need for space in a healthyrelationship. He saw the need for multifaceted relationships that help usshine where another friend, even a close one, simply is not able. This isone of the marks of a space-free relationship: Each person relinquishes apossessive hold to enable the cultivation of other relationships.
Along this same line, a healthy relationship respects serenity. Itrecognizes the value of a thoughtful silence and a private retreat.Philosopher and author Henry David Thoreau once said, “I never found thecompanion that was so companionable as solitude.”Let’s face it: There are times in everyone’s life when we need to be alone- times when we need to gather our wits and allow our soul to catch up.Healthy people understand this. Part of self-giving love means we providespace, when needed, for the companion of solitude to enter a relationship.
Of course, we also know when to return, when to break the silence andrejoin the other person’s journey.All of us need space for the companion of solitude but, even more, we needto be in relationship. After all, it is this very space and separationprovided by a healthy relationship that draws us back to a fullappreciation of the relationship.
Fruit #4: HumorHumor is always risky. What is appealing to some is appalling to others.In a survey of over 14,000 Psychology Today readers who rated 30 jokes, thefindings were unequivocal.
“Every single joke,” it was reported, “had asubstantial number of fans who rated it ‘very funny,’ while another groupdismissed it as ‘not at all funny.'”Apparently, our funny bones are located in different places. Some laughuproariously at the slapstick of Larry, Moe, and Curly, while others enjoythe more cerebral humor of Woody Allen.Despite its risk, healthy people are willing to take it. Humor is like alitmus test for mutual understanding between two people. Sometimes itfails miserably, but it can also reveal the possibility of a deeperconnection. Perhaps more importantly, laughter is the fuel that keepshealthy relationships going once they are born.
It’s what enables friendsto help each other cope in the midst of crisis. After all, where would webe without someone who could make us laugh?Viktor Frankl is a profound example of how humor can empower a person tocontend with horrendous circumstances. In his classic book, Man’s Searchfor Meaning, Frankl speaks of using humor to survive imprisonment duringWorld War II. Frankl and another inmate would invent at least one amusingstory daily to help them cope with their horrors.”If you can find humor in anything,” according to comedian Bill Cosby, “youcan survive it.” Researchers agree.
Studies reveal that individuals whohave a strong sense of humor – who can laugh easily with at least one otherperson – are less likely to experience depression and other forms of mooddisturbance. Scientists hypothesize that humor helps us cope because itoffers a fresh perspective.When the naturalist William Beebe used to visit his friend PresidentTheodore Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill, both would take an evening strollafter dinner. Then one of the other would go through a customary ritual.
He would look up at the stars and say, “That is the spiral galaxy ofAndromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundredmillion galaxies. It is 750,000 light-years away.
It consists of 100billion suns, each larger than our sun.” Then silence would follow.Finally, one of them would say, “Now I think our problems seem smallenough.”