So I have been thinking about how important it is to surround yourself with good people. And not just because people are happier when they have more friends and family around them. That’s obviously an asset. I often wonder how people get by with just a small nuclear family instead of the army of cousins, aunts and uncles I have in my extended clan. During the holidays, I look forward to coming home to a crowd of relatives gathering en masse, often with new babies, girlfriends / boyfriends and spouses that have joined the family since the last time I was home.
But beyond the obvious perks of celebrating good times with lots of friends and family, I’m thinking of how important it is to have a close circle of support and wise counsel you can call on in hard times.
There are times in your life when you need to make an important life
decision. During those times, more than any other, you need people
near you who can give you good counsel. Sometimes you can feel overwhelmed by the weight of the decision and the different options, or torn between competing interests and obligations. When I was deciding whether or not to quit my job and move to Switzerland a few years ago, I felt pulled by different influences, including loyalty to my current boss, my future career options, and my new girlfriend. In the end, it was my boss who told me that I needed to go abroad to prove to myself that I could do it.
In my experience, there are very
few people who know you well enough to understand your situation but
who have enough perspective that they can give you insights that you
wouldn’t come to yourself. I think it’s a special gift to be able to tell people difficult truths that they might not feel ready to face themselves but that they still need to hear. I’m lucky enough to have people in my life that I can call on when I need perspective and guidance who I know won’t bullshit me or just tell me what they think I want to hear.
One of my girlfriend Cindy’s greatest qualities is that she has an intuitive sense of when and how to tell someone an uncomfortable truth that they need to face. She calls me on my own crap and helps me make better decisions on a daily basis. She inspires me to be more like that with other people as well.
I’m better as a conciliator, able to get people to see eye-to-eye and come to mutually agreeable decisions. But I also shy away from creating conflict, even if it means putting other people’s feelings ahead of my own or telling half-truths. There are times when that makes good sense, like in the workplace or with people who you aren’t close to. But it can be self-defeating and destructive if unchecked.
So I resolve to do better at speaking truth, even when it might hurt someone’s feelings or bring tensions to the forefront. It’s the Quakerish thing to do, after all.