Accepting the present for being what it is doesn’t mean we submit to it. We can do a great deal to shape the future, by deciding what sort of person we want to be and what we want to do. That means looking at the situation and deciding what needs to change so we move closer to gaining our goals. Maybe some relationships need to change in some way, or be left behind.
Although the present is how it is, today is also the beginning of the future and, therefore, each moment can be seen as an opportunity to influence what the future will be like.
Accepting the present includes accepting that we are what we are because of our background and life experiences. What we were born as, and the cultural influences we grew up in, shaped our beliefs and values. Accepting people as they are now doesn’t mean we agree with, or approve of, their beliefs, values or actions. And accepting that people are as they are doesn’t mean we can’t influence them to be different in the future.
The fact is that we only have the present moment to work with. In good relationships, this simplifies life because it means all we have to do is act responsibly right now, and let the future unfold as it will. People in unhappy, or violent, relationships need to realise we cannot change other people. But, by changing what we normally do, we can influence what others do. That might mean responding calmly and politely instead of getting angry, or it might mean calling the police instead of hiding the bruises from others. When the bottom line is that something has to change; you need to accept that you cannot make other people change, so you have to do something differently.
If we know that someone becomes aggressive when threatened, and we deliberately threaten that person, we have to expect them to become aggressive. Sure it’s their choice but we are partly to blame for that aggression. The person may admit they need to change their behaviour but real change requires a change in beliefs, values or feelings. Change might also require new skills, opportunities and encouragement. However, unless the person wants to change for some reason; it won’t happen.
While someone is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or lust, it’ no good trying to talk about change; they somehow need to be separated from that influence. And if a person continually gets what they want by using the aggressive ways they learned in childhood, it’s doubtful they will be keen to talk about changing. They need to experience situations where aggression fails them, so they need another way to get what they want. That is when learning new skills could lead to them experiencing a sense of belonging between people sharing and communicating as equals.
Our relationships are what they are but changing how we treat others changes the way they respond. The choice is whether we want to harm our relationships or strengthen them. Attempting to dominate or control others, harms relationships. Seeking to have power with others to solve problems, strengthens relationships.
By Bob Myers, author of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness.