Written by: William D. Anton, Ph. D., Founder of CEO Effectiveness
To be someone’s best friend requires a minimum investment of time.
More than that, though, it takes emotional energy.
Caring about someone deeply is exhausting.
– Malcolm Gladwell
Being a good neighbor has something to do with your neighbor but more to do with you. In particular, your relationship with yourself. Your relationship with yourself is actually the upper limit on the relationship you can have with anyone else. You can have a better relationship with yourself than you have with others but you can’t have a better relationship with others than you have with yourself.
If you are fortunate enough to have a good neighbor and are capable of being one yourself, then the relationship can achieve its potential and may even develop into a friendship. If you know yourself well enough to be a good neighbor but your neighbor has little self-awareness or self-knowledge, the relationship might actually test your own level of self-knowledge. But, the more you are connected to your truer self, the more curious rather than critical you are likely to be about your neighbor’s limitations. This level of self-knowledge accomplishes two important things. 1. It frees you from the burden of being critical or competitive. 2. It communicates acceptance and openness to your neighbor (remember mirror neurons) and increases the chances that they will become more aware of themselves, and hence better neighbors!
Most people who anger or disappoint others tend to have a poor relationship with themselves. Their early belief system evolved in relation to some type of deprivation – attention, love, time – and their mental models are integrated with “win-lose” competitive habits. They are unaware that they are depriving themselves in a manner that replicates their early experience. But, they are still doing the best they can. Their main problem is that they are negotiating life with an outdated map that falsely calibrates what is possible. For them life is a zero sum game and they focus more on what they can get rather than what they have to give. Part of the reason for this is that they are not even self-aware enough to know that they are limiting their own lives and those of others who are connected to them. And, even if they could see it, there is still a lot of territory between self-awareness (descriptive) and self-knowledge (transformational).
Your decision to be a good neighbor is based on whether or not your want to validate your fellow citizen’s early beliefs, models and habits or become a disconfirming influence in their lives. The choice to disconfirm is the decision to help your neighbor become more aware of themselves by not adding your own noise to the already fuzzy signal directing their lives. The choice to help and forgive others immediately enriches your own life. There is a discernable change in the flow of abundance that results from self-knowledge and the realization that, in many respects, you and the other are the same. Of course, giving at this level requires that you can discern your own signal with clarity. All of us contribute to what we see, and all things change when we do.
Maybe ‘Love Your Neighbor as Yourself,’ still captures it best!