How do we show people we care about them?
Is it because we remembered to text them on their birthday? Or because we bought them an expensive Christmas present? Maybe we’re imagining something more ‘Hallmark’, that we’re their family and, “they just know, you know?” Are these really enough to constitute the foundation for our most important relationships?
There’s a simple answer to our simple question: we show people we care for them when you’re actually there for them. If time is our most precious resource, then we should allocate it to our most precious relationships. Consistently putting in an extra hour at work instead of having dinner with your family sends a clear message. Skipping your daughter’s recital for yet another conference tells her exactly what your priorities are.
Of course, there will be hard times. Some of us may work two jobs just to make ends meet or there may be projects at work requiring tighter deadlines or strange hours; time with those we love becomes a luxury instead of a choice. It’s naive to imagine we can always define our schedule at our leisure.
But in those circumstances, it’s doubly important to put first things first, to use what resources we have to intentionally support what’s most important. Schedule fifteen minutes a day to video chat with your son or make a lunch date with your dad. If we only have a handful of hours a week to offer family, let’s focus on being fully and completely present in the moment. Turn off the TV and phone and fill those precious hours with purpose.
And when time is truly scarce, even a supportive note, text or email can remind our loved ones that we care. Even letting them know we’re on-tap for a phone call anytime they need to talk is better than putting the relationship on autopilot. Obviously, we can show people we care in many ways, but we have to be proactive in doing so.
We may also be guilty of treating ourselves with neglect. We might:
- Skip the gym so we can get drinks with acquaintances
- Stream another episode on Netflix instead of opening a book
- Spend a free ten minutes scrolling Reddit instead of meditating
By doing so, we’re not giving ourselves our best time, our best presence. We’re taking our prime time and handing it over to mindless activities that offer no return on the investment. We reinforce that it’s OK if we defer what is best for us in order to do what is most pleasurable. Often, incredibly valuable activities only require small but consistent amounts of time; we can all find fifteen minutes a day to exercise or meditate or write.
We can choose to treat our relationships with the same intentionality that we apply to our projects at work. Let’s invest our best time and our presence in the people we love and even in ourselves. Sometimes it’s the impossible choice between putting in the hours to stay financially afloat and being home. But sometimes it’s the decision between being mentally present and being on autopilot.