The old proverb that absence makes the heart grow fonder has a lot of truth...and a dark side. I think it should be quoted better as "absence makes the heart see whatever it wants to."
Because the heart does that. It makes snap judgements that are often completely wrong.
To defeat the heart's tendency to picture what it wants, I think there are a few key strategies: kindness, critical thinking (which is different than being scornfully critical) and spending time actually in the presence of the real person.
Kindness is important because without it, assessments can become harsh rather than straightforwardly truthful. Thinking the best of someone until proven otherwise is not a weakness, especially if you are working to know them truthfully. But you have to be careful that kindness doesn't make you untruthful in your own mind about what you see and hear.
Critical thinking is a skill that has to be learned. It's part of learning to truthfully assess what you see and hear. To be able to understand what is rather than what we imagine to be is crucial to any good relationship, whether between friends, parents and children or spouses. Critical thinking is asking "is this idea I have correct? What is the evidence? Have I missed anything? Is there another way to look at this?"
Then we wrote emails for several months doing our best to understand the other person's character and way of thought. We kept asking each other "is this what you mean? What makes you draw that conclusion? Why do you want to do that?"
We really liked the picture we were getting, which is why we went to the last step and spent as much time as we could with each other and our families to discover if our minds had formed an accurate picture. This is the third piece of getting through any illusions the heart might be creating.
If it's really important for you to know another person - and there are many people who come into our lives worth really knowing - it's invaluable to keep in mind that your heart will try to form an inaccurate picture of them. It's worth countering the heart's tendency. Because the truthfulness level of your relationships will affect your entire life.
Don't let your heart make bad images for you either way.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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