Approachableness (June 11)


“The main motive for ‘non-attachment’ is a desire to escape from the pain of living, and above all from love, which, sexual or non-sexual, is hard work” (George Orwell).

BECAUSE IT SOMETIMES HURTS TO LET OTHERS “APPROACH” US, MOST OF US HAVE A TENDENCY TO MAKE OURSELVES SOMEWHAT DIFFICULT TO GET TO. Often, escape seems easier than engagement, and so we withdraw. Call it protectiveness, unwillingness to work, or even lack of love, the result is much the same. We forfeit the opportunity to be of service to those who share our space.

Thoreau wrote, “For an impenetrable shield, stand inside yourself.” To keep others away, we don’t have to erect any artificial barriers; all we have to do is “stand inside ourselves.” There are none more unapproachable than the self-oriented, the self-absorbed, and the self-serving. So for the sake of approachability, we need to extend our vision and our concern to include the needs of those around us.

Given the ever-present possibility of rejection, it’s always hard for people to approach others, even under the best of circumstances. Making any kind of significant overture to another human being is scary. So when someone needs to approach us, we ought not to make the matter any more difficult or daunting than it has to be. We ought to be receptive to the overtures of others and make their approach as easy as it can be. Wouldn’t we want them to do the same for us?

Connections to other human beings, and the communication that must be a part of those connections, are important. They’re worth opening ourselves up to. Whatever dangers may go along with being approachable, the downside of being unapproachable is even greater. When we make it hard for others to reach out to us, we lose the personal connections we need in order to live lives of service.

The best motive for making ourselves open and approachable is a simple, and yet powerful, quality of character: grace. No one who ever approaches us is perfect, and no one ever approaches us in a perfect manner. But are we ourselves so perfect that we’ve forgotten our own need for grace? The last time we needed to approach someone, have we forgotten how glad we were that they showed us compassion?

“To be social is to be forgiving” (Robert Frost).

Gary Henry –