Recently, I spent some time with somebody dear to me. Unfortunately, she wasn’t completely available to hang out – she had to do a few Internet-related chores, and asked me if it was ok that our hang-out time be interrupted by a period of her going on the computer and doing what she needed to do. So I grabbed a good book or two, ate dinner with her, and then hung out next to her, reading my book, while she did her thing.
And it felt great. Even though we basically were not interacting for a while. It meant a lot to her that I would stay anyway just to keep her company, and it meant a lot to me to make her feel good by giving her that company. Plus, on my end I wasn’t so badly off for having her company either.
Sometimes, when spending time with friends and loved ones, the assumption is made that the time spent together has to be exclusive. Or, (even worse, I would say), that some activity has to be planned – that just spending time with someone is not enough. That’s unfortunate. After all, the whole point of spending time with somebody is that you get to spend time with them 🙂
And spending time with someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you are talking to them at every moment. Sure, it’s nice to change things up sometimes, if you are getting into a predictable routine with a friend or loved one. But too often, we think that having some interesting activity to do together is a necessity, when it isn’t. Healthy human interaction does not operate with these restrictions.
Being there isn’t only a “nice little thing” that you can do; sometimes, being there is the greatest act of love you can give. Whether you are there to help somebody solve a problem or just there to empathize with somebody and give them support, being there is what truly shows somebody that you care.
And when you love someone, and feel deeply for them, but they don’t want to be around you? Just tell them you’ll be there. And then let them be. Because even as you leave them alone, saying that you’ll be there makes your love clear.
“Being there” has no strings attached to it. It doesn’t ask anything from the person that you are there for. It is unconditional. And even if the person that you are there for either does not know how much you being there impacts them, or doesn’t know how to verbalize their gratitude, it does affect them positively. This is something that every loving parent must learn at some point.
But you can’t be there all the time, can you?
Sometimes you can’t, it’s true. But usually, you can when you truly want to. That’s basically the biggest obstacle – when you feel you should be there for someone… but you don’t really want to.
That’s ok. Sometimes, people may abuse your kindness – unfortunately, that’s a reality in life. If you don’t feel like being there for somebody, as though you have to make yourself care – you shouldn’t. For whatever reason, something inside you is balking at the thought. Do what you will do, but don’t fool yourself or anyone else into thinking that “you’ll be there” if your heart is not really into it. That’s the only time you can’t be there. If you just can’t.
It’s all about the caring
Being there is sometimes a concrete thing – you are in the same space with someone, keeping them company and/or interacting with them. But sometimes, especially in our modern wireless world, being there takes place from far away. A reassuring text message. A phone call to check in and keep in touch. An email to express heartfelt support. It’s all about showing… that you are there.
Being there for somebody ultimately means that you show them that they matter to you. That what they think, feel, and want has an impact on you. It’s not a question of automatic obedience: if a loved one wants you to go skydiving with them because it would make them feel good to do it together with you, you are not obligated to do this if you are terrified of skydiving. However, you still show that their desire matters to you – perhaps, if possible, by
- accompanying them in the plane but not jumping,
- finding a skydiving partner for them that they will be comfortable with,
- videotaping their skydiving experience from the ground,
- or even just asking them about their skydiving experience in conversation – showing your interest in their enjoyment.
Being there for somebody does not guarantee that their experience will be positive. It makes no promises that something will turn out one way or another. But it does promise the stability of knowing that “no matter what happens, I do care, and I will care.” And just that can make all the difference.