Our Need for Acknowledgment and Blessingsam
by Joyce and Barry Vissell
There is a great need in every human being to be acknowledged and blessed by another person, especially their parent. People often strive to receive acknowledgment of who they are. When they do not receive acknowledgment or blessing, they can feel hopeless or unworthy.
In the children’s movie, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” the boy, knowing that his town was in desperate need of food, creates a way for food to come from the sky. Everyone is grateful to him including the mayor of the city. However, the one person that he really wants to acknowledge him is his father. His father has never been able to communicate his love and acceptance to his son, so even in the face of the boy saving the city, he still complains that the food is too big or is falling down too heavy. In the movie you can see the boy shrivel up when his father cannot even acknowledge him for such a great thing.
Few people receive the full measure of acknowledgment and blessings from their parents. They may receive money, praise for good academic achievement, or athletic ability, but not for the qualities of their soul, such as gentleness, sensitivity, peace, kindness, and inner reflection. Everyone yearns to be really seen for who they are.
Barry and I wrote a story in The Shared Heart about a time when we were in our twenties and had traveled to Chamonix, France to attend a summer Sufi camp. In the years leading up to this particular summer we had received a lot of criticism from others, including family members, about our closeness. People felt that we loved each other too much and were too affectionate. These critical people of varying ages felt that we should spend more time apart focusing on our own careers and growth. The usual comment was, “Your love for each other is standing in the way of your making anything of your lives.” We began to hide our closeness from others.
When we arrived at the camp, there were young people there from all over Europe and the USA. Once again the negative comments started with one man telling us that he didn’t even like to look at us because our closeness made him feel so uncomfortable. We thought that perhaps this was the wrong place for us and were seriously thinking of leaving. But we decided to stay a few more days to meet the head of the Sufi order and the director of the camp, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan. We knew nothing about him. When he walked up the mountain all of the people from the camp ran down to meet him. Barry and I stayed on the top feeling slightly uncomfortable at the possibility of yet another criticism of our closeness – this time from an important teacher.
When Pir Vilayat came to where we were standing off to the side, he looked at us for a minute. Then, to our surprise, he walked swiftly over to us, threw his arms around us, and starting saying the Arabic words, “Ishq Allah Mabud Li’Allah” (meaning “God is love and God is the beloved”) Then he enthusiastically said, “You two are one! You should always be together! Never hide your closeness!”
The whole encounter lasted perhaps only two minutes, but it changed our lives. He had given us the acknowledgment and blessing we desperately needed. From that point on, we never again hid how close we were and how much we loved each other.
Yes, most of us do not have the stature that Pir Vilayat had as the head of the Sufi order. But we have our hearts and our love. And our acknowledgement of others can have a similar positive effect on another person’s life. We can reach out to our partners, children, friends, parents and strangers and acknowledge them. We have no idea how far that acknowledgement will go and that it even has the potential to change a person’s life.
Two days ago, I went to our local farmer’s market. I saw a farmer carefully placing his vegetables with great love on the table. He was not throwing them on the table as others do. He was placing them carefully as if each piece of broccoli and bunch of carrots were precious in his eyes. I walked over to him and appreciated how carefully he was working. I told him how grateful I was that he took so much pride in the food he had grown and how healthy it looked. I bought a few things and then went on my way.
A few minutes later I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and saw it was the farmer. He smiled and said, “Thank you for your kind words. I am having a very hard time today as my son who lives far away is very sick and is in the hospital. I want my food to bless others and help to keep them healthy. You are the only one who noticed how deeply I care about what I grow.” I could see from the tears in his eyes that my tiny bit of extra time and acknowledgement had blessed him. Such a simple thing, yet it can be so powerful for another.
When I was in graduate school, my main professor was Leo Buscaglia. When he had to give us a test, he would always put stars and hearts after the answers we got right. Sometimes he got little gold stars and would decorate our test papers with them. The exam papers looked a little more like first grade papers, but the stars and acknowledgement made us all work that much harder. We all wanted to get the stars and appreciation.
We saw a couple in counseling where the husband had done many loving things for his wife while she was away on a trip. He watched her dogs, cleaned the house for her and bought a big bunch of flowers. Rather than commenting on all of the loving things he had done, she focused her attention on the one thing he had not done. He was fifteen minutes late to pick her up. It was this one thing that she complained to us about not even mentioning the other things that he had done so well. We urged this woman to notice and acknowledge the things her husband does rather than focusing on what he does not do.
Each day can be an adventure of finding something to acknowledge in your loved ones. It can also be an adventure of finding someone new to acknowledge and bless with your words. Living like this makes our journey on earth more meaningful and fun and, in the process, blesses our heart as well.
Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following longer events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell: Jul 20-25, 2014—Breitenbush Hot Springs Summer Retreat for individuals, couples, and families; Oct 14-20, 2014—Living from the Heart in Assisi, Italy for individuals and couples; and Feb 1-8, 2015—Hawaii “Couples in Paradise” Retreat.
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk to Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant to Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift.
Call Toll-Free 1-800-766-0629 (locally 831-684-2299) or write to the Shared Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 2140, Aptos, CA 95001, for free newsletter from Barry and Joyce, further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.