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Health & Balance

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How Giving Love Makes You Feel Loved

Did the whole family remember to give warm greetings and farewells? continued...

"Hey! You didn't give me a warm greeting!" she said bitterly. "When I said 'Hi,' you just said 'Hi' and rushed right by me. You didn't pay any attention to me at all."

"Oh, honey," I said, kneeling down. "I'm sorry. I wanted to write myself a note before I forgot something. That's why I seemed distracted. But now I want to give you a great big hug!" She allowed herself to be hugged, then skipped back to her game.

It's no surprise: Studies show that we're much more likely to feel close to a family member who often expresses affection than to one who rarely does. While it's nice to say the words "I love you," sometimes it's fitting and more meaningful to express that thought without words.

My spiritual master is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the great French saint who died in 1897 and is known for her "Little Way" — her way of achieving great virtue through small, ordinary actions and as part of everyday life. For me, one of St. Thérèse's most haunting observations is "It isn't enough to love; we must prove it."

In the course of everyday life, I sometimes find it hard to spot the opportunities to prove my love, even to the members of my beloved family. The resolution to "give warm greetings and farewells" is a manageable, pleasant, and effective reminder for us all to give "proofs of love." If you want to be happier at home, don't just feel it. Show it.

I noticed an added benefit from following this resolution. One of my most important personal commandments is to act the way I want to feel. We think we act because of the way we feel, but often we feel because of the way we act. By acting in a loving way, I prompt loving feelings in myself, and this shows. My family feels more loved by me, and I feel more loving toward them.

An enthusiastic "Hello!" or "Goodbye!" is a small thing — very small. Nevertheless, it makes a real difference. As Benjamin Franklin pointed out, "Human felicity is produc'd not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day."

I freely admit that it does seem a bit preposterous to depend on a formal, family-wide resolution to encourage a gesture that could be considered simple politeness. But the fact is that this simple resolution — to say hello and goodbye with tenderness and enthusiasm — has made us all much happier.

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