Linda: Good will is a stance in which one embodies a desire to enhance the well being of another. It has to do with not only sending out one’s best wishes, but also having a dedication to put those wishes into actions that will be life-enhancing. When good will is present, an honest, slow, gentle, accepting, and compassionate atmosphere characterizes our conversations where our respect is evident.
A powerful way to begin to establish good will in a relationship is to learn to handle differences effectively. At the point at which each partner shifts in his or her intention from control to understanding, the game is forever changed.
The differences don’t disappear; they just become more manageable. The shift in perspective transforms obstacles into opportunities and opportunities into realities. With some couples this shift occurs in six moths; others thirty years. Some relationships burn out before the shift ever occurs.
What matters more than the amount of time it takes to transform an intention to protect into an intention to understand is the degree to which we are able to remain open to each other. It’s not a matter of staying open-hearted all of the time, since we will always encounter experiences that close our heart in fear. These things happen.
The real question has to do with our ability to recognize it when this closing occurs. This requires us to elevate our ordinary level of self-awareness. This increase in awareness comes with intention and practice.
Identifying the tendency to close down defensively is a necessary first step in the process of transforming our relationships from battlegrounds to growth centers. The second step has to do with the willingness to practice emotional disarmament when we notice ourselves separated from each other by our automatic defensive reactions.
The question is: “Who is in charge of providing emotional protection? Me or my conditioned patterns?” As long as we defer to the power of protection of our habituated tendencies, we remain stuck in solidified defensive patterns. This means that there is no manual override available to us if we want to lower our guard. When we become aware of these patterns and fight our way out of them, good will has a chance to emerge.
The essence of our work has to do with taking back the power to provide responsible self-care based upon the reality of today, rather than continuing to be enslaved by obsolete defensive machinery that was designed by and for a helpless child.
In exercising this power, we become increasingly more able to free ourselves from our own internal oppression. We regain the power to risk emotional openness and expand our ability to develop increasingly more appropriate ways of taking care of ourselves. When we bring peace and harmony into our relationship, we discover that there are an infinite variety of ways that we can be responsible to ourselves. Even in the face of difficult situations, we can negotiate in good faith without compromising our integrity.
At this point the game becomes incredibly interesting instead of being incredibly threatening.
Once we have a sense of mastery in handling differences well, this spirit of good will manifests itself in a vast array of ways. There are many overt and obvious examples, such as gently caressing our partner, respectfully listening without interrupting while the other person speaks, inviting each other’s input to the conversation, expressing appreciation of each other, and proclaiming to others our partner’s positive attributes.
There are many subtle, less obvious examples of offering good will to our partner that are not literally observable, but unmistakably present when we are caring, sensitive, concerned, patient, empathic, and appreciative.
Partners whose relationships are characterized by good will are detailed in their expressions of what they most delight in about each other. They demonstrate an eagerness to praise and affirm each other. When they proclaim their love for each other, and embody it through their essential way of being, it feels like a blessing to be in their presence.
And it feels great to be this type of couple. The choice of whether we dedicate ourselves to cultivating the spirit of good will is ours, but I doubt that there is much that could bring more well-being into our lives.