Our friendship series continues with thoughts about learning to truly love. There is goodness in each of us. But life often seems to get in the way.

We start off yearning to love and share and then, depending on the home in which we’re raised and other life experiences, that dream can be shattered, muted, or dissolved.

We go to school, which for some is a traumatic experience. For some there is bullying, social difficulties. For others, academic struggles. For others, the inability to grow in an ordinary class setting can be a problem. Acting out can occur from frustration or shame. In order to survive socially, some turn to verbal bullying like mockery, substance abuse or violence. Lashing out can be for some a kind of self-protection. I’ll puff myself up with anger and danger because I feel so little and scared inside.

We’re also exposed to media which inundates us with visions of successful but very selfish people whose lives are largely devoted to taking from others. And soul-killing workplaces, where “respectful company culture” is the official policy, but abuse is going on at all levels. Think Hollywood (Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, etc.), esteemed journalists¬† (Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, etc.), and government officials (Al Franken, John Conyers, etc.) Ugh.

Somehow, we muddle through and wake up one day to realize that we’re not sure what love and caring really mean. We feel cheated, fooled and empty.

Does this sound like you? This is how a client of mine (C.R.’s) described a shocking realization she had after doing a few weeks of self-reflective meditation. (See Talking and Walking and Loving Your Good Points about the meditative technique that led to this self-assessment.)

The meditation helped her feel connected to the Creator, it helped her identify the deep good points within her soul. But something unexpected occurred. Afterwards, when thinking about the very positive experience she had, she realized that up until this point in her life, she never really believed in herself . She never truly thought she was a genuinely worthwhile person. She then realized, to her shock, she never actually felt anyone else was a “really good person” either.

This was so upsetting to her. As we talked more she explained that she felt like a fraud–that she had gone through life faking, at some level at least, caring because she didn’t recognize that each person’s life was valuable, sacred, even.

What she said resonated with me, too. I care a lot more deeply about people now than I did in my twenties because I care a lot more about myself now. I also recognize the good in others more easily now, ditto.¬† And although this may seem obvious, simplistic even, it is amazing how many people don’t really care about others or recognize there worth because they don’t really, at a deep level, love themselves.

No one is immune from not caring because caring takes work. Love takes work. If you fake it, after awhile, everyone else will catch on anyway. If you’re real, you think about how other people feel, what their deepest truest value is, you’ll have friends for life.