I will be travelling to Europe with my father in a few weeks. We both love to travel and it will be a trip that revisits places very dear to both of us. My dad is now 82 and traveling together is a precious and, like everything else, time-limited. These sorts of events get me thinking about a lot of different things but the prospect of this trip has got me thinking about one question in particular, what is the most loving act?

Many people see loving acts as giving gifts or cards, others see it as taking over a chore that someone else hates with a passion. To me, the most loving act is to deeply accept others, and yourself. It means really letting everyone be who and what they are. It means stop expecting them to be different than they are. No more getting caught up in ‘he should do this,’ or ‘why won’t she be like this.’

Trying to change someone, even just wishing they would change, is not in alignment with love. It doesn’t mean taking whatever that person dishes out like a doormat. It means letting go of the expectations that others should be what you wish them to be.

I love my father a great deal but often had trouble accepting the fact that he could be very charming and engaging with people outside his immediate family but not particularly sensitive to the people within his family. For instance, I expected him to want to go to the beach with us or hang out with the grandkids more. And he just didn’t.
It finally dawned on me. Peace with my father lay with me, and it was within reach. It just meant changing my expectations. In fact, I realized that if stopped expecting him to be different than who he is, I could accept that this is how my father chooses to live in the world.

Once I made the decision to see and accept him for who he is, just as he is, our relationship completely changed. There was a new levity to it. The stickiness of my expectations dropped away and we were free to relate on a more authentic level. We can now connect on a level that acknowledges both our sameness and our differences with mutual acceptance.

Deeply accepting a person, including yourself, exactly as they are in any given moment without criticism or judgment is the most truly loving act you can do for anyone. It says to that person, “I see you”, and that is really all anyone wants.

Author's Bio: 

Melanie McGhee, L.C.S.W. is an award-winning author, relationship expert, psychotherapist and spiritual coach. She is also the founder of Abhimukti Yoga Coaches - providing coaches training to yoga teachers.