Recently, I attended the Bat Mitzvah of a good friend’s daughter.
For those who don’t know, a Bat Mitzvah, is celebrated when a Jewish girl turns 12. The equivalent for boys is called a Bar Mitzvah and happens when they turn 13. It’s a ceremony to which all friends and family are invited, marking a kid’s transition from childhood to young adulthood. There’s a ritual part in a synagogue in the morning, and then a kick-ass dance party in the evening, which often includes a dessert bar so over-the-top that it verges on the pornographic. Good times are had.
At this Bat Mitzvah, my young friend rocked her reading of Hebrew text from the Torah. The rabbi blessed her up. The cantor led us all in songs that I belted out despite not knowing the words or the tune. I can’t help myself – I just love me some group singing so I’ve gotta get in there.
And then came the part of the ritual that broke my heart wide open.
The part where the parents got up from the audience and joined their daughter on stage to publically share their reflections of her wonderfulness.
Dad went first.
Here’s what I love about you..
Here’s what I admire about you..
I am so proud of you for..
He went on for several minutes. Then it was Mom’s turn.
This is how you’re special..
I love being with you because..
It’s so beautiful how you…
My heart swelled. Tears poured down my cheeks.
I loved witnessing this ritualized moment in which parents directly and specifically told their child what they love and admire about her.
And it’s a beautiful example (Go, Jews!) of a practice I’ve been doing my best to incorporate in my daily interactions.
I’ve been making an effort lately to notice when I’m having a nice thought about someone and to summon the courage to offer those reflections out loud.
Here are some reflections I’ve shared of late.
You have the prettiest eyes.
I love the way your brain works.
You are such a fun mom to your kids.
I’m amazed by your ability to stay calm in this chaos.
I’m not gay but for you I’d consider switching teams…
It feels really good to say my appreciations out loud, to let people know what I find wonderful about them. It feels like I’m giving them a gift I chose just for them.
And that’s also how it feels to receive someone’s warm appreciation. Sure, receiving love can be awkward but that’s my kind of awkward – bring it on.
So, how about, instead of allowing our loving reflections to go unexpressed, we got in the habit of sharing them? I would love to see more of that in the world. Would you?
Yes, it feels vulnerable to voice our appreciations of one another.. We are afraid of being corny, cheesy, clichéd. It’s easier to keep our good thoughts about one another private instead of taking the risk to share them.
What if they take it the wrong way?
-You can’t control how they receive your words. All you can control is your own intention. If you don’t intend it in “the wrong way”, you’ve done your part.
I don’t want to weird them out.
-Everyone likes to be appreciated. Period. If you’re not weird about it, it won’t be weird.
I’m too embarrassed.
-Okay, so you’re embarrassed. That’s fine. Say it despite being embarrassed. Build the Not-Letting- Embarrassment-Stop-You muscle.
Your positive reflections have the greatest impact when you share them with their subject, so stop hoarding them. They’re not doing any good filed away in your head.
PS – You look extra cute today. Way to be adorable.