Perhaps your toaster is trying to tell you something?

I never think about my toaster. Even when I’m plugging it in. Even when I’m putting my English muffins into the over-sized slots. I never think about my toaster.

My toaster is just sitting there on the counter. It’s always been on my counter. Probably always will be, too. It’s just one of those props on the set of my mornings, just like the coffee maker and the can opener.

My relationship with my toaster is decidedly one-sided. It’s always been about what the toaster can do for me. White, wheat, or rye…it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about me. And once I get what I want out of my toaster, I’m moving on.

Until I want something more from it.

It’s all about me.

Sometimes, relationships can become toasters. You know, when the relationship becomes one-sided, when one person simply extracts what they need. And then they move on. Until they again want something from the other person.

We’ve all seen and probably have experienced these types of relationships where give and take is reduced to just take. Friends that meander in and out of your life, coming in on the high tide of need and then back out to sea once they’ve gotten their fix of what it is your friendship brings to them. Or the self-centered business exec whose only concern is his own shameless self-promotion, stalking those who can aid him in his quest for world domination and discarding those who can’t.

No one ever plans on a relationship becoming a toaster. Despite best intentions, sometimes relationships morph into one-sidedness. And usually this happens to some of the deepest most important relationships in our lives. Significant Others slowly become less significant. Not intentionally. But that’s what happens when relationships reach cruising altitude and the autopilot switch is engaged. Sometimes those closest to us become part of the background, just like the toaster sitting on the counter. Because they’re always there and they’ll probably always be there. We only re-engage when we again hunger for what it is we need from the relationship.

In the give and take a of healthy relationship, are you taking more than you give? Are you a toaster or a toastee?

We all play many roles in our lives. My list includes being a husband, father, son, brother, friend, businessman. Am I feeding the relationships that accompany my many roles, or am I just taking what I need, showing up only when it benefits me? Spiritually, I’m real good at asking God for the things that will benefit me. But do I return the favor? What am I bringing to the Ultimate relationship?

Am I using God as my toaster?

The healthiest and most vibrant relationships are proactive. It’s not about keeping score as to who is giving more than the other. But it is about giving, nurturing, and feeding. Ideally, it’s giving a glass of water to the person who doesn’t even know they’re thirsty yet.

Sometimes we can’t control who it is we have relationships with. My wife got to pick me for her husband but had no say as to who her parents were going to be. None of us usually get to hand pick who our new boss is going to be. But we do get to decide what we are going to bring into all the relationships in our lives. We can bring love or hate, joy or resentment, optimism or negativity, sunshine or storm clouds. We can dive in or just get our toes a little wet. It’s our choice.

Often we “justify” how much energy we don’t bring into our relationships by pointing out how much energy we don’t receive in return. We are watching the imaginary scoreboard in our head, giving in direct proportion to what we get. That’s when things get weird. What if the person on the other side of this relationship is doing the exact same thing, only giving to you what you are giving to them, which is based upon what it is you are getting from them in the first place? Is there ever a chance for this relationship to grow beyond the mutually sustained limitations that define it?

Our best efforts to build solid relationships still may not produce ideal results. But only by bringing forth our best efforts will we be able to honestly evaluate the true nature of the relationship.

I used to get angry when I would hold a door open for someone and the person never acknowledged the kindness I extended to them. Suddenly my focus shifted away from doing something nice for a stranger to me being offended. But shouldn’t holding a door open for someone be enough simply because it is the right thing to do? Or is my holding a door open only motivated by what I expect in return, justifying my being offended when my expectations go unmet?

The fragile moments of our lives are far too precious to be spent being offended.

Living Half Full isn’t about keeping score. It isn’t about basing your contribution to a relationship upon what you expect to get back in return. It is about proactively taking the lead, about making all your contributions in all your relationships and interactions as strong and meaningful as possible. It’s taking all the greatness and divine energy within you and simply giving it away, unconditionally, expecting nothing in return.

Embrace a life of proactively nurturing and feeding all the relationships in your life.

Now go give your toaster that long-overdue hug.*

It’s a great day to be you!

(*just make sure it’s cool and unplugged before you do!)

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