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One of my favorite books is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. I have a copy of it sitting on my book shelf and now and then I will pick it up and read it. For those of you who haven’t read it–it is a child’s book that tells the story of a velveteen rabbit who becomes real through the love of a little boy.
Early on in the story, he meets the Skin Horse who is real, who explains to the Velveteen Rabbit what real means:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it Hurt?”
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happy all at once,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don’t matter at all because once you are real you can’t be ugly except to people who don’t understand.”
The story goes on that the Velveteen Rabbit does become real because the boy loves him so much. In a nut shell, the story reminds us that when we are truly ourselves and truly loved we become genuine and real.
Usually, when I read this story, I read it from the perspective of me being the Velveteen Rabbit. Longing to be real and to have someone who loves me unconditionally no matter what. I read it and become inspired to be REAL to celebrate my uniqueness.
However, today when I picked it up to read it, I read it from the perspective of the little boy. To be the person who unconditionally loves no matter what. To be the person who looks at someone and love them quirks and all, annoying personality habits or less than perfect bodies and sees their realness their underlying gold.
If I asked you, I am sure you would say that you unconditionally love those close to you, your partners, your friends your family. And I am sure in the big picture you do unconditionally love those close to you. However, the test comes in the day to day, in the annoying habits and the frustrating quirks in the humanity. Frequently, in the day to day monotony of our relationships, we are making a mental tally of who has done more, who has done more dishes, who calls more, who initiates more, who has sacrificed more. We get stuck in the ego of one-upping and self-protection. We don’t love with reckless abandon. We don’t look at our partner or friends with appreciation and joy for the daily contributions that make to our lives. As I was reading the book, I was struck by how difficult it is to let go and LOVE someone for their REALNESS yet that is what we all long for, someone to take us in and look at our ugliness and love it anyway.
So today, my challenge to you, as you interact with those close to you, love them for who they are, for their failures and their successes for their hits and misses. Love them like the little boy loved the Velveteen Rabbit.