What unlocks delight – an observation

July 20, 2023

Apparently, a good number of you have had angry encounters with people lately. At least that’s what I surmised based on the reactions I received from my last post about a confrontation with an irritated pedestrian in the Kroger parking lot.

Those events can be unnerving. Thankfully, I believe they are the exception in our human interactions. Most interpersonal exchanges seem to be mostly neutral, and a good number are positively delightful.

What sparks delight between people? Here are four interactions I’ve had in the last month that evoked great delight in me…

Henry, my four-year-old grandson, climbed up onto the couch and snuggled tightly under my arm as we settled in to watch a movie together.

A portion of a small group that Penny and I have been meeting with regularly over the last three years gathered in our family room last week to share wine, tears, raucous laughter, updates on our lives and deep introspection on important matters of life and faith.

A client sat across the table from me with wonder on her face and tears in her eyes as she experienced an epiphany about her life and calling.

I looked into my wife’s face over lunch at a cool pizza place on the upper east side of Manhattan and realized how wonderful life is with her when we are alone and enjoying life together outside of the daily grind.

I’m actually tearing up a bit as I reflect on those moments. They were a positive delight!

What unlocks delight between people? Here are some observations.

Delight happens when we look into one another’s face. Something mystical occurs as we fix our eyes on the face of another…we attach. This is the prime way babies develop in their first few years, gazing into the loving face of their parent. That doesn’t change as we grow older. Look into another’s eyes and a connection is formed that transforms…and delights.

Delight emerges through patient listening and inquiry. Allowing a person the opportunity to tell their story is like taking the lid off their soul. Asking clarifying questions to draw them out and go further in their self-revelation says, “You matter!”

Delight is generated in an atmosphere of non-judgment. As a person tells their story…the good, the bad, the ugly and the wondrous…and it is met with acceptance and understanding, not shame, it is an enormous relief. The joy that comes from feeling like you don’t need to be fixed is real. Delight happens when you are with people who are your safe place.

Delight characterizes a relationship that is forged over intentional time. Showing up dependably and consistently evokes trust and joyful anticipation. “I’ll always be here” is the seedbed of delight.

Delight is a wonderful outcome of being affirmed. I’ve written previously about the “what I see in you…” phenomena. There may be no more important words in the formation of another’s self-worth that those. They positively scream, “You are wanted!” Tell me, what is more delightful than that?

From time-to-time, angry guy is going to make his appearance in our life and, once again, we’ll be dismayed. But, I believe, if we give ourselves to others consistently, not trying to fix them but instead gaze into their faces with affection and with expressions of admiration, delight will flood our souls and theirs.


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