A relationship with another person, even one of long standing, with a friend, colleague, even a spouse, can seem so strong but, in reality, be so delicate. It is important to recognize this. We expect emotional ties to bear so much, to tie people, families, groups together. But emotions are just thoughts, feelings, and sensations. They are ephemeral; like air, they can be moved or changed so easily.
I look at my wife, Linda, and realize how much better my life is because of her. I think more clearly and gain new perspectives because we talk so easily together. The more I feel love, appreciation, and gratitude, and the more I allow her in, the more I enjoy my day. Yet, despite all that, sometimes I lose it. I don’t feel the connection. I feel what I feel and think what I think but what she feels, or thinks is beyond me. I relate to her as if she were a means to an end, my own projection, simply the source of my own satisfaction, or pain. I mentally accuse her of being the cause of what hurts me.
And then I become aware of what I’m doing. I feel our separation, the fragility of our life together and how easily I could lose her. I shudder and wake up.
Society is also a relationship. Of course, there’s more to it than that, just like there is more to a marriage than emotion. There’s history, commitment, often there are children, homes, possessions, and for a society, institutions, buildings, roads, laws, and social processes. But what do any of these mean without the sense of relationship?
We spend most of our time each day in human constructed environments with other human beings. The beauty and necessity of our cooperation with others surrounds and envelops us. Yet often we lose it. We treat other people as means to our own ends. We treat cashiers like the machines they control. We treat other drivers as obstacles to pass. We treat people we barely know with the briefest of recognitions and people we don’t know are ignored or worse. There are so many people around us. How can we do anything else?
The more we harden our personal borders and think of ourselves as separate from others, the more pain we feel, and the easier it is to go from indifference or ignoring others, to hurting.
Or to lying to ourselves. Telling and recognizing the truth means getting as close as we can to what’s real, what is happening in ourselves and the world. A lie hides and distorts, pushes away what’s real, by intent. It substitutes a fiction, an idea for reality. Of course, it can get complicated. I don’t know if it’s best or not to always tell the truth. But in general, knowing and speaking the truth, or knowing as best we can what’s actually going on in ourselves and others, fosters healthy relationships. When problems arise, as they must, we can only face them if we notice them. We can only face what we allow ourselves to perceive….
**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.