How to cultivate great relationships with people and enrich your life
Relationships enrich our living. That is simply so, if it was not so then most of us would be living the life of hermits – isolated from our fellow human beings.
If you accept that relationships enrich our existence then you would want to generate goodwill with you fellow wo/man, With some you’d want to go further to become more entangled with one another and thus co-create intimacy. How do you do that? What is the insight that allows us to come up with the right practice? The insight is that each of us wants deeply to matter! We want/need/ strive to matter to the people with whom we interact. That includes family, friends, work colleagues, our neighbours and our community.
Given that insight what is the core practice that builds relationships with our fellow human beings? The core practice is encapsulated in a saying that I heard my friend Analia say to her young daughter: “People matter more than things!” I rephrase this “People matter more than any stuff that you are up to and any things that you want/own!”
How does this work in the real world? A personal story
Yesterday I was watching a movie with my wife and my youngest son. We were really immersed in the story that was being told. Then my eldest son came into the room and asked me for a hug. What was my first reaction? It was to say no! ” No, I am right in the middle of watching a really interesting movie. I cannot just stop it and give you a hug upstairs in your room – your mother and brother are watching it with me.” And that is the approach that I took though I put it more politely than that. After a couple of minutes I got present to “People matter more than stuff!”. So I told my wife and youngest son to continue watching the film without me and headed upstairs to find my eldest son.
He was delighted! He got that he matters to me, that I love him, that he is more important to me than stuff. And here is the truly beautiful piece of this story: I got that I matter to my son – his whole face lit up when I lay down on the bed and put my arms around him. It is when we put aside our “stuff” and give ourselves to our fellow human beings that they get that they matter. I was only upstairs with my son for 5 minutes – just 5 minutes out of “stuff” and those 5 minutes make all the difference to our relationship. We both know that we matter to each other.
Why is it important to put people before stuff?
The being of human being is a social one. What am I pointing at? I am saying that human beings are ‘herd animals’ – we are truly ourselves when we are in relationship with one another: speaking, listening, sharing, giving, taking, offering help, receiving help… Put differently, we exist in relationship. Even our ‘individuality’, our ‘self’, flowers and exists in relationship. There is no-one alive who is alive without the help of another human being. There is no-one alive, no matter how ‘individualistic’ he sees himself, who has not been shaped by other living beings – usually parents, siblings, school students, school teachers, neighbours….. Individuality is response to and flowers out of relationship and connectedness!
Yet, in the West, we ‘throw into and life from’ a worldview that does not recognise nor value our relatedness – mutually interacting and influencing one another. It does not recognise the impact we make on another. And whilst it speaks about individual rights it does not speak of our responsibilities to one another. The dominant idea is to allow everyone to do his own thing provided he/she does not interfere (actively) with other people and what they are up to. What we are not present to is that we matter to our fellow human beings: what we do or do not do matters - it affects the health, the well being, the happiness of our fellow human beings. Think about the rampant loneliness, the existential angst of leading ‘meaningless’ lives, the boredom that youngsters increasingly experience. How does this show up? Look around you the signs of social decay (ruptured human bonds) are all around us: excessive drinking, drugs, crime, corruption, gated communities, inner cities falling apart……
Are you ready to live from the stand “people matter more than stuff!”?
Is it time to hold a correct view of the world and our being as human beings? Is it time to embrace and live the stand “People matter more that stuff – whatever form that stuff takes and no matter how seductive it is!” ? Whatever you chose, notice that my choice affects you and your choice affects me – we are interdependent.