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Published:March 23rd, 2010 14:53 EST

Relationships (Part One)

By Ignatius Fernandez

 "The only way a relationship will last is, if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give and not as a place that you go to take."   Antony Robbins

What breathing is to life, happy relationships are to living. When breathing stops, life stops. When happy relationships are missing, life loses its meaning. Let me explain myself.

When Jesus walked with man 2000 years ago, he spoke of three loves: 1) love of God 2) love of self 3) love of others. He exhorted us to love God, and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Put differently, he described life as an unending act of love, and relationships, which give meaning to life, as putting love into action - in thought word and deed. Certainly, he meant that life without happy relationships with God, self and neighbors, is a wasted life.

What is a happy relationship? We know what it is from experience, but a description of that ethereal feeling beggars words. A happy relationship is about installing in first place the person we are relating to - spouse, child, parent and others. Would that mean that there would be many firsts in our network of relationships? No. Of course, God will take first place; that is not negotiable. The others follow in the order of importance to our lives - spouse will precede child and so on. The implication is that we are ready to make sacrifices for that person, even sacrifices that hurt, out of genuine love, because sacrifice is the universal language of love.

A happy relationship is about true respect for the other person by being sensitive to his/her values and feelings. And, a happy relationship is a life-time bond which culminates in trust. When trust is built the relationship is at its peak.

Without intending to, we have visited the Golden Rule that Jesus proposed - value others as we value ourselves. That is the Guiding Principle in a peace-filled and joyous life, he declared. Without the Golden Rule there will be strife, he warned. He went on to explain the same idea in different words: "the measure you give will be the measure you get" Mark 4:22. When we love others and are good to them, we receive love and goodness, not necessarily from the people we reach out to, but from others. Love is never wasted. That is the truth. The converse is also true: when we refuse to reach out to others, we are likely to be isolated and lose many gifts that life has to offer us. Happily, other religions - Hindus, Jews, followers of Tao and Confucius - also teach the Golden Rule that Jesus taught. So, Jesus is not alone in giving us the secret to a happy life.

The words of Antony Robbins, appearing at the start of this article, emphasize the need for `giving` and not `taking`, in a relationship. What does he convey? Every person has a network of relationships - many happy, some not-so-happy and a few unhappy ones. Unbending twisted relationships will take much time and great effort. We shall address that problem later. For now, let us look at the not-so-happy relationships. They are crying for attention. They are calling for investment. If attention is not given and investment not made, they too will end as unhappy relationships. How can we prevent that? By  working on them as we do for our happy relationships. We have to go on giving and not taking. And what do we give? OURSELVES. Should we count the cost of giving of our talents, time, effort and acquisitions? The poet gives an answer to that question:
     " `And must I be giving, again and again?` I asked.
       `Oh, no`, said the Angel (his glance pierced me through)
       `Just give till the Master stops giving you` ."   Anon.

How can we grudge giving when we are only trading in gifts that we have received? Nothing really is our own. We came into the world empty-handed. We will leave it empty-handed. What we accumulate in-between will not travel with us when life takes leave of us. They are given to us for a purpose - to reach out in love ; to help those in need of what we have; to build more and more happy relationships.

We cannot beat the logic of Benjamin Franklin who wrote: "When you are good to others, you are best to yourself". This logic goes by another name - `enlightened self-interest`. So, building happy relationships through giving is in our interest.