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Published:April 27th, 2010 12:26 EST
Relationships (Part Five)

Relationships (Part Five)

By Ignatius Fernandez

 "Nature has placed mankind under the government of two sovereign masters, Pain and Pleasure. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think."  Jeremy Bentham

We gladly embrace Pleasure, but run away from Pain, although the two are our Masters. We seek out and strengthen a relationship that gives us pleasure and shun one that is abrasive and abusive. It is a natural response.

How then do we explain the case of a mother who forgoes food and sleep to sit by her child in a coma, with little chance of the child recovering? Apparently, she has chosen pain over pleasure. Do her maternal strengths and her special relationship with that child give her pleasure over the pangs of hunger and a sleep-deprived wait? There are many cases of mothers, fathers, children, spouses, friends, employees and ordinary people performing heroic acts of sacrifice for people they love. Seemingly, they choose pain over pleasure, when in truth they find joy in what they do. It is difficult to explain these cases, unless we try to understand `perceptions`. What one perceives as pain, the other imagines is pleasure. That is why Pascal, who has a way with words, writes: The heart has its reasons, which Reason knows not of.

Ultimately, it is a matter of choice - the choice of fostering a relationship that gives us pleasure and the choice of putting life back into a relationship that is dying; the choice of finding pleasure in building bonds with people - not necessarily the agreeable ones. We choose to become attractive in our ways so that they find  pleasure in transacting with us.

That brings us to an unanswered question that appeared in Part One of this series: What do we do with broken bonds? How do we cope with a relationship that causes only pain? In finding an answer to these questions, we cannot ignore the root cause - PRIDE. It is not my fault. I will not apologize. With a stand-off between the parties, the relationship continues in disrepair. Where do we find answers? As always, Jesus provides the answers: If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? ----

If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? But love your enemies, do good----expecting nothing in return. Luke 6:32-35. And to those who persist that they are not in the wrong, Jesus offers advice that should not be ignored: So, when you are offering your gift at the altaryou remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift. Matt.5:23-24. Note that he refers to the brother/sister having something against you, and not you having something against either. He says that reconciliation is above prayer; that forgiveness is greater than sacrifice.

To follow the words of Jesus is not easy. Yet, we must abide by his instructions if we want to change unhappy relationships into lasting and happy ones; if we want to cement broken bonds.
Understanding how difficult it is, Aristotle challenges us to strive for victory: The hardest victory, is victory over self.

NOTE: In the 5 articles, in this series, we have tried to examine some of the basics in building and
maintaining happy relationships. In the next few articles, we shall try to make a few points on Specific Relationships - with God, Self and Others; the three loves that Jesus exhorts us to enrich.

Relationships (Part Four) - The choice rests with us on building or breaking relationships. We cannot absolve ourselves of the consequences that follow the wrong choices we make.

Relationships (Part Three) - In a relationship, communication is important. And in communication, attitude is paramount.

Relationships (Part Two) - My relationships will depend on making myself attractive to others and looking for goodness in them.

Relationships (Part One) - Relationships are about giving, because the measure you give is the measure you will get.