June 9th, 2010 18:51 EST
Relationships (Part ten)
Do not try to go to God alone. If you do, He will certainly ask you an embarrassing question: where are your brothers and sisters? French poet Charles Pegui.
The French poet leaves us no option - we go with others or not at all - when we meet God face to face.
His logic flows from the premise: when we accept the Fatherhood of God, we must accept the brotherhood of man.
This is the last article in the series on relationships. In parts 1-5, some of the basics that impinge our relationships were studied. In part 6, those basics were summarized. At the start of the series, I referred to three main relationships that Jesus spoke of: 1) with God (Part 7), 2) with self (Part 8) and 3) with others. The relationship with others is segmented into relationship with: a) the spouse (Part 9), b) children, c) parents, d) siblings and the rest of the family, e) the work place and f) friends. In a separate 5 part series, when I started writing for this site, I addressed the subject of Training Children. Therefore, I shall not repeat points from that series. Readers who would be interested could visit those articles. Briefly, I shall attempt c, d, e, and f.
Before I take up the remaining relationships, let me stress a cardinal point that affects all relationships:
Starting and sustaining relationships is not something that we do for others. It is something that we do for ourselves. When we learn to manage our thoughts and behavior, we gain; others gain through our changed disposition.
c) Parents: They play the most important role in the formation of children. They pay for, and closely oversee the health, education, entertainment, mental and physical growth of their children. The benefit to children is immeasurable. But many children, when they are grown in years, forget all that parents did for them and grudge helping old parents. What grown children do not realize is that their own children, who watch how their grandparents are treated, may not have much better to offer, when it their turn to provide support. The Hebrew version of the Commandment on parents reads: Honor your father and mother, in order that your days may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord, your God, gives you. This is the only commandment that carries a promise; the other nine just state the command. It is an indication of the importance that God Himself gives the parent-child relationship. Often, the advancing years and failing health of old parents become the very reasons for the scant respect that grown children show them. They are vexed with the tardy movements of the old people; impatient with their slow responses; and angered by opinions that are at variance with theirs. Pained, the old people pass from sturdy independence, they once enjoyed, to crippling dependence, before they die heartbroken. Would that children recognize the harm they inflict on caring parents through their uncaring ways!
d) Siblings and the rest of the family: The axiom - unity is strength - is best understood in the context of the family. In families where the siblings are united, external forces cannot separate them. But when disunity savages their relationships, vested interests manipulate them. In such broken homes, envy and jealousy are cardinal sins. One is envious of the success of another and tries to malign or pull down the rising star. Sadly, in such families even understanding and sympathy for the one in trouble, are missing. In a way, parents are to blame for not inculcating in the children a strong sense of family oneness. Unless parents teach children to forgive and seek forgiveness, forget hurts and discuss differences, the family will split.
e) Work place: The contagion in the work place which kills relationships is caused by a virus known as `winning`. Losing is not an option. Right from the Chairman to the doorman, everyone in the Corporation is indoctrinated with the winning creed: In a dog fight, it is not the size of the dog, but the size of the fight in the dog, that matters. This provocative creed causes havoc even among friends. Winning. per se, is not the malady; but the means adopted to win. That wrenches people apart. Controversy leads to conflict which results in carnage. If only we understood that the boss or peer, junior or external contacts like customers, suppliers, bankers and others, are all customers, whom we should serve gladly, areas of friction would be reduced. We would unerringly use the approach advocated by Saint Ignatius of Loyola:
Enter through their door to leave through yours. By listening, understanding, praising and sincerely caring for each customer in our network, we would transform a state of warfare into well being.
f) Friends: Albert Camus has words of wisdom for those who wish to protect friendships: Don`t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don`t walk behind me, I may not want to lead. Walk beside me and be my friend. What a friend needs is that his space is respected; he is not owned, but free. It is best that we do not impose our thinking on an unsuspecting friend. Overbearing attitudes crush promising friendships and familiarity (which is taking the other for granted) is slow poison.
I shall close this series with suitable words from Sydney Smith: Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love and be loved is the greatest happiness of existence.