During class the other day ago a student raised her hand and asked me, "What is the meaning of relationship." My eyes surveyed the room to see if this was a question held by the whole class or just one student. As they all looked to me with expectant eyes, I toggled my brain for a few synonyms and illustrative examples to spark their brains. Moments later I could see the light bulbs going off in their heads and we continued reading the text. However, my brain was still stuck on that question, "What is the meaning of relationship, what is a relationship." The easiest way to approach this question start by giving some definitions to terms.
To be honest I kinda fell on my writing because I haven't had the clarity of mind to organize my thoughts on paper. But here is my latest attempt in a 3 part series on Relationships.
I think overall human or personal relationships describe a connection of varying degrees between people. To further the notion we could examine the word friend. While some use this term in a very trite manner, friends denotes someone that is not only someone you know of, but someone that you know, care for and are therefore committed to. As one my good friends ScholarLee put it, " A true friend is someone you would die for." Consequently, I think it is impossible to have many authentic* friendships. Although, we can have many relationships, friends are hard to come by, and yet it is a precarious task to go about labeling someone a friend. The older I get I realize that time is the only reliable test of genuine friendship.
There are some people that you meet, that you automatically click with that you think you will surely be your BFF (best friend forever). However, time tells us otherwise. There are other people that are on the peripheral, that later take center stage, so its difficult to labels relationships early on.
So for me I think of the good words from the Good Book, "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another." So my conclusion is that I should love each person to the best of my ability. That does not necessarily mean that I am their BFF, but it does imply that I should try to be as good to people for as long as they are in my life, regardless of who they are: the person I pass on the street, the people I see every day and also in my interpersonal relationships.
Now this involves some degree of sacrifice because if my life revolves around me then I am not always mindful of the needs of other people. I'm not just referring to self absorption that borders on narcissism, I am talking about the everyday, unintentional behavior of "good people." Time, money, energy and emotion are the main sacrifices we make in order to be in relationship with other people. The truth is that apart of us has to day in order to truly come into relationship with someone. Marriage relationships and perhaps religious experiences are given a romanticized language of two becoming one, but the reality is that in religious conversation or marriage, there is a death of wills. It is no longer what I will, but rather what we will. We experience this to some degree in our non-romantic relationships as well because we make sacrifices and changes to accommodate the needs of others and thereby end up giving little pieces of ourselves. Hopefully, if the relationships are healthy these additions and subtraction will lead to a net gain. Ideally, we would be in relationship with people that had qualities that we admired and these qualities would somehow end up rubbing off on us ( sanding off the rough edges of our personalities).
Not to sound cliche, but relationships are important not only in terms of what one can gain, but more importantly for what one can give. What I mean by this statement is that it is easy to get trapped in self or in small circles without being aware of the people that are around you everyday. When we take a moment to take inventory, we come to realize that life is bigger than our small circles. The art of maintaining interpersonal relationships provides an opportunity to practice the art of love, patience and sacrifice. Relationships also provide opportunities to be just as equally loved as we can be hurt, just as blissfully surprised as we can be terribly disappointed. Vice-Versa, we have the opportunities through relationships to both love someone and hurt someone, and to blissfully surprise someone or to terribly disappoint them.Through these experience we can come to develop character and discover there are other points of view besides our own.
As I come to understand this Christo-centric view of living, I see giving as central to life. I would even say that our abilities to being effective in relationships, and in life is directly related to our abilities to give. To some people giving is viewed as an innate virtue given to some an not to others. I would counter, that giving is something we all have to cultivate, but it can only come with a realization that all relationships are based on love, and love in deed means sacrifice.