“The one who comes to question himself has cared for mankind” ~ Anonymous
Although we do have an independent existence as original ‘beings’, what we have become today is the product of a long lineage of causes and we are dependent on the net of life within which we evolve and to which we contribute.
We are here today because our parents gave us a body to sit in as well as shelter, food and good advise. They were able to do so because their own parents did the same for – or to – them. We all know that very well although we do not always live up to this wisdom and the daily gossips are full of stories of children who never care for their parents. Everyone knows that.
Many parents justify their lack of satisfaction toward the behaviour of their children by emphasising that they – their children – would not be what they are today if it wasn’t for them – and this is very true. But what is also true, although less acknowledged, is that parents would not be parents without their children. They could not play a role that gives them a raison d’être, a sense of meaning, direction and importance. When children stop playing the game of being children, they often trigger, without meaning it, a crisis of identity and self-worth for their parents.
This one-sided understanding of the dynamics of relationships and life is among the most critical issues motivating the many conflicts that emerge between people.
What we are, the roles we play and the ‘status’ we have been entrusted are all part of a network of relationships. As a teacher, a shopkeeper, a manager, a leader or anything else, your role only exists to the extent others recognise and accept it.
- You play the role of a teacher to the extent some people who you call ‘students’ are interested in listening to what you have to say. Without them, you would not exist as a ‘teacher’. If you value your teaching job, you should be grateful toward them.
- In the area of leadership, you only become a leader when people see you as one and choose to follow you. They do this because they trust you. Without them, you do not exist as a leader. Here again, if your leadership position is of any value to you, you should take good care of the people who ‘make’ it.
At a more personal level, your awareness, what is happening in your mind, is to a great extent a manifestation of your memory that was formed by all the things you have heard, seen and felt throughout your entire life. It is the product of the millions of relationships you experienced as you came in contact with people, things, events, images, music, books, concepts, dreams and ideas; as you were touched by feelings, experiences and ‘emotional happenings’ or through a contact with silence, space and a state of being where time is no more.
Your state of mind today is the product of all those events that still live within your consciousness and form your worldview, your self-image, your life experience. It is the product of relationships.
What happens every time you establish a relationship? You understand. When you understand, you feel empathy, sympathy, compassion – you forgive therefore and free yourself from the useless poison of resentment; you are more inclined to co-operate and care, not because you are a hero or a saint but simply because you become aware, not mentally but through your own feelings, that your well-being depends on the well-being of the other and of the whole.
The consequence of this kind of thinking is that it leads us to respect, honour and take good care of the people, relationships and circumstances upon which we are dependent for our own existence, either this is our physical environment or the people we are connected to.
Just as we know very well that we cannot expect to live happily or long if we do not take good care of our finances, body or environment, we should never forget that we cannot succeed or simply feel well, good or great unless we care for those things, circumstance and people upon which we are dependent – which means everything.
- As a parent, care for your children, not only at the physical level but primarily psychologically and spiritually; provide them with guidance in terms of life skills but give them the acceptance they need, respect their feelings, aspirations and needs; and support them to become who they are, in their own ways;
- As a teacher, celebrate the learning of your students as a gift, something of great value and wonder that needs not be taken for granted; care for them as living seeds, cultivate intelligence and love: long-term memory is in the area of the brain where feelings are. Love supports it; insecurity or fear suppresses it;
- As a leader, a salesman or manager/supervisor, be genuinely concerned by your people. People will want to do their best for you if they see you care about them at least as much as you care about yourself; they will repay you a million of their trust and loyalty.
I have often heard older people, ‘seniors’ or people in position of authority assert that the respect they were entitled to was an unquestionable right. Although it is obvious that experience deserves, for the least, an a priori attentive ear, I have always been wary of this attitude because it is a door wide open on the unchecked growth of unhealthy trends of character – even of abuse. Respect is like everything else: it is something that needs to be earned. It is not to be demanded on the basis of age, experience, position or financial status or anything else than character. And the currency to earn respect is to give it.
Learning, effort and change always conjugate in the first person; but achievements, victory, praise and celebration are plural – they are about ‘us’.
*Ubuntu, wisdom of African tribes