I must admit: I’ve dealt with relationships badly. This has made me learn things over the years – about people and myself, about how we find our reflections in each other, and how our lives are all shared tangles of red, black, white.
I’ve realized that every soul we meet during our temporary time here on earth is valuable and purposeful and beautiful. And that when we take care of each other and the bonds we form with other human beings,we take care of ourselves as well.
And so here goes, out of everything I’ve learned over the course of my forced mingling with the world, seven relational pitfalls and their antidotes. These are things that I’ve discovered through hard lessons and stories, all of them small letters I write to myself every day to remind me of what it means to be alive in a world shared by us all…
- Accusation vs Accountability — When you find yourself always assuming that others think the worst of you, something is already very wrong. That’s called entertaining accusations—albeit phantom ones. This pitfall creates mountains out of molehills, destroys trust with so little. Suddenly, you’re hitting back without grounds to, you’re defensive without actual reason, and the rest is destructive history.The antidote, of course, is to simply learn how to trust. Find people whose character you admire, and give them the power to hold you accountable to higher standards. Because trust begets trust, and trust is always a builder of relationships.
- Unforgiveness vs Grace — Where bitterness is, bad things follow. Learn to apply grace where it is most needed, not because they deserve it, but because God commands it.
- Competition vs Deference — Stop. Just stop competing with everyone. Stop equating your self-worth with how better you are than everyone else in everything, ever. Stop that tinge of dissatisfaction when you see someone winning who isn’t you.An unhealthy mindset manifests when you think everyone wants to bring you down. This makes you lose out on the opportunities to discover people who will lift you up, even before themselves. Yes, those people do exist. But you won’t find them if you snarl at every single person who’s better than you.Instead, why not believe that you are good in some things, and others are better in certain things? So now, the mindset becomes “How can I partner with those who have strengths that I don’t?”
- Gossip vs Protection — Nothing hurts relationships more effectively than the careless word, thrown out there with no vestige of self-control whatsoever. What you say of others says more about you than about them. I am guilty of this. So is everyone. But being aware of the evils of gossip is a start.Instead, adopt a mind that protects others, no matter what. The self-control and discipline required for such a mindset is already a win in itself.
- Disrespect vs Self-Respect — Speaking of self-control, if you don’t understand how to respect others regardless of any situation, feeling, or personality, then you do not deserve to be called an adult.Respect is mandatory for any mature, functioning adult. If you don’t see all humans as worthy of respect, then deep down, you don’t have respect for yourself either. How you treat the world is a mirror for your innermost values and how you see yourself, after all.
- Condescension vs Compassion — Rooted in insecurity, that need to feel above others, that natural subconscious tendency to look for flaws in everyone else… that’s called condescension. A good analogy for it would be the man who is afraid of failing, and so looks down severely on those who do. We all know that someone who does this. We are that someone, often enough.But cruelty has never, ever, solved a single thing on this earth. Every single person has their own valid flaws, and if you want to fester the wounds in your soul, you’d be pointing those flaws out in everyone out of your own personal failings and insecurities. Do your soul a favor, and don’t be that person. Be compassionate, understanding, forgiving. Both to others, and yourself.
- Disunity vs Maturity — Disunity, that “us versus them” mentality, comes in quite naturally when we, as human beings, feel inclined to believe that we hold the right of way. It’s when two parties collectively gather around each other to prove the other party wrong. Because the point of life is to be right… right? Not really.Disunity is a mark of a poorly-thought-out idea: that being right makes you better than someone who isn’t. That’s hardly the case; that’s never the case as you will never be “right” enough to merit value above another human being.The mark of maturity, on the other hand, is always contemplating the different opinions, thoughts, and ideas that come from others. In many cases, even embracing ideas that prove you wrong, looking for, even craving, ideas that prove you wrong, because growth and learning is the better path. After all, as the saying goes, “When you always have to be right, eventually, you’ll find yourself with nothing and no one left.”
I’m grateful for those who have taught me the meaning of meaningful relationships. I pray you find those people for your life as well, and practice being that person to someone else.