Our lives are a string of relationships, sometimes completely cut off or so intertwined (and even tightly wound), sometimes in knots, and other times, so loose, they might as well be cut off. Small talk and “kamusta na” are not at all good measures of how involved we are in the relationship—nor in the other person in that relationship. Daily rituals are not proof that a relationship exists.
What matters in relationships is how we are affected by the joys, pains and sorrows of the other person in that relationship or how we empathize—whether it is friendship, marriage or any other close relationship. Relationships that do not really mean that much will enable us to ask, “How are you?” just for the sake of asking, but not getting involved in that person’s life. Perhaps we do care and feel a little of what that person is going through, but we know just how much we are willing to allow this person and the situation he or she is in to affect our lives, and that is definitely not to help fight that person’s war!
What we do and how we react are good indicators of which relationships matter to us, even before we admit our motivations for staying in such relationships. Once we can no longer get what we want or need, a relationship that is not meaningful to us will certainly not get the effort and attention to repair, strengthen or nurture it. If a person did not mean that much to us, we can easily walk away if he or she continues to hurt or “use” us. However, with pressure from society and even our own rationalization, we can make the effort to stay in that relationship (whether as friends or as lovers) but will almost often fail to sustain initial efforts because they come, not from genuine love or affection, but from the rationalization.
When things seem fine and we get no negative reactions, there is a greater tendency for us to relax and bracket off that person again if rationalization is the basis of our efforts to maintain the relationship. But if we genuinely want that person in our lives, there is nothing that could keep us from striving to strengthen and nurture that relationship. And this we are able to do without much effort.
On a grander scale, patriotism or love of country, our relationship with our country is also evident in the way we live and the way we make decisions. If we are able to close our eyes and forget our ties with the multitude of fellow Pinoys—mostly nameless and faceless—and think only of our own interests, we do not really consider our country as important as our own welfare and interest. If we say that this is the country we embrace as our own, we would not steal from it, sell it to people who only want to exploit it and though there are criminals among our kababayans, love of country means eliminating the causes of such criminal behavior, not just killing them off.
In the words of Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh, “When we recognize the violence that has taken root within us, in the everyday we think, speak and act, we can wake up and live in a new way… Shining the light of awareness on the roots of violence within our hearts and thoughts, we can stop the war where it begins, in our minds.”
As regards close relationships, those ties we have to the people we consider dear to us, New York-based psychotherapist, speaker and writer Katherine Schafler in “How to Change Your Life in One Second Flat” in Thrive Global presents four questions she claims we always unconsciously ask each other: Do you see me? Do you care that I’m here? Am I enough for you, or do you need me to be better in some way? Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way that you look at me?
Relationships we consider important in the context of community as wide as the country we profess to love, deserve a second look, an honest evaluation of whether we commit violence against our Lupang Hinirang and these nameless, faceless kababayans by remaining unconcerned, distant and uncaring. And in the context of more intimate relationships (marriage, family, friendships), consciously confronting Schafler’s four questions will tell us which relationships really matter.