Relationships are essential to human living. We find (or inherit) people who become close to us. We care for one another, work to develop trust, and grow through the values of community. But there is one cancer that threatens it all. Selfishness.
When relationship is at its worst this is what it boils down to: each party trying to get their own way, using the other(s) as a means to that end.
Relationships too often devolve into keeping score. How much of my wants are fulfilled versus how much of yours I perceive to be fulfilled. The whole game is about me getting what I want. We learn to put up with someone else, but only to justify us fulfilling our own desires in due time.
The cancer of competition destroys relationship from the inside out. Day after day, we are trying to manipulate our relationships to get the most for ourselves. Our partners in relationship become a weird hybrid of adversary and wingman. Life becomes a passive-aggressive wrestling match. We give only what is necessary to receive everything we want.
A Lack of Humility
The true value of relationship is found in unity. Seeking something greater than any one of us requires true togetherness. It requires sacrifice, care for one another – the kind of care that costs something.
We say we have this kind of care for others, but often we don’t. We pretend, so that we can get our due. The character of our relationships does not point towards genuine unity. It is a façade we put on, a superficial layer that allows us to get away with our true pursuit – selfishness.
Unity does not mean we all want the same thing. And of course, it is perfectly valid for each of us to express and pursue the things we care about. Neither party should apologize or keep quiet about their personal interests. Nor do all members have to be interested in all the interests held by other members.
What is missing from families and relationships is the humility to understand and appreciate the needs and desires of others. And that those desires are just as valuable as our own. It doesn’t matter if we don’t hold the same desires, as long as we are trying to understand one another, to live in harmony, and share a sense of growth and togetherness.
Unity is about finding the values that define the relationship and fighting for those. We are a competitive species, who desire a good fight. We long for a quest, a treasure, a passion to pursue. Great relationships can name the very depths of these values and chase after them together, as true teammates.
Pursuing our dreams is a process designed for “We” not just “Me”. Desiring and pursuing what you want isn’t selfishness. Selfishness is pursuing and desiring what you want over and against the good of the community. And since what all of us want more than anything is the love and belonging that comes through true relationship, selfishness is a foolish and ironic endeavor.
Our relationships need a recalibration. They need a reminder that it is not about ME. It is about WE.