Welcome to this week’s edition of “Take it In.” Hopefully, the headline for this week really grabbed your attention. The topic has had my attention for years. Relationships are tough. That is pretty common human knowledge. They do not start when we start dating or have our first significant other at 17 or what have you. We are born into relationships. We are born into a family. Ideally, we have a father, mother and maybe some siblings. These relationships are hard enough (family can drive you crazy). The land of relationships get even harder when we enter that all-to-tricky landscape of romance.
Here is the bottomline — relationships are tough because we struggle with self-interests. Theists and naturalists both agree on this premise, granted with very different causes. The fact remains that we are constantly wrestling with what we want versus what we know is right and what is best for others. It is a continuous conflict. You might see this as an issue for individualistic cultures such as our in America, but it is universal in a sense. Even collectivist cultures struggle with doing what is best for their group versus the society as a whole. Rather than an emphasis on the individual self, the focus is on the group the individual is a member of.
The irony in this is that even in a highly individualistic culture like America, relationships are so important to people. A 2018 Pew Research survey found that 69% of surveyed US adults rated family as what provides them with a sense of meaning. Fascinating isn’t it? If close relationships like those with family provide us with so much, why are they still hard?
The self is still the issue. Rather, making yourself the center of everything. I am not talking about self-care or taking time for you, those are healthy and necessary. I am talking about making your needs, desires and impulses the guiding forces of your life. Doing this appears to be the way to personal fulfillment and happiness, but it does the opposite. Doing this makes you even more miserable. In her groundbreaking book, “The Sociopath Next Door,” Dr. Martha Stout goes into the psyche of sociopaths, those with no regard for anyone else and are among the most self-centered. She talks about how meaningless their lives are, how they are constantly seeking that next high or thrill. They are waves bouncing in the ocean.
Taking care of others and loving them to the best of our ability, even when it is hard, provides us with meaning and purpose. Those things are what really satisfy us deep down. I encourage you to start taking some time to spend with loved ones and neighbors. Listen. Rejoice. Mourn. Share. Life will be so much richer and joyful because of it.
“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” ~ Victor Hugo
Image by Susanne Palmer from Pixabay