Tag Archives: care

Care and Respect

Relationship is not a status update on facebook. It’s not a thing we make once, and can then take for granted. Whether we’re thinking in terms of inter-human relationships, our connections with places, creatures or groups, relationship is something we do, moment to moment. It’s not enough just to label it and assume it will conform to that shape.

Good relationship, as best I can make out, is shaped by two things – care, and respect. Everything that happens within a good relationship is underpinned by these two concepts, or comes as an expression of them. How we express care and respect defines our relationships. There are many different way of manifesting these critical sentiments – with words, actions, in tone of voice, in body language… we can speak of care and respect with our whole selves, or we can fall short. If we lose tempers, shout, blame, use, force, deride or otherwise put down, we are failing. Once we go down that route with a connection, it ceases to be good and honourable relationship. Once mistakes are made, it’s not easy to rectify them – not impossible, but that calls for courage and a willingness to relinquish pride.

One of the features of bad relationship, so far as I have seen, is that a person who is not demonstrating care and respect will always have justification for doing so. If you find yourself in this situation, look hard at your reasons and at yourself. What do you want to achieve? If the answer is anything other than equitable relationship, then there are serious questions of honour to consider. If the relationship is broken such that care and respect for the other are beyond you, is revenge or point scoring appropriate? It can be appealing, but this is not a response that encourages peace or brings honour.

If a relationship is broken beyond any scope for care and respect, the honourable thing to do is acknowledge it as such and move away. If a person behaves with carelessness, malice or disrespect such that holding a peaceable line of care and respect becomes impossible, moving away is essential. Some people mistake peacefulness for weakness, and service for willing slavery. No matter what the named relationship, we do not owe care and respect where none is given in return.

No relationship runs smoothly all the time. We all have our moments. However, a relationship underpinned by care and respect will endure, even if those in it flail and struggle. Where care and respect are absent, there is no true relationship. There may be the illusion of connection, there may be some possessive word to hold people in place, but there is no real relationship. There may be use, convenience, power trip and trophyism, but there is nothing honourable.

If what you see does not look like care and respect, then it probably isn’t. Speak clearly about the ways in which you need to be treated to feel cared for and respected – we’re all different and it’s always worth having a go. Care should always be on the terms of the person receiving it. If it is in any way unwelcome, forced, or wrongly shaped, then no matter what the professed intent it is not true care, and not true relationship.

When these two essential things are present in a relationship, there is strength, scope for profound trust, plenty of room for love to flourish and for all involved to benefit in many ways. We are nourished by such relationships. We grow in them, find joy and security as a consequence of them. They are one of the greatest blessings available to a person – to all people. Manifesting care and respect in all things takes effort and attention. It will often call on us for generosity, patience, kindness, understanding, willingness to listen, empathy, but we will find those returned to us as we come to need them ourselves. Consciously building honourable relationship with others is an act of beauty and spirit.

Help!

Being a good natured, well meaning chap, James likes to be helpful. We’ve had a fair few interesting discussions around this, as he’s learned about the issue. Like most children, James started out with play helping – and frequently that’s entirely unhelpful. I wondered about letting him do that, but opted to very gently suggest that helping in an actually helpful way would be more use. He turned out to be totally open to this. Since then he’s become really good at responding to requests for help, and asking what help is needed rather than assuming he knows.

It’s very easy, when trying to help, to end up swamping, disempowering or depressing the person you meant to assist. It’s an easy time to accidentally patronise, or make the recipient feel that they’re not doing well enough as it is. “Is there anything I can do to help?” is much better than “Let me do that for you.” Or worse yet, “I can do that properly.” How we offer help shows our respect, or lack thereof for people.

If a person needs help because they are in difficulty, it means pretty much by definition that they have lost control of something. That might be through ill health, misfortune, injury, job loss, or any number of small or vast setbacks. The one thing a person in crisis needs more than anything else, is not to lose more autonomy. Genuine help means not taking more power from that person. It’s always easier to see the solutions to other people’s problems than our own, but rushing in with too much enthusiasm can do more harm than good. ‘Help’ that denies a person choices, or disempowers them in any way, is not useful.

If you want to help, with anything or anyone, then begin by asking what you can do. Don’t assume you know what they need, or even that you know what the problem is without checking. Ask what the other person needs, how you can support them, what they would like. Be willing to listen. Unless they are in a coma or otherwise totally unable to act on their own behalf, don’t act for them without consent, that can add to distress. Give a distressed person as much time as you can to speak for themselves and make their own choices. It’s not just a matter of fixing whatever the short term issues are, consider their longer term needs, dignity and sense of self.

If we rush in too fast, we can cause more harm than good. It’s so easy to railroad a person who is already in distress. The loss of control that goes with crisis creates fear, anxiety, and can make a person feel they do not know how to cope. Coming in and rushing someone can increase the feeling of lost control and make it harder for them to make good choices. To give true aid, it must be offered on the terms of the one who needs it, not on the terms of the ‘helper’ or what we do can easily make a bad situation worse.