Relationships: Independent, Dependent and Contributive

Our environment reflects our inner state of life. Everyone exists in relationship. Our relationships serve as a mirror for our life, and an opportunity for transformation and healing. Through developing fulfilling and enduring relationships our well-being, health, and happiness will be greatly improved.

The Chinese character for “person” (ren) shows two people leaning on each other. Some consider it one of the most important words in Chinese thought. The character for the quality of “humanity” (ren) is made of the characters for “person” and “the number two,” meaning two people who face each other, two people communicating, two people who love each other. In other words, there is no such thing as an isolated individual.

Each of us is linked together into a single living entity, and those links are not limited to the human world. They extend to the natural world and the cosmos, and all existence as one organic whole.

Buddhism regards the relations and mutual interdependence of things and human beings as more important than the individual view of their existence. This view is linked to the teaching of dependent origination.

This perspective begins with treasuring our own life, then the individuals around us, finally extending outward to encompass all people. This is not to be viewed linearly, however. Treasuring ourselves exist simultaneously with treasuring the people and environment around us.

Developing fulfilling relationships begins with accepting full responsibility for our life and our role in developing relationships with other people and the natural world. To heal our life we engage in the world around us. We work for the happiness of others, with the awareness that supporting others contributes to our own happiness and well-being. When we forget this, our efforts to support others can have us begrudging our own life.

Sufferings can arise from “looking outside of oneself” for the cause or the solution to problems. Through our day-to-day efforts, we come to see that the relationships we have formed are a reflection of our own state of life.

Erroneous beliefs about our self and others, which lead to suffering, can often be traced to what Buddhism calls the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness. In particular, anger, compounded of equal measures of arrogance and self-centeredness, is destructive to relationships. Anger can lead to strife and conflict—internally, among people, groups, nations, and the natural world.

It is important that when we look at the condition of anger and arrogance that we do not judge either our self or others for experiencing these thoughts.

We all have an innate desire to make a difference and end suffering in the world. Anger often arises from a sense of helplessness at our being able to do away with this suffering. Through our compassionate actions, we encourage hope in our self and others. Compassion suggests that we not judge anyone. Rather, we look to GIVING COURAGE to possibility and progress.

Three kinds of relationships:

The stand-alone self, we are in control. The strong, confident self, however, can easily become arrogant and isolated. The arrogant person will be unable to sustain fulfilling relationships.

People give respect and love, but not freely; strings are attached. Your happiness is dependent upon another’s behavior—upon his or her validation or your worthiness of being loved. Depending upon another to validate that we are worthy of love gives that person control over our emotions and self-esteem. We have given up our power.

We work to develop a strong self-identity and the ability to be happy inwardly. Standing upon the firm foundation of our own happiness, we can then nurture contributive, giving relationships, relationships in which we give our love freely without attachments and expectations. We are not needy of others. Nor are we addicted to the other.

It is not as though we first develop this strong self before contributing to others. We take on-going action to bring forth this life condition through engaging in compassionate practice—compassion for our self and others.

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