The Art of Selfless Caring

Today’s world is full of busy people busily carrying out their business whilst they busily sticky beak on other peoples’ business and get annoyed with anyone who is too busy to care. The interesting anomaly here is that everyone is so busy being busy keeping up appearances, which are more often than not false representations, that they seem to have forgotten how to truly care and get thrown by anyone who is able to do just that.

I am one of those people who doesn’t bother with the energy sapping exercise of busily trying to make everyone happy. I just show people I care about them, respect them, endeavour to communicate productively to resolve issues and provide support, and basically go above and beyond the call of duty with the expectation that I will be treated in a similar way.

Unfortunately, this no-nonsense, get-what-you-give reciprocal attitude to social relationships is precisely why people get annoyed at me because it demands constant maintenance and effort from each party coupled with honestly and a willingness to understand and accept people for who they are, not what we want them to be.

I am consistently finding that values such as respect, selflessness, loyalty, and compassion, along with the ability to positively communicate this through our words and actions are becoming increasingly rare.

In today’s modern society we are constantly being told to look after ourselves first, to not tolerate any kind of violation of our morals, values, or ethics, to stand up for ourselves, to forge ahead to achieve our aspirations, that we owe nothing to others. The advent of social media, particularly facebook, and cut-throat workplace attitudes born from a struggling economy certainly don’t help matters. Facebook friends are constantly being added or deleted with little or no regard that there is another person on the other side of the internet. Contacts are added on social networking sites such as linkedin, google+, twitter, myspace, netlog, regardless of who they are, where they are, or if you even talk to the person anymore let alone know who they are. Friendship and collegial civility has become a disposable commodity with people busily bouncing between people searching for the best bargain with complete disregard of the aftermath they leave behind.

I thought I was one of the lucky ones to escape the rampant overuse disrespectful, elitist, people-are-disposable attitudes nurtured by the whimsical internet generation. I was wrong.

I recently had a traumatising experience of two very old and valued friends abruptly deleting me off all media, blocking me from web or phone contact, even going so far as to completely ignore me knocking on their door when at home, simply because of a difference in opinion resulting in a breakdown of respectful behaviour. Coming from the viewpoint that our friends are not our clones, our opinions and experiences are equally valuable as that of another, and communication of issues is the cornerstone of understanding, I noted the negative impact of their behaviour on myself and subsequently our relationship, and requested the issues be communicated about to gain a resolution. Apparently this is not the done thing nowadays. My experiences were invalidated, my personal qualities attacked, I was told to talk to someone who cares as my experiences as a result of their actions were not their problem as they did not owe me anything.

This experience, unfortunately, is an all too common occurrence for many people. The current state of humanity is quite disheartening; I mean, why bother at all?

Whilst I would agree, no one person ever has the right to demand time or resources of any kind from another, I do however consider that everyone has the right to be treated with respect and compassion at a minimum. After all, we are all different but that doesn’t make one person more right or just than another! The concept that one only has to respect and care for another until they are no longer of use to the person or until it is clear we are unable to mould them to our own image is a terrifying thought. And it’s a perception that only seems to be becoming more prolific; if I had a dollar every time someone told me to get new friends (a 6 month turnover appears to be the norm) I would be a millionaire retired in Figi by now.

The old saying “treat people as you want to be treated” has never been more accurate as it succinctly summarises the fact that in order to keep and grow our relationships we need to respect people and demonstrate compassion and care.

But how does one do this in a busy world? More importantly, how does one care without accidentally offending someone?

Basically, a respectful relationship is like a cake. All of the below ingredients are needed for it to be prepared quickly and to taste right;

  1. Understand that the other person is not your clone. They will think differently from you, have different opinions, do things differently, talk differently, and behave differently, simply because they are different. Understanding this doesn’t mean we have to like the differences, merely acknowledge them and work with them.
  2. Do not try to change the other person. Have you ever had someone try to force you to do what they do, like what they like, talk like they talk? Annoying isn’t it? No one wants to be forced to be someone they are not, and the hard reality is that the more you force someone to change the more that person will rebel against it. And anyway, how boring would life be if you were surrounded by clones of yourself anyway?
  3. Only offer advice when it’s asked for. Hands up who has just wanted to vent only to have their friend or partner instantly provide a laundry list of steps to fix the problem? … Yes, I thought so. Now hands up who hated that?
  4. Actively listen. This is particularly related to the previous point; to understand another person we need to actually stop talking and use our ears, actively engage in what the other person is telling us. The beauty of just listening is that we not only show we care but we can also help more effectively if we accurately know what is going on for the other person, and with ourselves.
  5. Communicate. I know this sounds like a cliché. Everyone says the key to a good relationship of any kind is communication. But actually, they are right. People aren’t mind readers and it doesn’t take a long, intense, deep-and-meaningful to air concerns or gain an understanding of another. In fact, the more you progressively communicate with another person the less likely it is that grievances will fester into resentment which can ultimately break people apart, as you will both be able to work on the issues collaboratively to each parties satisfaction when they are small and manageable, rather than when they have become great hulking monstrosities.

So go forth humanity and bake that cake of respect! Learn again how to care for another selflessly and with compassion. For what you give is what you shall get back and I for one like the look of a world where everyone is a little less busy and spends a little more time treating people as people.

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