I was sitting in a seminar room one day, attending a workshop, and the facilitator suddenly asked us, “How many of you here have a relationship?” My initial understanding of the question kept my hands down while I saw the other participants’ hands up in the air.
I thought the question meant people who had wives, husbands or were engaged to someone in marriage. It was much later when I realized that, of course, I have a relationship, several in fact. All human beings do. Mankind thrives on relationships. No man is an island.
Yet, why was I so embarrassed to put up my hand? Why did I have such a narrow-minded view of relationships?
Or was I afraid and self-conscious that the participants would get scandalized if a priest had a “relationship?” I felt like a loser for my not raising my hand. In a certain sense, I denied all my existing relationships. I felt I was a traitor to all my good friends. What a pity because God, in His goodness, has given me so many.
A relationship really means love. Relating in love with anyone is, by all means, a meaningful relationship. What makes the relating meaningful? It is the process. A relationship entails an investment. It is the process of investing in another person by doing things for that person’s good without considering self-reward.
Oh no! Now I am back to my original belief that perhaps I do not have a relationship. In all honesty, I cannot think of anyone I relate with that I do not seek some self-reward in any form or manner.
Many times, when we relate with other adults or even with children, we expect them to love us back. When we love God, we expect Him always to be there to help us in every way possible. In fact, in the end, what we really want Him to give us is Heaven, our ultimate reward.
So what is it really? Do we have a relationship or not?
Yes, we do! We try our best. We try. We have a big chunk of God in us. We are capable, after all, of investing in another individual without considering self-reward. It is possible. We manage most of the time.
We sometimes work on the principles of cause and effect. Various events and circumstances affect us, but there are shining, glorious moments when we respond to situations and not just react to them. We do not always work according to the principle that “love begets love.” We are capable of loving amid hostility and opposition for the sake of love itself.
We truly need each other in relationships. If our lives were a piece of fabric, we could not complete even a meter of material without making all these relationships weave into one complete whole. As we go on with life, our fabric becomes richer, and the strength of each strand increases as we connect with more and more individuals who lend their own strength and gift.
I know now that I did not raise my hand to the question about existing relationships also because like many others I do not consider my relationships important enough. Perhaps because, in the back of my mind, I have allowed society’s prescribed programs to rule me.
For instance, I was afraid to come too close to people for a long time. Why? “Familiarity breeds contempt” or the wrong notion that “I can manage on my own just fine, thank you.” As a student, this thought crossed my mind, “Do not get too close to your teachers. If they know too much about you, they might take it against you.” If your classmates notice, they will tease you and call you names like, “sipsip”, “teacher’s pet”, etc. As a struggling young priest trying to get activities organized, one limiting thought was: “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” Occasionally, I still find myself trapped in the way of thinking admonished to me since my youth: “You have to make it on your own” The image of the rugged individualist comes to the fore, and people seem to buy this. “Macho” is always in. But “macho” does not mean being a selfish individualist. The real “macho” is the man who relates gentleness, compassion, and love. I feel that a person’s strengths, character, and individual giftedness shine more as the person grows in his intimate relationships, not when he is alone and building his muscles, psychological or actual.
Leaders around the world are now thinking about empowerment. The concentration of power is now moving from the top to the level of the ordinary working man. Empowerment comes when someone tells another in all sincerity how good and capable he is. Empowerment comes when people make people feel needed, capable, important, and loved.
In gist, that is our covenant with God. If we enjoy a relationship with Him, believing from the start that He loves us immensely, we will truly be empowered by the conviction that God believes in us. He gave us the freedom of choice to love one another or to love only ourselves. The choice is ours. Now, honestly, ask yourself, “Do you have a relationship?” Take it from whatever point of view. If it has love, it is a relationship! Cherish it. Be proud of it. Make it lead you to God–Love Himself.
Jesus Our Light