Adrienne Rich once said, "We need to cultivate honorable relationships —relationships forged out of truth, respect and integrity." But we have to ask, how do we get there? Especially today when we are living in a cultural and political moment that has set the bar to an unbelievably low level. We have lost sight of what it means to cultivate meaningful relationships. We need to work on relearning what it truly means to treat one another in an honorable manner.
The truth of this is easily supported by simply paying attention to the political rhetoric of the day, the way in which talk shows depict a lack of respect and civility for folks who dare try to share a complete and coherent thought and in the ways we talk to one another on social media. How do we rediscover what it means to really love one another and how to be loved.
Love has been turned into simply another aspect of our capitalist-based society that makes everything a commodity to be priced at whatever the market will bear. We move along with whomever or whatever we have purchased until boredom or plain disinterest forces us on to another purchase. It does not matter because when we are buying and selling disposable products all of the time, which supports our notion of a throwaway society, human relationships tend to be treated in the same manner. We have grown accustom to impermanence, and our cultural norms reflect that fact in most aspects of our lives. This is especially true in the arena of relationships.
We have just celebrated Feb. 14, where more overt expressions of "love" are made than at any other time of the year. Of course many of those expressions were quite authentic and the result of folks who have worked at establishing relationships rooted in truth, respect and integrity, but many are not. The fact that we have about a 42 percent divorce rate; nearly a third of American women experiencing partner-related violence and one-in-three adult Americans owning guns says something about the way we see one another and engage each other.
But this discussion is about all types of relationships and not just romantic ones. The truth of the matter remains, we have lost sight of some of the basic necessities that have to be included if human beings are going to connect with one another in ways that will build authentic relationships and community.
As long as we approach relationship building as if it is merely a business transaction or a game and refuse to take note of the particular aspects of human behavior that are required when we begin to reach out to another person, we will stay polarized.
We can build honorable relationships across the capitalist divide that has been constructed when we take the time to pay attention to what is happening. After realizing our intention to do so, it takes calling upon our internal reservoir of courage and faith to step into a different arena because there will be many challenges to face. It is often difficult to find others on a similar path.
Too much of our interaction with one another is rooted in playing a game and seeing who can win. But in cases where the deep agape love that gets beyond simply being concerned about itself is allowed into the equation, authentic relationship becomes possible. Then we see the results as we watch others who share them and we enjoy this type of relationship ourselves.
These relationships reflect integrity, truth and respect. They are not based upon what one person can get by way of material gain or status from another person. In this type of relationship the overriding concern is for the welfare of the person who is the friend or companion. Agape love makes honorable relationships possible.
This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.