Interconnected Meaning

Meaning is not only in the quantity and quality of our interconnection to each other, but in our appreciation and active participation in those connections. After all, something that we take for granted, as our due or entitlement, has its meaning and value diminished, if not utterly lost.

Which is why we often do not appreciate people or situations or things until we no longer have them and are left with regret instead of meaning.

The closest connection that we have to other people is family – both the one we are born to, the one we are raised in and the one we chose to surround ourselves with.

The secondary connections are to people we are associated owing to situation and circumstances, the neighbours, the classmates, the colleagues at work or volunteer groups, the members of the larger community to the tertiary on-line community.

So the quantity and quality of the interconnections we made through life are very dependent on our experience in the family we are raised in. When our development is supported and safeguarded as opposed to neglected or abused, we can form healthy and secure connections with others.

While  our ability to form connections can be impaired by mistreatment at any age, I believe that our ability to be resilient in the face of adversity is very much determined by our formative years and the quality of the connection or harshness of the disconnects within the family we are reared in – and especially the quality of said rearing.

Much has been made recently of the idea of being a tiger mom, which is essentially an Asian version for academics as being a Stage Mom is to the arts.

Neither allows a child to develop talent or aptitude at their own pace or even as their own interest – but rather both are an authoritarian disciplinarian who seeks to impose achievement on the offspring.

Children naturally look to parent(s) to explain the world, to safeguard them, to teach them how to interact and learn and generally be in the world, but being a parent is an art more than a skill, and it comes down to having been parented in a health manner or developing healthy parenting skills – to know your limits and breed within it, certainly, but also to understand that as a parent, you are the child’s connection to the larger world, but you are not the be all and end all, the sum total of the world.

You and your child are both still learning and exploring – you can share what you have learned, but know that you don’t know everything – except as compared to your child – at least until they are able to interact directly with the larger world and begin to seek out novel experience and expression on their own – as a separate being from yourself.

Balancing your need to protect your child against your child’s need to have a separate identity from you. Being authoritative enough to be a resources, a safety net and allow age appropriate self expression and exploration occur and increase as the child ages.

Parents and children, finding a balance between connection and independence, need not be in conflict at the terrible twos or the teenage years.

Much of that balance is not attempting to control the other or impose or overly assert one’s will or need or inability to accept the changes that come with age – of the offspring or the parent. That is the nature of conflict, but the willingness to work out or around or across differences despite them is the path to harmonious co-existence – be it between parents and children, or nation to nation.

If we can each get our own way some of the time, we tend towards being content to allow others to have it their way some of the time. In this way, we all get at least some needs and interests met – and we develop an understanding of each other, and with enough communication, become as committed to each other interests and success as we are our own.

Thus as a healthy family structure supports the exploratory and belonging needs, so too to people at work develop into teams working for common goals, rather than competitors seeking to win at any cost, which is usually at someone else’s expense. “Me and you” becomes “me at the expense of you.”

So, in a society where the 2 parent family with one parent staying at home is no longer the norm, and both parents working or there being only one working parent – whether children are being effectively reared in a manner that will result in resilient and semi-self-reliant but able to form healthy interconnections to other people, becomes quite a social issue and concern.

But of greater concern is how we conduct the social discussion – after all, what message are the children of gay or single parent(s) supposed to take when the opposite gender 2 parent with one staying at home is touted as the norm or ideal?

I don’t think it is helpful to idealize one type of family structure and demonize all others or create an artificial hierarchy of family structures in descending “best”-ness. The reality and facts on the ground is that a child raised in a caring and supportive manner will learn to thrive regardless of if the parent(s) is single or heterosexual while a child raised by a parent(s) who are authoritarian, unsupportive, abusive or neglectful, given if those parents are opposite gender biological parents.

Everyone needs to think of the children and change the public discussion to making sure children are supported by whatever family they have, instead of tearing their families down and labeling them bad according to the make up of the family rather than the quality of the care provided.

Because these children who are told that their families are inferior, will one day grow up and form families of their own – and the idea that the family that they were raised in and cared for as being lesser than, will undermine their ability to bond and connect with other people – and the debate will result in decreasing the family connections that people form, because they simply will not be able to live up to an ideal and not ever cope with the facts of reality.

Families are family when their interconnection is healthy, not because they are related or conform to a particular hierarchical structure and proper mix of gender – and being validated and reflected in society ensures people are connected to the larger society and can then be productive and healthy members of society.

We do not need to destabilize people because of narrow minded and change resistant thinking.

We need to remember that Mr. Rodger’s never sold his house because of a new neighbour, everyone was welcome in his neighbourhood.

Forgiveness

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

Thomas S. Szasz
Professor of Psychiatry Emeritus
State University of New York Health Science Center

Forgiveness is often associated with religion, worse, of being a wholly religious idea or of religious origin.

Forgiveness is a human quality, not divine, although, it can feel very powerful when forgiveness is freely given – especially unencumbered by expectation or conditions that the other party apologize, change their behaviour or even minimally acknowledge their actions and/or the outcome/impact of their actions upon you.

Forgiveness is difficult, because we often think only in terms of what we cannot forgive – sometimes anticipating, sometimes after the fact. Lines drawn in the sand, lines that cannot be crossed or broken, lines lines lines, in intersecting circles of what’s forgivable and what’s not, often shifting depending upon who crossed them and under what circumstance and with what intention.

Although, we are generally more concerned with how actions impact us rather than what the person’s intention was – we understand the importance of intention, since that’s how we judge ourselves and asked to be judged.

Thus, forgiveness is partly being willing to accept the other person’s intention as more important or rather than the outcome as the determination of the relationship status. Asking and knowing the others intention may well be the first step towards forgiveness; it is the first step to mutual understanding.

That kind of forgiveness is with or under conditions – what if the person who causes you harm denies your reality of the harm and doesn’t claim the responsibility for their intention, action or outcome?

How can you forgive if the person won’t repent, won’t learn, won’t understand, won’t stop.

I think forgiveness is not about the other person or even your relationship with them – forgiveness is about you – what emotional qualities you want to carry, and grudges, even small ones, add up over time even if they are only in your mind and not made tangible by carrying grudge stones.

My spouse introduced me to the concept of grudge stones – in Newfoundland Canada, people carry a small symbolic stone when they carry a grudge, and when they are willing to let go of the grudge, they throw away the stone. The more grudges, the more stones, and they weight you down physically as the grudge weighs you mentally.

So forgiving someone who harms you – even and especially when they continue to do so – is a powerful thing and difficult to achieve – it’s easier to forgive with the passage of time and the ending of the offending behaviour – easier for one or a few instances – difficult for a continuum of never ending offensive behaviours. But at some point, you have to let go of the anger and fear and hatred as being too heavy a burden to carry through life – so if you can accept that you will forgive one day, why not make it sooner than later?

Even so, it was with some astonishment and much inspiration that I learned about the World Without Hate project.

It began with a post 9/11 hate crime and ended – well, part one ended the project continues – with the execution of the shooter but not until one of the surviving victims sought to have the death sentence commuted to life in prison without parole.

Because if we don’t forgive the haters, then they never have a chance to learn that they were wrong and ignorant to hate. They never get a chance to be better and to inspire or encourage others whom they can reach out to before they commit to the hatred and the dependent violence.

Because if we don’t forgive people who cause harm, how can they have the opportunity to redeem themselves instead of going from crime to time, crime to time, crime to time? What incentive, if not to be forgiven and have a chance to prove they have rehabilitated, do they have to change, to learn, to grow as people?

Forgiving is not forgetting, forgiving is just letting go and not carrying their burden of hate and misdeeds for them. Forgiving is handing them back that emotional baggage and letting them make it right – or at least attempting to the upper limit of their ability.

Forgiving is to allow yourself to let go of your hatred and fear of the person who harmed you, to not give them the power or ability to change you for the worst – to take away your trust and faith in humanity, to take away your trust in yourself and your ability to function, to interact and to participate – to connect without reservation to other people – to be able to make distinction and discerning judgments about the quantity and quality of those vital connections to other people without being tainted or undermined by past harms.

Forgiving is about trust – trusting yourself and trusting others – and trust is about certainty and purpose and meaning. Living authentically is to create and determine meaning, and losing trust – especially in yourself – is to lose everything that is dependent upon meaning – it makes no sense to allow others to take and undermine this – forgiveness restores it, because the act of forgiving is an act of meaning, making meaning and making sense of the meaning you must see in the world.

Trust is about expectations, you do not have to suddenly trust that those who have done you harm will cease to do so – especially if they deny your reality. Trust is expecting people to behave as you have observed them to do so – sometimes one person’s best really isn’t good enough – trust people to be consistent, not to be able to hold to a higher or your standard of behaviour, ethics and values.

Often when we feel betrayed or let down by people, it’s because they have done what they could be expected to do based on their behaviour and it’s that they have failed to attain a standard that we imposed on them unrealistically.

Trusting people doesn’t mean being vulnerable or allowing them to continue to harm you, trust just means you anticipate their behaviors based on their past performance and you adjust yourself accordingly. If you know a person can’t keep a secret, don’t share secrets with them. If you know a person can’t maintain self control, don’t rely or depend on them to do so – trust that people will behave in a continuous and consistent manner with past behaviour – no matter what the behaviour was – it will still disappoint you when they continue sub-standard or mediocre conduct, but at least it’s consistent and consistent is easier to cope with – and by changing your response, they may well surprise you with improved conduct.

Forgiving means being the change you want to see in the world, a world with less hate, less violence, less harm, less badness.

So forgive someone every day – and start with yourself – you can only be the best you can in the context and with the information you have and then resolve to do or be better when new information presents or the context changes. But you can only be your best when you forgive yourself and give yourself permission to be, and not carry other people emotional baggage or let them drag you down to their level.

Hold firm to your standards and ethics, forgive yourself when you slip so you can pick yourself up again and be better the next time.