PICTURE TWO CONCENTRIC CIRCLES. They describe respect in our relationships. One fits perfectly within the other. Now think of the area inside the inner circle as representing our ‘politically correct’ “best” behaviour we share with others we don’t know that well. Beyond this, into the area in the annulus i.e. between inner and outer circles, is the zone we go with our family and closest friends—it’s the danger zone relationally.
We often go beyond the respectful inner circle with our families, into the ‘hurt zone,’ simply because we know we can do it and often get away with it. With others we’d be flatly rejected so we don’t go there.
But, the boundaries within the inner circle—where we’re polite basically all the time—impede us. None of us can be pretentious for too long; we all despise such dishonesty. So we can’t wait to get home and ‘be real’ with our family, friends etc.
Now, the relational issues begin when the lines blur. The boundaries beyond the inner circle realistically are not the best to venture into; sharp disrespect just because someone loves us is clearly not on. It’s an abuse of the love in the relationship.
It’s important to realise that whilst we have this arrangement with our closest ones we still need to respect them. And why should we not respect them more than we respect total strangers? Sadly, it’s not as simple as that, is it?
So, we also need to make plenty of room for forgiveness; that is, forgiveness for others close to us who transgress the inner circle boundaries with us, and forgiveness for ourselves when we transgress—for both these events are bound to occur.
We hurt those closest to us most because they are not only our refuge, in a very tangible sort of way, but they also tend to press our emotional buttons too. These together, force conflict, unfortunately. Our loved ones have quirks which we at times find funny, yet at other times these things drive us mad!
Some practical measures to consider:
è Make a covenant to respect all people at all times. This doesn’t mean when we disrespect people we’re going to condemn ourselves; we need to forgive and move on.
è We also promise ourselves we’ll promptly apologise to those we offend through disrespect. Through Spiritual awareness and also autosuggestion, we train ourselves to be sort of hyperaware of times requiring apology.
è Talk about these issues with family—particularly the ones who you have transgressed. Simply acknowledging these issues is a great starting point.
è Try and extend the simplest and most heartfelt respect and kindnesses to your family. They’re the ones left when hangers-on are long gone. And forgiveness discounted, we can’t take back our harsh words. This should motivate us to not say them in the first place as much as we can.
The ‘inner circle’ of respect is a precious place to keep all our relationships. We can only get there and remain there when we put in the time, effort and focus.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.