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Struggle, service, courage and sacrifice

Date
A worthy act ... giving love

A worthy act ... giving love

“Struggle, service, courage and sacrifice,” are the values of Easter according to the spiritual leader of Australia’s 3.5 million Anglicans, Phillip Aspinall.

These are wise words. As such, their relevance is broad. Just as they apply to believers, they apply to congregants of a broader human church. Anyone who’s in a relationship should heed these ideas.

But it’s far easier to be lazy selfish, and cowardly and to take rather than give. It’s easier to be a sinner than a saint. Hence, unhappy hearts, unsatisfied bodies and unfulfilled promises profligate.

Why? Why is it so hard to be good and so straightforward? Can we blame the age we live in? The company we keep? Can we peg the fault on our biology; does science offer any answers?

According to behavioural scientists, because we evolved with a focus on immediate returns, “any behaviour that is not instantly rewarding is aversive.” This goes some way towards explaining why your spouse might prefer playing video games to having a long discussion about how you feel, even if that wasn’t how they were in the youth of your love.

Back then, it was clear; a little talking and listening now will result in intimacy and closeness shortly after. One togetherness is "assured" – i.e. you’re hitched, or you’ve been together forever, you’ve bought a house together, etc – it’s easy to become complacent. You’ve already arrived at planet perfect - goes the thinking - so there’s no need to try anymore.

Except we know there is. Sometimes it is a struggle. But struggles make you stronger. Whether you’re struggling to overcome a gnawing self-doubt, eating away at your willingness to keep approaching people who might just be the love of your life, or struggling to balance the demands of children, work and that thing you used to call romance.

Of course, conquerors need courage. Though courage may seem to come more readily to some, courage may be grasped by anyone who wants it, badly enough. Clinical research has demonstrated that “all people are capable of courageous acts in certain circumstances, even the most fearful of all of us”.

Yet courage isn’t a quality we revere quite as obviously as perhaps we once did. The people who dominated our folk lore in days long gone were notorious villains or heroic champions of the people. Our popular stage is a far more crowded space now. The people we see up there aren’t all exemplars of humanities star qualities.

So how do we ‘do’ courage today? How can we be courageous in our love lives? Rather, how can we be courageous without the boozy Dutch crutch?

Frankly, there’s little else in life that takes as much courage as love itself. True love is a great and terrible thing. It requires the prostration of one’s naked self at someone else’s feet – a terrifying prospect, literally or metaphorically speaking.

Love is splendid but love is scary. You must trust someone completely before you can love them. And you must first trust yourself. That is an act that calls for great courage – often we are most afraid of the things woven within the very fibre of our being.

Love also requires a great giving. There is a giving of self; a giving of time, of emotional energy, mental focus, money, feeling, and more. This is where the quality of service comes in. The action of helping or doing work for someone, service may be born of kindness or duty or any other noble thing. This is the kind of service we should incorporate into our relationships, especially the ones we share with those who are most dear to us.

This is a service untarnished by the expectation of reciprocity, or that glory shall be shovelled on the giver and their name remembered forevermore. To wit, you don’t serve the greatest love of your life by taking out the garbage once because it’s ‘your’ job. You serve them by doing it anyway because you can, and because it’s kind, and because their life may be easier for it.

Though it’s true; good deeds deserve thanks. It is important to give genuine thanks for the people you love in your life. They may be gone at any minute; a fact that’s easy to forget. Hence we should make the effort to appreciate the things they do for us and what we share with them, as regularly as we may get frustrated by them, or angry about things they do. Here we find the value of sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of one’s ego that makes true thanks possible.

At least, that’s what I think anyway.

How about you? This Easter, as you digest buns and eggs and fine wine (as I intend to), why not also masticate over the values we talked about here. “Struggle, service, courage and sacrifice” – are they really core features of a successful relationship? Do you display these qualities? Does our modern world? Why, why not?

kfeeney@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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42 comments so far

  • "You must TRUST someone completely before you can LOVE them."

    This is one of the great fallacies in our society and it can cause great hurt.
    I am living with a recovering gambler and work with other people in a similar situation. Trusting a gambler or any other addict is doomed to failure and heartbreak.
    It is possible to love someone but not trust them.
    It is a fantasy to trust someone else who has different priorities to you - and everyone including your kids, parents and partners will at some point have goals that differ from your own.

    Commenter
    The Trust fallacy
    Date and time
    March 29, 2013, 9:01AM
    • @ The Trust fallacy

      Your observations appear to reflect belief, hurt, and an awakening.

      Kate's 'blog' today fails to acknowledge that values are subjective.

      The values espoused by the Christian church as human ideals reflect more the ambitions of the church leaders than people in general. Then, there is the incongruity that Christian values spring from the church aspirations, and sometimes these are quite different to the values adopted by other non-Christian religions.

      Kate has also embraced the Western normative approach that values are but duopololised options. Either, we are giving or selfish, courageous or cowardly, kind or inconsiderate, etc.

      Simply, we gain our values from our parents and the community within which we develop / live, and alter these according to our own experiences. The church MAY have an input, but not necessarily so.

      We humans are 'blessed' with a thinking, rationalising, emoting, loving (etc) capacity. We are also burdened by the seven deadly sins.

      How we co-ordinate the balance between 'good' and 'bad' tends to reflect the values we each hold, our personal experiences (including hurts), our aspirations, our wants, and our inner desires.

      I suggest the Western Christian church has adopted an incorrigible stance, and the 'values' it expounds tend to cause more harm than good. Why, because it places the values as set in concrete when in fact they are not.

      - - -

      Kate, you ask...

      “Struggle, service, courage and sacrifice” – are they really core features of a successful relationship?

      Only if you want your world so constructed.

      Others will identify differing values that hold greater appeal to them.

      'Life' is personal - many will have attributes in common, but not all.

      Cheers

      Commenter
      Dalliance
      Date and time
      March 29, 2013, 12:05PM
    • "Simply, we gain our values from our parents and the community within which we develop / live, and alter these according to our own experiences".

      So Dalliance, if there's no real right or wrong then what the Nazis did was OK?

      And Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot were just misunderstood?

      Commenter
      Trust me
      Date and time
      March 29, 2013, 2:17PM
    • @ Dalliance:

      re: "duopololised options" eg: "giving or selfish", "kind or inconsiderate" etc.

      Of course no-one is all one or the other. Sometimes we give, sometimes we are selfish. Sometimes we are kind and sometimes we are inconsiderate. However, no-one would argue that a mostly giving, kind and considerate person is a lot easier and more pleasant to live with than a generally selfish and inconsiderate person. Therefore, if one wants a happy, harmonious relationship, it's a good idea for both partners to work on developing those positive and harmony-promoting qualities and to work on reducing or minimizing the negative, harmony-destroying ones.

      Commenter
      MO4
      Date and time
      March 29, 2013, 3:48PM
    • @trust fallacy - why can't you trust a gambler in a way that doesn't lead to failure and heartache? I have always found that people with obvious character traits are the most trustworthy, depending on others not wanting to own that heartache and failure for their own ends. I could never be trusted to not act in a way that would make Greg Brady (or Phillips Aspinal) tut and look down their boring nose at me, neither could the LoML. I could however trust that if I were that person, the LoML would get bored with me pretty quickly (as would I). It seems that trust in the sense above means more along the lines of a personality that would never rock the boat, the HMAS Self-Interest on its long journey to Appropriateville nor would they dare ask of the modern auto-sexual more than they are comfortable giving on this long trip. There have been times where the LoML has had such issue with compulsive lying that I couldn't believe anything she said, not even 'hello' and there have been times where it was true of me to say that one drink was one too many and a hundred wasn't nearly enough, but this doesn't mean we don't trust each other. to be the completion of each other, to be each other's soul-mate, to keep each other in check and away from people who would be so self-interested and boring as to use this against each other in some romantic score board (bored). How convenient it must be in a relationship where the points of the post-relationship break up have already been counted and won, but isn't that the goal of romance nowdays? .

      Commenter
      Michael D
      Location
      Scarborough, Qld.
      Date and time
      March 29, 2013, 5:57PM
    • Dalliance, it being Easter and all, and consideration of significance I suppose we’re allowed.
      (Some rubbish God and the bible, but for those who don’t)
      The religions are pretty mixed up, some adopt what suits them. A couple of the mainstreams are there. And those preach the old testament. .Those of that time needed a strict law. Interpretation and variance was beyond common understanding. (They spent too much time with goats, not enough in school) Those laws were passed down by God and set in stone. (Apparently Mosses found them when he went walkabout. His eureka moment). A few churches still hold the fire and brimstone doctrine, Achieve the humanly impossible or you will burn in hell.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Date and time
      March 29, 2013, 6:26PM
    • Skipping the drama, there one day was Jesus. Apart from upsetting those in purple costume, he was to be the teacher sent by God. By this time people were more educated, clued up. (Less goats, more school) They could understand stuff. Skipping again the why’s and wherefores, with his coming the old testament was superseded. He said so. (Was good choice, had better stories) The old is still a good story, worth a read, but the laws changed a wee bit. Had to because there’d be a hell of a lot of burning people and heaven would be empty. Skipping still further, because human is a fallacy, humans can’t do the humanly impossible, and God wanted at least a few people to justify heaven being made, Jesus did the Easter thing. Saved a queue up if he did it for us. So he did. Realizing there wouldn’t be a queue unless forgiveness was allowed, that was an option. And it all came together quite nicely. Try to be good and you can just go in.

      So the Christian not shortened is Christ within. And like, the old testament fire and brimstone out. (Had to. No Easter. No eggs. No bunnies. How bad would that be)
      Being Easter Jesus is no longer on the cross. He arose and lives within. (Ok, some churches still have him on the cross. Can’t win them all.
      Western and any other compass signifies little. It’s the era the church wishes to adopt. The new or old.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Date and time
      March 29, 2013, 6:35PM
    • Michael D, first what does trust mean?

      Does it mean that the other person shares the same goals and personal values as you do?
      For example - I trust my best friend (not to sleep with my husband)
      If the best friend values monogamy as highly as you do then you can trust her. If she doesn't value monogamy then you may be asking for trouble.
      Another example - I trust my housemates (not to run off with the furniture/jewellery etc. while I am away on holidays). If they are kleptomanics and probably haven't told you this fact they may not value you furniture/jewellery in the same way you do.

      Regarding the gambler: I used to write out cheques to him (before I discovered the problem) to cover the rent and household bills only to one day find us getting evicted for non-payment, and the phone and the electricity kept getting cut off. NEVER ever trust a gambler with money.

      BTW - this gambler is now the treasurer of one of the Rotary chapters in Sydney.

      Commenter
      The Trust fallacy
      Date and time
      March 30, 2013, 1:58PM
    • @dalliance….Its an Interesting topic….from your response it sounds as though “life is personal” would indicate a bias to liberalism/individualism….conflict is caused by conflicting values and the most common conflict is caused by differing views on individuality vs collectivism; competition vs cooperation; progressivism vs conservatism. The media has a responsibility because it broadcasts a message and influences the community. So the question is a little larger than just one person. The Leadership values will influence the community , regardless of the leaders/media’s intent. What values should the leader’s/media’s message convey so that any influence it has over the community has a positive impact on the growth of the community?
      Many in politics speculate that the fabric of our society should be constructed from a foundation of self interest, as opposed to servitude. Psychologists indicate that we can not assist another to build strong self esteem unless we first build strong self esteem in ourselves. The answer does not lie at any one polarity.

      Commenter
      swinging voter
      Date and time
      March 31, 2013, 10:56AM
  • Strong, healthy relationships often times require partners to suspend their immediate needs in an effort to at least meet each other half way, especially when times are tough. Only then can they be in a position to find creative means to ensure that choices are made for the betterment of the two. If both come to the table with honesty and a servant's heart, sacrifices may be minimal. If not, the stakes can be high as both struggle to find validation and the kind of support they seek from one another. Maintaining a sense of balance then requires a great deal of integrity, creativity, and commitment to the relationship. Unfortunately, in today's world, many people lack the tenacity and communication skills needed to stay the course and work things out in a mature and loving manner, even if it means that the relationship comes to an end. Better to end amicably than with great animosity.

    Commenter
    all heart
    Date and time
    March 29, 2013, 9:06AM

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