Monday, March 18, 2013


For the last few months, as a steady stream of young people flows through our house to meet the social needs of one of our children, I've been noticing how some of them interact - specifically, how some of them treat each other.

Or rather, I should say, how they mistreat each other.

Maybe I missed the memo permitting friends to disrespect each other, call each other unspeakable names, strike each other, and use each other (and use their friends' parents) to "have fun". 

On the other hand, perhaps it's still wrong to treat another human being with disdain (even in jest!) - no matter how much right we feel we have to do so - much more wrong if that right we feel that we have is gained by means of familiarity. What I'm saying is that all too often, people can treat their family and friends in a way they'd never dream of treating other people. They justify cruelty by saying that the formality of rules and manners isn't necessary among friends. 

I've experienced relationships like this. Two people, both in extreme dysfunction, feeding off each other and using each other to meet the other one's emotional needs to be stroked, to feel important, to put the other one down - even joking around - to feel better about the self. 

I've seen these relationships fall apart, time after time. I've even witnessed marriages crumble over years and years, only to eventually fail, because one person (or both) got so incredibly tired of the other person taking him or her for granted, assuming the other person would "understand" - while all the while there were stress fractures that got deeper and deeper. Then, one day, one more unkind word, one more inconsiderate act, one more joke at the other one's expense - and someone just up and walks away, leaving the other bewildered. After all, it's always been this way; how could this happen?

It happens because common courtesy apparently isn't all that common. 

The old saying goes, "Familiarity breeds contempt." Time and time again, people forget to treat each other's treasure (the irreplaceable things that are most important to them) gently. 


Photo "Teenage Girls Gossiping" courtesy of Ambro at

I know one woman who - every day for the last forty plus years - has made fun of her husband's height. She is taller than he is and ... she never lets him forget it.  

Every time she lords it over him, I see him cringe. He dies a little bit inside with every "short joke" she makes. He's learned not to object because then ... she laughs at him.  How much longer, I wonder, before his love and patience run out and he leaves her physically? He's already done it emotionally ... Or (worse yet, it could be argued) how many years has she removed from his life? Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

And truly.  How much more effort does it take to be kind than to ridicule someone's choices, or (worse yet) poke fun at those things over which he or she has no control at all? (Height. Hairline. Age.) And it could be anything - any difference - and happen at any time! One middle aged man walking by the vehicle of a "friend" in a parking lot after a church service yells out to the driver (within earshot of his wife, who is beside him in the car) "Who's that old woman in there?" 


How much more effort and thought does it take to be considerate than to be unthinking? I guess I just answered my own question. People just don't want to THINK - they prefer to run on autopilot. All the while, they spew out poison on people and expect them to take it because they've bought into the fallacy that "Love means never having to say you're sorry." 

No. Tyranny means never having to say you're sorry. 

Love is patient, kind. It thinks of the other person first. (Which um, involves thinking. Wow.) I guess that is what counselors mean when they say that healthy relationships take work.


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