A Clash of Culture and Common Sense

I’m sitting here this morning, sipping on black coffee, baking egg whites in muffin tins and putting off my fasted run in 99% humidity, and I’m musing over some recent self-revelations that have been disturbing to me. 

I’m in a relationship now, with a wonderful man. A genuinely wonderful man. The honeymoon phase is over, and he’s still a wonderful, wonderful man. 

What has been so disturbing to me in recent days has been the self-revelation that happiness is unsettling. I don’t know what to do with it. I’m like a child, given a strange, new toy. It delights me, enthralls me, exhilarates me, contents me… but I’m surprised by it every time I look at it. I’m wondering when it will be taken away, because it is so very delightful. It seems to be logical that with how beautiful and strange and wonderful it is, it won’t last. 

Disturbing, isn’t it?

We live in a world where the altruism of youth is absolutely eclipsed by the hedonistic self-obsession of our society. As we age, we are taught more and more to pursue ambition, gratification – instant gratification – possessions, status symbols, achievements. The value of human relationships at their essence, has been lost to us. 

This culture seems to have accepted that what is best for us is what is best now, how we want it, when we want it. What we say, do, intend, think, believe, encourage, promote, value, and request in our relationships, both platonic and otherwise, is centered around what WE WANT. 

In addition, we live in a culture that has lost a sense of SELF-VALUE. There is a wild difference between SELFISHNESS and SELF-AWARENESS. Knowing WHO you are has been lost in a mad scramble to identify, to fit in, to make others happy, to self-gratify.

The very sad truth is, if you look at common sense, and you look at relationships, the ones that last are grounded in two very, very important things which fly in the face of current culture:

1. Selfish self-awareness

2. Selfless conduct

Those two seem mutually exclusive, do they not? Let me explain.

One of the most valuable lessons my destructive young marriage taught me was that without self-value, without self-awareness, you cannot be selfless. Without a true knowledge and love for who you are independently, autonomously, you will never be able to make the right kind of sacrifices in a relationship. 

Imagine for a moment a dragon (I love dragons… nerd moment alert), and a treasure trove. The dragon knows he lives in a cave, with his treasure trove, but he is blind. He doesn’t know what he has. He has a small sense of it, but he can’t see it, can hardly feel it. A stranger comes to his cave, and wants to take some treasure. The dragon has two recourses, because he doesn’t know what’s actually available to him. One: hoard, protect, fight for all of it. Two: sacrifice some of it, but without knowing which of the pieces are most valuable and important to him, because he cannot see them.

Corny illustration, I know. Best thing I could think of. Bear with me. 

So imagine now, yourself. You have very little self-awareness, very little security in who you are. A stranger comes into your life, wants to help themselves to some of YOU. You don’t know yourself, your values, your loves and hates and what parts of you are most important to you, so you cannot conduct yourself selflessly, effectively in that relationship, because you don’t know which parts of you are too important to sacrifice, and which parts you can freely give without incurring bitterness or resentment later for giving those things to someone else that you really wanted to keep for yourself.

In order to GIVE you have to know and value appropriately what you HAVE. 

In order to survive and thrive in a relationship you have to know how to be SELFISHLY SELF-AWARE so you can operate SELFLESSLY where you are able to. You have to know what you’re willing to give up, and what you’re going to fight to preserve.

THIS is the knowledge I come back to when I am disturbed by how confused I feel by how happy and content I have been with this man. From this last year of so much pain and frustration, I have fought for, won, and learned who I am, what I value, and what I am willing to give. 

And that has made all the difference, this time around. A beautiful, valuable, wonderful difference. 

Take the time to understand YOU, and make sure your partner does the same. 

Don’t let this selfish, insecure, image-driven, ignorant culture drive you to selfish, or selflessly UNaware relationships. Use common sense, and find yourself first, and give from that deep knowledge of who you are. 

“To say ‘I love you’, 

One must first know how

To say the ‘I'”.

-Ayn Rand

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