There are three foundational relationships in life that we must honor – the one we have with ourselves, the one we share with each other, and the one we share with nature and the environment. While we may not realize it, these relationships are all strongly connected so in order for us, others and the world to prosper, we must respect and take care of these invaluable relationships.
Relationship With Self
Take care of the elderly person you will become. Our relationship with ourselves is about health in all its mental, physical, and emotional dimensions. The health and well-being of each of us as individuals and collectively as organizations determines the vitality of our civilization and of our planet. We are each a cell of the body we call humanity which can be neither more nor less than the sum total of us all.
Until we have fulfilled our responsibility to develop ourselves, we cannot critique the world without acknowledging our own habits. For example, the quality and quantity of food and drink (and other substances) we ingest and pass through their bodies and minds directly influences our health and well-being, we must remind ourselves that we can’t fool our bodies!
By what we know and do, we make a difference. Each of us is a change agent. Individually, we can abuse ourselves in whatever manner we choose until finally we succumb. Conversely, we can be healthy and whole. Each of us is the person over which we have the most control and the one easiest to change.
Relationship with Others
Our relationship with others is about kindness. It is easy to act only in our perceived self-interest. We feel that if we do not look out for ourselves, who will? In an interrelated world, we are obliged also to look beyond ourselves. In the Talmud, Rabbi Hillel wrote, “If I am not for myself who will be? But if I am for myself only, what am I?” We are links in a chain. The fate of each link affects the fortunes of all others.
There is individuality but not independence. We are dependent upon each other at every turn. Our integrity affects the integrity of the whole.
We are each a part of a system of relationships that embrace our family, friends, neighbors, business associates, organizations, communities, nations, and family of nations. No single object or entity exists independently. What we do to others, we do to ourselves.
Relationship With Our Environment
Our relationship with our environment is about respect. We live on a planet soaring through space. We call this spacecraft Earth.
We are a product of this tiny orb that is our world. Over billions of years, we have evolved in concert with other species of plants and animals. As a part of this whole, we are subject to the natural laws that enable everything to exist. Every physical thing we require and enjoy is derived from our world. Everything. Every breath we breathe, every drop we drink, and every bite of food we eat is derived from our environment. Every bit of clothing, medicine, building material, and everything else is drawn from this source. This world gave birth to us and countless other species of plants and animals. However, now much of life, including our own, is threatened.
Sadly, the rate and range of global environmental deterioration is unprecedented. It is driven by the needs of a global population that have grown out of control. With astonishing speed, our ecosystems and an extraordinary array of life that took billions of years and endless experiments to produce, are now threatened.
Environmental problems cross the boundaries of nation states, academic disciplines, political and cultural ideologies, and religious theologies. They affect the affluent and the impoverished, developed and developing nations, individuals and whole societies. These problems are far more than just another on a list of major concerns. This foundational relationship with the environment is at the core of our existence.
Nowhere do we find clearer and unmistakable evidence that what we do to others, we do to ourselves than in our relationship with our biosphere (Earth and its atmosphere where life exists). The damage we do to our environment, we do to ourselves. However we all have a choice to be healthy, kind and to respect the environment. This is the individual difference we can make to ensure we protect the three most important relationships in life.
The above is an edited excerpt from Joe Simonetta’s book, Seven Words That Can Change the World.