There are times when we’re so fixated on wanting to remove ourselves from a situation because we fear contaminating it, that we lose sight of the fact that our absence is in fact the greatest contamination of all. I find this most relevant in families, where our insecurity to fulfil our roles as role models leaves us receding and convincing ourselves that they’re better off without us. Unfortunately that insecurity rarely presents itself as that. More often than not it manifests itself as either selfishness or arrogance, both of which are simply defence mechanisms that we employ to prevent others from seeing our weakness.
But it’s not about us as individuals. It never has been. The desire we all have to be part of something greater, or to be part of a wholesome social structure that is nurturing rather than destructive is what we undermine when we succumb to those insecurities. The most intriguing change in my life has been my need to recognise when I stopped being the nurtured and when I started being the nurturer. At some point I stopped being just the son, or cousin, and I started being the father, and the uncle. But it is my singular focus on needing to be nurtured that blinds me from realising that my nurturing is now dependent on being the nurturer.
It all sounds so complicated, and it will complicate even further when I need to transition to being an elder, and not just the uncle or fatherly figure. But if I resist these changes in the rightful expectations that others have of me, I will be denying the next generation of the very essence of that which gave me a sense of community, family, and belonging. Sometimes it’s not being valued as an individual that gives us the comfort that we need to feel appreciated. Sometimes it’s simply that feeling of being part of a wholesome support structure that defines our self worth. Our innate need for significance is not only fed by recognition for our individual efforts, but more importantly it is fed by being part of something greater than us, and even more critical, having a pride of association with that belonging.
And so I started contemplating these ties that blind us. It’s ties we maintain to who we were without realising that we have yet to embrace who we are, or who we aspire to be. It’s ties that hold us back in our belief that we have a right to take before we have a right to give. It’s that same sick mentality that convinces us that unless we’re responsible, we’re not accountable. Unless it is related to a responsibility we have over our own children or family members, then we’re not accountable for contributing towards the wellbeing of society at large. We forget that what strengths we have, others have as weaknesses, with the reverse being just as true. So when we stand arrogantly proclaiming that to each their own because we’re doing our bit and they must do theirs, we’re assuming that we’re superior to them in every way because we forget that they probably see similarly frustrating flaws in us.
This is not an abstract notion. It’s not a philosophical debate either. It’s simply the realisation that if we act selfishly, we will deny the next generation the very security that now allows us the luxury to act selfishly. There is no such thing as a self-made man. We are shaped by society, and even when rejected by that same society, it is those that we surrounded ourselves with to find comfort in our rejection that formed the society from which we drew strength. I think the gravest delusion we suffer from is the assumption that we first need to receive before we can reciprocate. That’s the problem with this world. Everyone is waiting for everyone else, because the fear of rejection or insignificance is so great, that we’d rather demand it through obligation instead of earning that acceptance and inclusion through sacrifice.
Worse still is the fact that the few that do sacrifice before they receive are most often the ones most trampled upon by the very same ones that cry foul when they are dealt a poor hand by life.