My Proverbs 18
Relationships: Angles of Observation
An angle is where two lines come together. That is probably one of the simplest definitions I will ever post! The word comes from the Latin which meant corner. They could have decided to use a word meaning intersection but instead they selected the word for corner. A relationship is where two lives come together. We intersect with others on a daily basis but we seldom consider each interaction or intersection an actual relationship, do we? It is that coming together of two that forms the relationship.
In 1992 author and relationship counselor Dr. John Gray published a book entitled “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships”. IN discussing the corner where men and women meet and in attempting to help improve that corner or relationship, Dr Gray employed something in math called a parallax.
A parallax is the difference in the position of an object when it is observed from two different positions or two different lines of sight. The parallax is then measure by the angle between the two observational sites. Not being a mathematician, I am certain my description of the definition is very simplistic but it basically is valid. Take for instance two people in the front seat of a car. The driver is checking the speedometer from his/her location which is directly in front of the steering wheel and needle of the speedometer. The passenger, however, is in the passenger seat and is viewing the speedometer at a different angle. The driver may be going exactly forty-five miles per hour but to the passenger it can seem either forty or fifty miles per hour, based upon the design of the dashboard, the height of the passenger, how the passenger seat is placed, etc.
In a relationship, two people often are discussing the very same thing but can seem to be speaking a different language; hence, the title of John Gray’s book. While a mathematician might consider it the angle of observation, Dr Gray refers to this “different language” as a part of who the man and woman are, their basic DNA of life: ““Men are motivated when they feel needed while women are motivated when they feel cherished.” This should not be interpreted as all men are the same or all women will respond and react the same. As Gray writes, “We are all unique individuals with unique experiences.”
Even when the angle or corner is between two people of the same sex, differences arise. All too often we define “normal” as “typical” and fear anyone or any opinion that is not what we expected or would think ourselves. The normal is actually the sum or average of all the parts. It is not to imply that anyone differing from that average is wrong. In order to have an average between sets of numbers, you must, by definition, have a list and that list, again by definition, must have a top number and a bottom number. Sometimes it is best to be the top and sometimes best to be the lowest number. Typical, however, is simply similar to what is expected. It is, by definition, nothing unique or creative or newly discovered. A small toddler pouring milk into a cup will typically spill the milk. This does not mean the toddle is clumsy; it simply means he/she is not yet in full control of every muscle group.
At some point, our angle of observation has become based upon fear. We disdain anyone that does not meet our expectations. In doing this, we are not allowing ourselves to grow and severely limiting any relationships we may have, regardless of what type of relationship they are. “If we are to feel the positive feelings of love, happiness, trust, and gratitude,” states John Gray, “we periodically also have to feel anger, sadness, fear, and sorrow.” We tend to disallow the right and need of relationships to grow by going through various stages. Again quoting John Gray from his 1992 book: “We mistakenly assume that if our partners love us they will react and behave in certain ways—the ways we react and behave when we love someone.”
An angle is not simply a straight line and we should not expect our relationships to be one either. Whether our relationship is between friends, partners, heads of states, or casual store clerk to customer, they all need to be based upon respect of the other person as a unique individual with their own set of unique responses. To paraphrase Gray, when two parties in a relationship are able to accept and respect their differences, then the relationship can flourish. Hopefully nations can learn this very valuable lesson and future beheadings, murdering of school children, and other atrocities can cease.
Together we will still face enemies, like weather-related disasters, or bacteria-based plagues like Ebola. We don’t need to kill each other. Life with its challenges provides the world with enough things to overcome. We need to embrace our angles and make our intersections places of peace. A life lived in harmony is truly the best relationship of all.
My Proverb 18
It is not my face and yet the heart beats the same. It is not my voice and yet the words are my dreams. They are not my tears and yet they show my pain. It is not my reflection and yet it is my life. When will we really see?