I recently stumbled across a post on Facebook. The title immediately caught my eye: “Reliability: Did the “I” kill off the “We”? I admit that what followed was slightly different to what I’d expected to read but nevertheless though provoking (for those of you who read German too here’s the link). I’d expected to read about relationships and selfish behavior, instead I found a post about general reliability in all areas of our lives. And there was that one paragraph that stuck to me:
“Zusammenleben erfordert Kompromiss. Das Miteinander erfordert Verlässlichkeit. Wir müssen wissen, worauf wir treffen und woran wir sind, wenn wir uns auf andere einlassen, sei das in Freundschaften, im Job oder in Liebesbeziehungen.”
It would translate to this:
“Cohabitation requires compromise. Togetherness requires reliability. We need to know what we will encounter and what it’s all about when getting involved in friendships, jobs or relationships.”
I bet all of us nod our heads now and think something down the line “exactly”. But do we live it as well? I’m totally guilty of canceling on friends because I feel more comfortable staying at home sometimes or because something just came up. Does that make me unreliable? I doubt it.
What I wonder though, is how much we put the “I” above the “We” really nowadays, in every part of life.
I think the “I” became really big over the last decades. Somehow we managed to make our life more independent of teamwork and so it comes with no surprise that we no longer rely on others the way we did decades ago. The development of different kinds of technology probably did its thing as well. Today we have the luxury of living the “I” instead of relying on the “We”.
Like with everything this comes with a price to pay as well.
Yes, we do have the luxury of focusing on us. In doing so we forget to be a unit though as well. Let’s just look at relationships. Look at the number of divorces! Of course it’s nice to be able to escape a relationship that’s not working and that may be unhealthy for you. Those cases don’t necessarily make the majority of the divorces, I guess. It has become easy to exchange someone. Back in the days you had to work together. Life was tougher and so you had to rely on your partner, on your social network, to pull through. Today that’s mostly no longer the case. So we swap. We get rid of what is unpleasant at the moment, no longer thinking about the longer run.
We are so used to consume and throw away. It not only affects stuff but also people. Although we catch up and spend time together we don’t spend time together really. Look around! I read a post today that said exactly the same: You see people sitting together but they don’t talk to each other. They all do something on their devices, playing, posting, taking pictures, reading. There’s no interaction between them at that point, face to face.
While we constantly hunt for what seems best for us, for the “I”, we forget that in some moments we might have to give as well. The “We” needs a healthy mix of give and take. People are different. They all have their own ideas and theories. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes it’s easy to see the other one’s point, sometimes you will never understand where they are coming from. But that’s the thing! That’s what gets us further. Trying to see it, trying to understand it. Maybe even learn from them. And if you never understand their point of view, so what? We can have different opinions and still get along.
And yet it seems that it all kind of got to hard. It seems as if only dealing with yourself and the reality you’d like to surround yourself with is the new way to go. In doing so we miss out. And I believe we don’t develop anymore. Development is all about challenges and adjusting, isn’t it? So how can we develop if we refuse to adjust to others, simply because it’s too hard? How can we develop if we refuse challenges, because we can’t be bothered.
As I said in the beginning, I’m guilty of canceling on friends from time to time because I don’t feel like doing things or seeing them. And as I said I don’t feel like I’m not reliable because of this. If the “We” is strong enough it can take it. The “We” will understand that you are exhausted or that you don’t feel well enough or that you simply have a bad day. As long as the giving and taking are in some kind of balance.
Do we need to slow down the “I” for everyone, so that everyone gets included in that “We”? Do we need to ignore the “I” in order to please everyone around us? No, definitely not.
So here’s a thought: Did we change directions and now talk about the “I” killing off the “We” for a specific reason? Could it be that we lived decades after decades ponder about the fact that the “We” was dominating the “I” to a point where it was almost unbearable? Was life truly so much better when we had to conform to everything rather than speaking our minds and leaving people or jobs because they were simply not worth giving up on the “I” at all?
Was it truly better to have the “We” stand above everything and maybe keeping the “I” so little that it hardly existed?
The “I” is extremely important and I think actually that we should cherish it in order for it to be ready for the “We”. If you are happy with yourself you can give so much more to others. Right?
I believe that like in many other situations it’s important to pick who is worth having in your life and who isn’t. Who you want to be close with or not. If you pick your friends right, being there for them shouldn’t be such an effort. If you surround yourself with the right people, people who are worth the giving, then your “I” will not kill off the “We”. In the contrary. It will feed it and build it and support it and carry it.
To get back to the beginning of this post: Does the “I” kill off the “We”? Not sure. I think maybe there’s a tendency in our world. A tendency that the “I” now stands above the “We”. I also believe though, that it changed from the other extreme where the “We” was killing off the “I”. A transition that went on for years.
Now it’s all about finding the balance. So that both of them can co-exist. Maybe that’s what we should focus on. Allow a healthy balance between the “I” and the “We” in our lives. This, for sure, would be a great challenge for the years to come…