Right Relationships

This is the last in a series of newsletters that explore the following four lines:

Sufficiency leads to integrity.
Integrity leads to responsibility.
Responsibility leads to right relationship.
Right relationship leads to sufficiency.

(Click here for Part One: Sufficiency)
(Click here for Part Two: Integrity)
(Click here for Part Three: Responsibility)


Right Relationship:
Maximizing Collaboration

Every day the world changes, and change in one part of the world impacts the rest. The globe is like a giant mobile. Touch it anywhere and the whole structure ripples with the impact. There is nowhere to hide and no one is immune. New technology, political instability, global market meltdowns, sovereign debt crises, and natural disasters carry a worldwide wallop. It is the news of the day, every day.

As the world becomes smaller, and more interconnected, there is an ever- expanding need for collaboration and a sense of shared destiny. We can no longer afford to worry only about our families,our communities, and ourselves. Today, our families and communities extend as far as Lahore, Pakistan; Bogota, Columbia; Timbuktu, Mali; and Attawapiskat, Ontario. What occurs there is eventually felt here, and vice versa.

For a sustainable future, we must take into account how our actions–in international relations, public policy, development, business, the environment and our own personal choices — impact our neighbors and the world. If nothing else, the last decade of global recession, environmental degradation, terrorism and war have provided us with an accelerated schooling.

Sufficiency, integrity and responsibility — topics of our last three newsletters – are the foundations of right relationship. Right relationship is a term that comes from the Quakers. Simply put, it means living with honor and respect for others.

Right relationship requires that we act with integrity and be responsible for our impact, both positive and negative. Many of us love to see our positive impact but are unwilling to recognize and rectify any damages that we have done to others. Organizations, institutions, communities and nations can be like that too. Such behavior shakes the foundation of trust and makes collaboration more difficult. Right relationship — where we respect others and conduct our activities with honor — makes collaboration sustainable.

Collaboration can only flourish in an environment of trust. When people trust each other, and there are common goals and challenges, the spirit of reciprocity can enter human affairs. The three practices we have been examining over the course of this series provide a solid foundation for trust to form and right relationships to grow.

Many of us have concluded falsely that our world has grown too corrupt for such values to survive. There is a drift towards ever diminishing expectations of right conduct from individuals, groups, institutions and nations.


The World Is Improving

This self-defeating standard needs opposition. There are many indicators that suggest that the world is improving, not regressing. Peter H, Diamandis and Steve Kotler, authors of the bookAbundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, explained to the Daily Beast that "massive progress" has happened over the past 200 years:

"At a global level, the gap between wealthy nations and poorer nations continues to close. Across the board, we are living longer, wealthier, healthier lives. Certainly, there are still millions of people living in dire, back-breaking poverty, but using almost every quality-of-life metric available — access to goods and services, access to transportation, access to information, access to education, access to lifesaving medicines and procedures, means of communication, value of human rights, importance of democratic institutions, durable shelter, available calories, available employment, affordable energy, even affordable beer — our day-to-day experience has improved massively over the past two centuries."

It's easy to overlook the advances that are being made, although sometimes seemingly at a snail's pace. Dysfunction is often shocking, dramatic and newsworthy. It may leave us feeling, that despite our best efforts, the world around us is losing ground. It's important to take heart in the knowledge, that despite the difficulties and setbacks, we are moving forward collectively. But take note: right relationship accelerates that progress.

Here are some of the positive effects of right relationship:

  1. Fear Diminishes
  2. One of the most debilitating conditions for human beings is fear. Where fear rules, mutuality and collaboration is minimized. People shut down. So do groups, organizations and nations. Win-lose thinking prevails and generates actions that reinforce divisions and impede progress. When fear diminishes– usually because ethical standards have been adopted and enforced — right relationship flourishes.

  3. Our Best Selves Show Up
  4. When people are primarily afraid they play it safe, take few risks and avoid being too visible for fear of the "tall poppy" syndrome. As a result, the pool of steward-leaders, which should be ever growing, shrinks. When fear subsides, people show up with their gifts and talents, more ready to make a contribution for the common good. They are generous and not just out for themselves. They trust that their contribution is wanted, needed and valued and are willing to their part as an act of right relationship.

  5. Dialogue overcomes Debate
  6. Many of us are alarmed at the state of public discourse. We see our businesses, institutions and governments gridlocked by people invested in win-lose power dynamics. Debate, as the quantum theorist David Bohm observed, means to "beat down" opposing views. Dialogue, he suggested, is a conversation that advances shared thinking. Dialogue is a conversation that is fed by right relationship. Bipartisanism, the ability to put shared interest first, advances when fear subsides and the spirit of cooperation and mutuality is present. As we have said, that spirit is fostered by sufficiency, integrity and personal responsibility.

  7. We Share
  8. Where there is a stark chasm between those that have wealth, power and resources and those that have none are the perfect conditions for breakdown. The further the gap, the more volatile the situation. Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, and Idle No More are just three recent examples of this principle in action. Right relationship recognizes that any society, institution, organization or community that does not support the least advantaged of its member's, sows the seeds of its own destruction. That is not an argument for entitlement. It simply means that everyone deserves a level playing field. Equity, fairness and justice are all expressions of right relationship.

  9. Problems Solving and Innovation Occurs
  10. Right relationship supports creative thinking. When we engage with each other as co-creators, recognizing that each of us hold a piece of a larger puzzle that can only come together through our collective efforts, magic happens. Complex problems require multiple points of view before they crack open and reveal their solutions. Those multiple viewpoints and the dialogue required to host them, occur in a field of right relationship. Just ask Rolling Stone, Keith Richards.


Noted more for his antics than his philosophy, even "Keef" recognizes that relationships and creativity are intimately intertwined:

"You're sitting with some guys, and you're playing and you go, "Ooh, yeah!" That feeling is worth more than anything. There's a certain moment when you realize that you've actually just left the planet for a bit and that nobody can touch you. You're elevated because you're with a bunch of guys that want to do the same thing as you. And when it works, baby, you've got wings. You know you've been somewhere most people will never get; you've been to a special place." — Keith Richards, Life

If anyone should know about leaving the planet, it is undoubtedly Mr. Richards


Right relationship and Sufficiency

We began this series with the notion of personal sufficiency, that unbeatable combination of our individual gifts and talents. It ends with the notion that sufficiency is also an effect of right relationship. When we are in right relationship with family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and the world in which we live, we contribute to a general sense of sufficiency. We see that the world is abundant and that through integrity, responsibility and collaboration, its resources can be stewarded in a way that is fair and equitable. Together we can create opportunities that benefit all mankind and correct conditions that place a strain on our survival. As Martin Luther King reminded us: "It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly." Right relationship leads to Sufficiency.

Posted on February 1, 2013 .