• June 20th, 2019
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Set aside time for ‘what matters’


Many in my community believe that when a prayer is heard, it may get one of four answers. If the request is good, the answer is a ‘yes.’ 

On the other hand, the word ‘no’ is a complete answer, indicating that the request is bad. Further, the school of thought posits that a prayer may be placed in a holding pattern or queue if the timing is wrong. 
Finally - ‘first grow up’ - is said to signify that the petition or prayer is ambitious and completely off-target. Prayer demands discipline and focus.

I find myself in agreement. Consequently, I wish to suggest that we can use this premise in building relationships which thrive on trust and commitment. Moreover, I suggest that we should test our relationships in the same way we interrogate our motivations in prayer. 

Without investing in healthy relations, we condemn our communities to dysfunctionality. 
Raymond E. Feist surmises that “life is problems. Living is solving problems.” But that is not to intimate that we should give up on life.

  I do not believe that the Almighty gives the hardest battles to the toughest soldiers. Rather, the toughest troops are formed on the anvil of life’s hardest battles. I want to use prayer as a representation of ‘what matters’ and the ‘hardest battles.’ 

The subject of interpersonal relationships has an all-time currency for me. I have developed on the strength of some while others have been shocking lessons in human frailty and betrayal.

Mukarami poses the evergreen question when he asks: “Is it ever possible, in the final analysis, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another? We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close can we come to that person’s essence?”
 

 Masashi Kishimoto takes this endearing line: “I used to think of you as a friend. I used to think that ‘friend’ was just another word… nothing more, nothing less. But when I met you, I realised that what was important was the word’s meaning.”

Getting to know other people, the other person, is a complex undertaking. Allow me to take it further and suggest that the task equals ‘what matters’ and the ‘hardest battles.’ We encounter the burden of getting to know people in virtually every aspect of our lives. 

As a single parent, one of my challenging lessons is getting to know and understand my children at the different stages of their development. My oldest child was almost ten years of age when I lost my wife in 2006. As they have grown up, I have sought direction in Frederick Douglass’ timeless reminder that “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

We do not give up when we encounter obstacles that have ‘what matters’ and the ‘hardest battles’ inscribed on them. 
Remember, the Scriptures exhort us to pray without ceasing. Pray, listen – when people speak about their life stories; the haunting tales of abuse; bullying; addictions and other weaknesses. 

There are bad attitudes, fears, painful memories and thoughts that breed miscreants. If we are to build healthy communities, we need to realise that the time we invest in relationship building matters.
   Companies do it. They look for people with integrity, loyalty and objectivity. Yes, academic and professional qualifications count. But companies spend time investigating a candidate’s character, strengths and weaknesses. 
I will be adventurous here and use Percy Sledge’s song, “Take time to know her (and him),” to illustrate my point: “I found a woman, I felt a true love for her; she was everything I’d been dreaming of…, 

A human resources specialist has noted that “this may seem time-consuming, but it is a lot less time-consuming than dealing with the aftermath of a less than optimal appointment.”

   Not surprisingly, some hiring firms now take a second look at the references supplied by a job applicant. When I moved from the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to government information services, I had supplied names of my Harare-based ZBC superiors and one from the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust as referees. 

I was working then as ZBC bureau chief in Chinhoyi, which is about 120 km outside Harare. The interviewing team turned down the Harare referees. They argued that my three years in Chinhoyi were sufficient to yield people who could talk about me.
 

 I eventually presented the principal of a teachers’ training college and the provincial medical director as alternatives. It was a disaster! Both were asked about my domestic life. I had assumed that they would answer questions on our professional interactions.

After the recruitment, it is generally agreed that effective targeted induction – the action or process of formally introducing someone to a post or organization – is the first step towards gaining an employee’s commitment.
   I believe the same rigour should inform the whole gamut of personal relationships. In an age where the stain of unhealthy relations litters many columns in the newspapers, and has been the subject of books and films, I believe the challenge merits close attention. 

I have also seen similar conversations on such issues as cheating and gender-based violence. We can still stem the tide of toxic and debased relationships once we realize that they constitute ‘what matters’ and the ‘hardest battles.’ Healthy and wholesome connections will determine the world we bequeath to the young.
   My focus on healthy relationships does not suggest perfection; just an appeal to strive for more authentic interdependent ties.

There is no denying that the average relationship will be saddled with many challenges. From time immemorial, family and other interpersonal ties have experienced ups and downs, and joy and pain. Today’s world however has the sad distinction of ‘toxic relationships.’

   To paraphrase Wendell Berry, we have the urgent task of ending the “story-telling contest that is not winnable” and the equally disturbing process of “community disintegration.”
   “A community identifies itself by an understood mutuality of interests. But it lives and acts by the common virtues of trust, goodwill, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion, and forgiveness. It has the power, that is, to influence behaviour.”


New Era Reporter
2019-02-08 12:12:42 4 months ago

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