“Familiarity breeds contempt” by Geoffrey Chaucer, excerpt taken from “Tale of Melibee” 1386.
A few evenings ago, I had an interesting conversation with a friend who was having an extremely challenging night. As she unraveled just a little, I listened intently and the wheels in my head began to spin, some out of sadness and a little out of anger. She was definitely hurting and I felt powerless to help her.
As human beings, I believe we have such a huge capacity to show love and genuine care or concern for others. On the flip side, we can instantly do irreparable damage by thoughtless words or negative actions we may, or may not take.
I wonder if Chaucer was on to something when he stated that “familiarity breeds contempt”? Perhaps we can amend his statement slightly and say that familiarity has the capacity to breed contempt. I get what he’s saying and as it is, his version could most definitely pertain to marriages, families, friendships or even workplace relationships. Could it be that the closer we become to a person, learning everything there is to know about each other, the easier it could be to take the relationship for granted? Maybe the nervous tick he has or her habit of humming when she’s happy, once considered endearing, over the years have become a source of unbearable torture. Could we become too familiar with each other that we cease to see each other’s needs or value? A damaging result could be the ending of healthy communications, as we begin to think only of ourselves. The doubts in our mind begin to form and we may think that we are no longer a priority in the relationship. This feeling could build until we have an overwhelming urge to either end the relationship, ignore the person completely or cry ourselves to sleep. Ever been there? Anyone dare to admit that they have? I am in no way, shape or form, a relationship expert. I just have to believe that there is a way to come back from this.
I have a few ideas of what will not work.
A little quiz for you:
It’s your 25th wedding anniversary. Do you: a) A month or at least several days before the date, purchase a meaningful card and special gift or make reservations at his/her favorite restaurant. b) You know the date is coming, so you make a special coupon booklet full of things he or she likes to do. That you can do together. c) It’s the day of your anniversary. You run into the nearest store, grab a card and whatever you can find to give to him/her a few hours from now.
Be honest. What did you pick? What kind of giver are you? Do you give out of love or out of obligation? Do you give without expecting anything in return, or do you give in the hopes that the receiver will like you better or even favor you at some point in the future? Do you genuinely and truly just love to give and bless others? Or are you a wait until a couple of hours before the big event to grab whatever you can find as your gift, kind of giver? Do you just get a “good enough” kind of gift? I mean, at least you got something, they should be grateful, right? Make no mistake, the big event means a lot to the person it’s about.
I know it may sound as though I am majorly materialistic. Maybe my friend is the materialistic one and I’m just defending her. Whether you choose to believe it or not, our focus is not on the materialistic gifts themselves. Though cliché to admit, it is the genuine thought behind the gifts that truly matters. It would be better to get nothing at all than to get a thoughtless gift. More times than I can count, I have proudly displayed a bouquet of beautiful dandelions that one of my little ones had hand-picked for me. I’ve happily worn macaroni necklaces and priceless painted beaded bracelets. I’ll bet you have as well. These were tokens of love and didn’t cost a penny, but meant more than words. At that moment, you knew that little one had you on his or her mind and your heart just melted with love. Those are treasured, priceless memories.
Likewise, a thoughtless token gift given speaks volumes and unfortunately may end up in your mind palace for years to come. This could, in fact, widen the growing gap between two people in a relationship that could already be suffering.
If you can relate to any of the above, take heart. There is always hope. Hearts can mend, relationships can be restored. Sometimes counseling from a licensed professional can help you along the way. Opening the door to healthy communication is not only key, it’s vital for your relationship and overall well being. Make sure to get your daily dose of Vitamin D, exercise, healthy living foods (fruits & veggies), plenty of water and remember to laugh.
A final thought before I close: One of the very best gifts we can give to those we love or care about is the gift of our time. Undivided and intentionally focused attention could go a long way to strengthen and ultimately repair relationships.
2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV) Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And so do I 🙂
~the Fitness Dr.