I've had some interesting conversations with a few people lately about relationships and why they are or aren't important. I think it just depends on one's viewpoint, really, about what makes something important, or why it might be important.
So, here's some perspectives.
I am the sort of person who cares about others, sometimes to my detriment. I tend to forgo things that I want for myself, things I want to do, places I want to visit, etc, if someone needs me or needs what I have. This is not always a good thing, because it often means I say yes to things I shouldn't, wind up with my plate far too full and unable to do my best at the things I should. It also means I often don't get what I want or what I deserve. And, human nature being what it is, people tend to take advantage of that. But, I can't help it. I care about people, I want to help if I can. I need to help if I can.
I dated a man who also cares deeply for people. His career is basically finding ways to make it easier to care for people (he studies Health Economics). He is politically and socially active in caring for people. He writes and researches and publishes new ways to make it easier and more efficient to care for people.
We share a lot in common, this way, caring for and about other people, in a way that takes up much of our time. But, we differ greatly in one very specific way when it comes to this.
The way I care for people is on an individual basis. I make the most difference that way. I am invested in the relationships I have with people, because I care for people. That is where I choose to spend my effort, on the individual. So, relationships are important to me.
For him, the good of the many outweighs the good of the one. He feels he makes the most difference being invested in the research and the projects and the publishing and teaching that he does. And, he's likely right. But, what it means for him is that relationships aren't the important thing. They take time away from the important thing.
But, I don't consider relationships important just because of the effect that I can have on others, they are important for me, as well. I enjoy them, I like having friends, I enjoy having a significant other, I like the benefits I gain from them, and I'm willing to put a great deal of effort into those that I think will go somewhere, or be something. It's vital to me to have these relationships, because of what they do for me. Of course, I think the benefit is mutual...
He considers relationships of this sort to be a luxury. And perhaps he is right. A real relationship requires time and effort and sacrifice. Having a relationship like that means that time is taken from elsewhere to foster it, which means that some of the things that he does to try and help others wouldn't get done. In order to have meaningful relationships, he would have to cut back on the other stuff that he does.
But, is it selfish? I'm in many of the relationships/friendships that I am in because they are beneficial or enjoyable to ME. If they stopped being that way, I would stop being in them. I put out the effort that I do because the payoff for ME is very good, although it is for the other party as well, I think.
So, are relationships a luxury? Are they selfish? If they take one away from doing good on a grander scale, but they are more enjoyable, is that selfish?
Why are relationships important?