Two Options for Dealing With Other People

We basically have two ways of dealing with other human beings: reason, or force.

This fact has social-political implications. But it also has implications for daily life in families, business or other personal relationships.

To most of us, force is not a tenable option in our personal relationships. To abusers and tyrants it is, but not to most.

Yet the absence of physical coercion does not automatically imply the presence of reason, either.

People have developed many ways to try and get around the need for reason, without resorting to the use of force.

The most common of these are: deception and guilt.

Deception refers, obviously, to lying. Lying is based on the assumption that, “If I say it’s so, then it will be so.” In philosophy, this is referred to as the primacy of consciousness over existence. In more everyday talk, it means simply: lying.

Guilt is a little trickier. People attempting to foster guilt in others are not necessarily lying. But they are counting on something unfair, illogical or dishonest in attempting to motivate another person to do what they wish them to do.

Sometimes this is called manipulation. Sometimes it’s called abnormal, irrational, dysfunctional or toxic. Any of these labels is valid, in some sense.

When you deal with people by reason, you’re honest with them. Honesty has kind of a bad name. It’s considered, by most, to be naive or unrealistic. “Ideal in principle, but not so much in practice.”

People who make this claim have not thought deeply — nor even at all — about what honesty really implies. Honesty implies self-preservation and staying in contact with reality. Honesty implies not wasting your own time.

For example, you could lie to your spouse or your friend. But in doing so, you’re exercising a waste of your own time. Why? Because on the one hand you’re choosing to value this person enough to have him/her as a friend or a spouse. Yet you’re not treating that friend or spouse with the same respect and courtesy that your own prior judgment previously implied.

In other words, it’s contradictory. On the one hand, you decide that someone is worth your time enough to have them as a romantic partner or friend. On the other hand, you don’t decide they’re worthwhile enough to be honest with them, and show them respect in other kinds of ways. How can both things be true?

It’s a double standard, as well. You’re treating someone by a different set of standards than the ones you want, demand or expect for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with caring about yourself. In fact, it’s absolutely necessary to care about yourself before you’ll care for others you choose to have in your life. Because you value yourself and your life, you will (logically and necessarily) value their presence in your life. After all: You put them there.

This is not primarily an article about honesty. Honesty is simply one example of how you can either treat others by reason, or not.

“Reason” implies the conceptual (i.e., beyond perceptual level) functioning of one’s mind. When you seek to deceive or otherwise invalidly manipulate the minds of those around you, then you have departed from reason. If you do this with any regularity, or even at all, then you don’t really have any business complaining if your relationships are mediocre or dysfunctional. You probably contributed to making them that way.

If you live by reason, facts, logic and choice, then you won’t make nearly as many errors, and any errors you do make will be honest — and correctable. Errors made by honest reasoning are never shameful. They’re simply errors requiring correction. It’s deception, abuse and force that give so many human relationships a bad name.

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