Recently, I was in a round table discussion in which we talked about interpersonal relationships. A repeating theme of the conversation was that people felt like they were replaceable, that there was no value given to them and/or a relationship by a friend, partner, family member, or employer.
Hearing so many people express the same feeling made me start to wonder if we have become a society of disposables. It reminded me of an expression my mother used to say: “Out with the old and in with the new.”
It seems like just about every aspect of our life today is disposable. We throw away televisions, computers, clothing, phones, food, furniture, and so much more.
By contrast, when I was growing up, we fixed everything. There was a neighborhood television repairman. We ate leftovers for dinner. We took our shoes to the local shoemaker for new heels. Baby diapers were cloth and appliances were kept until they could no longer be repaired. We drove the same car until it died on the road. And most marriages lasted “until death do us part.”
While it is true that we have more conveniences and opportunities than our parents and grandparents, I believe our ancestors had something that many of us lack – the ability to attach to and appreciate what they had.
Today, we want immediate gratification. If it’s broken, an old model, or not working the way we want, we simply throw it out and replace it with something new, something upgraded. Is it possible that we are carrying our new disposable/replaceable mentality into our relationships?
How many people do you know that “cut off” contact with someone with whom they had a disagreement? They end the relationship and find someone new to fill the void.
How many marriages suffer from infidelity because of boredom or not having particular needs met? One spouse moves on to someone new, often breaking ties with their old partner and even their children, and creates a new family.
How many employers replace or demote an employee for a minor infraction without giving the person a second chance? They hire a replacement.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you (I know they do to me), perhaps it’s time to examine how we interact with others. Are we looking for a quick fix? Would we be willing to cut someone out of our life because we are angry? Are we considering replacing a spouse (or have already done so) before exploring every avenue to repair the relationship? Would we fire an employee without giving it a second thought?
If you believe that you may have adopted a disposable mentality, now’s the time to make a change. Start nurturing your relationships – put in the time and do the necessary work. Appreciate and value what you have (material items and relationships) and stop keeping one eye open looking for something better. Empathize with others before taking action. Repair something before tossing it in the trash.
If you feel like someone who has been replaced, remember that we can’t change or control other people and how they behave, but we can change our behavior. We can change the way we respond and the way we treat others. And, little by little, perhaps our treatment of others may just start a movement in a more positive direction.
As Michael Jackson so eloquently stated in the song, Man in the Mirror, “If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make a change.” Who knows, one day we may all learn to treasure the “old” and forget the new.