16 September 2010

The Relationality Of It All

In our activities for progress and lasting partnerships, we often go through periods of monitoring and evaluation. These are important times, involving independent experts or peer-review. Positive remarks boost our energy, and constructive criticism help us in focusing areas for improvement.

Limitingly, monitoring and evaluation is mostly executed from a predominantly rational view point. Such emanates from the predominant western setting, where the relational tends to heed towards the rational, where people follow the agreed upon action. This is quite different than the reality in my rural area, where the rational tends to heed towards the relational, where action emerges because people are together.

A western newspaper recently published a few lines on the importance of mutual respect, in the context of issues encountered in integration of different cultures in western societies. It was explained that “respect within collectivistic (non-western, GvS) societies means one not always says the truth. This is because the truth can hurt someone, and the feelings of someone are seen more important that the saying the truth".

This short monitoring and evaluation statement shows handling of truth singularly defined in light of rationality. In my view, truth fundamentally is defined in the relational realm. For instance, even in view of the statement above, there is even a difference between the (rational) truth and saying it. For instance, in a situation of where saying the (rational) truth can hurt a relationship, the best course of action can be to delay mentioning it, and first build the relationship to be able to address the issue later. Such is quite feasible in respectful, open relationships, where questions are being asked carefully, people listen, and all are focused on holistically assessing both the relational and rational.

I propose to recognize the relationality of it all, and to aim to be able to echo the words of Horatio Spafford, 'Whatever my lot, it is well, it is well, with my soul'.