Every relationship is different as every person is different, with diverse attributes and personalities, that when combined together can lead to a myriad of different outcomes. However even with this difference, there are some universal keys to every human relationship success. One such key is beautifully portrayed in the old Chinese parable of Heaven and Hell. I first heard this story in elementary school, by then the chop sticks had evolved into spoons, but the message was the same and has resonated with me ever since.
There once was a man who was curious about death and so visited a wise old woman in his village and asked “Can you tell me what heaven and hell are like?”
The wise woman agreed and said, “I can do better than that, I would like to show you.” She led him down a strange path, deep into the countryside. Finally they came upon a large house with many rooms and went inside. When they entered the first room the man saw very long tables with an incredible spread of food. He then noticed the strangest thing. The people were all thin, distraught and moaning with hunger. They were each holding chopsticks 12 feet long that were splinting their arms preventing them from bending their elbows. As he observed the scene he could see them trying to feed themselves, but no-one could get the food into their mouths with such long chopsticks. There was anguish in their eyes as they looked upon the food they couldn’t eat and felt tortured in their famished bodies.
The man looked to the wise old woman “This is terrible, this must be hell. Will you please show me what heaven looks like?”
The wise woman nodded her head and led him up the stairs to another room. When the door was opened the man was shocked. The room was identical to the last with long tables and all the best food he could imagine ladened on top of it. The people also held chopsticks 12 feet long splinted to their arms. However, something was very different. In this room the people were talking and laughing, they were all happy and joyful.
This puzzled the man and he asked the wise woman, “I see all of these people have 12 feet chopsticks too, yet they are well fed and happy, how is this so?”
The wise old woman replied, “Just wait and see.” As the man gazed on the scene a little longer he noticed a man pick up some food from the dish before him. However, instead of trying to feed himself he stretched across the table and fed the person across from him! The recipient of this kindness thanked him and returned the favor by leaning across the table to feed his benefactor. They were feeding each other!
He turned his head to the old wise woman. “Now I understand. These people are living under the same circumstances, but those who are taking care of each others needs are in heaven while those just thinking of themselves are in hell.”
If you are in a relationship where both parties are primarily concerned with their own wants and needs there might be a lot of disappointment and anguish. However, if BOTH parties, no matter how different, can agree to respect and look after each other, and always put the best interest of their partner first, they will both be fed and the relationship will flourish. Everyone will be cared for.
This is a simple truth but when followed by two people in a relationship can create a heaven on earth.
Image Credit: Janice Fransisco