The Lost Art of Cherishment

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One of the greatest and most rewarding elements of all in this life is the desire for and practice of *cherishment*. To cherish means to care for, support, nourish and nurture in such an unselfish manner that the cherished one grows into a handsome, glorious tree with full foliage and many fine blooms. Cherishment is an offshoot of love and it involves heartfelt devotion beyond even the call of duty. Cherishment stands alongside other values and virtues which are considered by many today to be old-fashioned, outmoded and outdated, such as devotion, duty, chivalry, fidelity, service, constancy, honour and authenticity.

Cherishment preserves us from being self-centred, though it is an expression of our true self. It naturally and unforcedly focuses us on the other instead of ourselves. We live in such a “Me! Me! Me!” culture today that deep devotion to and cherishment of another can be regarded by some as detrimental to one’s “personal growth”. That’s because “personal growth” has now become a highly lucrative industry involving a slavish dependence on “mentors”, “coaches” and “therapists” rather than a development which simply happens naturally out of our wisdom because we determine with all our heart to become self-aware enough to make good choices, relate honestly and love liberally. We don’t really need all these pricey therapies and workshops for us to become who we are meant to be. We simply need an honest mirror (aka self-awareness, which costs nothing) and a determination to live authentically.

In the healthy human, there is an inbuilt desire to cherish. It is a natural impulse for those who are in touch with their inner selves. People feel this deep within. It is faintly evidenced when we see a new baby and feel a huge desire to hold it. Yet, because of our hang-ups about cherishing another human being (which we can mistakenly view as unnecessary, emotionally risky or just plain old unfashionable), or because we are so out of touch with ourselves that the desire to cherish becomes distorted, we can transfer that desire onto some other entity. One example is the proliferation of the domestic dog (or, to a lesser degree, any other kind of “pet”). Most people may not realise it but their desire to have a dog (if it isn’t just a matter of having a working animal or an accessory to show off), is rooted in the desire to cherish. But in a dog the cherishment is wrapped up in having a non-threatening substitute and in the desire to control and be in control (“sit!”, “beg!”, “down!”, etc.). However, there is no substitute for cherishing another human being. Sure, dogs are wonderful companions if our motivation for having one is honest. But in a situation of mutual human cherishment (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be mutual), a relationship reaches its highest pinnacle.

A caveat: Sometimes the desire to cherish can become twisted into a selfish desire to find personal fulfilment by “cherishing”. In other words, it is possible to become a compulsive “cherisher” who needs to be in that situation for selfish reasons. Of course, it then ceases to be true cherishing and becomes another form of narcissistic neediness. Again, we need to find an honest mirror to look into if we want to be free of that and be authentic cherishers. Self-awareness is the key. Always and in every way.

Conversely, it is also possible to waste our cherishment on someone who either doesn’t understand or doesn’t appreciate it. Cherishment is a precious commodity (the very word itself is related to the French word for “dear”: cher). Yet, because of an obsession with (and a misplaced understanding of) “independence” today, many have no desire to cherish and also find it claustrophobic to be cherished (which is just as detrimental as being too self-centred to cherish the other). So, whilst we can still continue to have a general sense of cherishment for the world and others, it is best to withdraw ourselves from abusive personal relationships in which we are completely drained of inner resources which we can usefully share elsewhere. One can still care; but cherishment is the next level up and should be reserved in personal relationships for those who will not exploit us or dangerously abuse us. (The exception to this would be our children, who we sometimes have to cherish despite their temporary rejection of it!) However, it has to be said that if we are very wise, centred and strong, then we can continue to cherish even the abusive person if we instinctively feel it will have a positive outcome. Of course, I do not refer to *dangerously* abusive or destructive situations but those in which there may simply not be the reciprocity which would currently make that relationship complete but in which there is still hope. Each situation has to be taken on its own merits and always with applied wisdom.

In any intimate relationship, cherishment can be the glue which will hold it all together, even in difficult circumstances — *especially* in difficult circumstances. For to cherish means to put the other one above the self. If one cherishes the other (even more wonderful and fulfilling if it is a two-way process), one generates a depth of goodness, grace and virtue which can only enhance the connection. I’m aware that this concept of putting the other above the self runs entirely contrary to the modern prevailing idea that we have to first and foremost “love ourselves”. (I am not speaking here about people who have been so awfully damaged that they need to be helped to gather a sense of self-respect and some personal confidence just to be able to function in the world. Though even they can learn the benefits of cherishing too). This ubiquitous obsession with first and foremost “loving oneself” is almost taken for granted now and we see it continually emblazoned around social media by many who have been convinced of this narcissistic idea through books written by countless multi-millionaire new age self-help authors and their acolytes who run expensive workshops/therapy sessions supposedly liberating people through “loving themselves”. It’s almost as if Narcissistic Personality Disorder is now de rigueur in order to be considered sane! Gone are any notions of service or self-sacrifice, which are now regarded as abuse. The most shocking aspect of this is that, so often, the most vocal “Me! ” people these days are those who also claim to be the most “spiritual” in their social media profiles, where a false persona can be projected to the outside world.

However, the neglected truth is this: When we engage in cherishment with no other motive than to serve the other, we will have no need to obsess about “loving ourselves”, for *there is a process at work in this Universe whereby those who cherish others will themselves be cherished*. This is a fundamental law of life about which we seem to be largely ignorant today — hence this obsession with “loving ourselves”. We have forgotten entirely about the beauty of service and the way that *there are forces beyond our understanding and perception which will reward us for selfless cherishment*. This is the way it is. Of that I can assure you. This is not to say that this law provides us with a motive to cherish. But *if we had the faith to act devotedly through cherishment, without a thought for ourselves, with no expectations of anything in return, then any need to “love ourselves” would be entirely superfluous*. For the Universe loves a joyful giver and that joyful giver will always be nourished in unimaginable ways. This is a natural law at work on this plane.

The Cherisher is now one of the most misunderstood individuals on the planet, often seen as being intrusive, interfering, old-fashioned, over-expressive, unmodern, unliberated and stifling. He or she is a square peg in the round hole of this materialistic, self-obsessed, dumbed-down, navel-gazing, celebrity-fixated, narcissistic culture. I believe that the development of the (almost) lost art of cherishment, alongside those other “outmoded” qualities — devotion, duty, chivalry, fidelity, service, constancy, honour and authenticity— is the very best antidote to the prevailing culture of our world today. For these are some of the qualities of the aeon-to-come which we can start to live NOW to great benefit to ourselves, to the world and to all.

The present dying aeon — rooted as it is in self-centredness, competition, consumption, attention-seeking, acquisition, narcissism, domination and fear — represents an increasing out-of-touchness with our essence. When we live out the elements of devotion and service through cherishment, then we will not only find ourselves becoming progressively in touch with who we really are but we will also become avatars of the new aeon in the midst of a degenerating world.

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© Alan Morrison, 2015

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