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Care is a common word in our vocabulary and a common practice in daily life. We say ‘we care’, we are ‘caring’, we are ‘careful’, we ask to ‘take care’, and we wish to lead a ‘carefree’ life.
Affection is a much less used word and practice as well. We usually reserve affection for children, or for pets (my apology).
In spite of the above, care and affection are two beautiful feelings which become the basis for relationships that may last a lifetime or even beyond.
Here is to how I would like to interpret and compare these two important facets of life.
Care is when we help someone through a difficulty. Care is supplying what is deficient or missing; such as medicine for sickness, stick for disabled, or support for physical, social, psychological needs. Care is an activity which is done with the consideration that the care is of prime importance, not the person. Caretaker is likely to take a superior position, putting the cared-for below her/him. It is a common observation that caregivers develop a hard attitude towards those they care for. Children while they care for their parents, relatives giving care to other relatives, social workers giving care to disabled or homeless people, health workers giving care to patients at homes or hospitals, all become hardened. They insist on following the routine, they shout if they are not followed and they easily get frustrated or jittery. Care is what nurses do; I am a great admirer of nurses’ work; they do the most wonderful work which even the closest relations refuse. Caregivers are a large category including doctors, nurses, healthcare staff, support staff, social care staff, mental health staff, addiction treatment staff and so on.
However, care is or likely to become mechanical over time. It is the body which becomes hollow over time though it may have a spirit initially. Care for the same people may stagnate or start deteriorating over time. Care is what nurses do; I am a great admirer of nurses’ work; they do the most wonderful work which even the closest relations refuse. Of all the caregivers, they should become mechanical more easily or quickly but usually they still manage to do it with a smile.
What happens? Why does the care that starts on a high note of feelings and desire to help loses its energy and starts dragging? It is true that caregiving is a hard job. It is very hard to sacrifice our comfort for the comfort of another person. We do see a lot of cases, where the caregivers finally abandon those they were caring for before.
It may be understood better after we look at Affection.
Affection is when we have tender feelings for someone disregarding whether we like/love her or him or not. It evolves and keeps increasing over time. It is not in response to a distress call; it is simply there all the time. Affection considers that the person is prime, not the activity. That is why an affectionate person will not likely put the object of affection below her/him. Affection is the spirit, the soul and when put into the ‘body’ of care, makes the most magnificent combination. Affection is what true friends offer. Affection is what real elders offer. Affection is what Sufis offer. Affection is what sustains over time and never tires. Affection actually grows over time and never gets stale.
Women are better than men at giving care and/or affection; disregarding the role. Mothers, daughters, sisters are icons of affection. Though it naturally comes to women, not everyone is capable of nurturing this attribute, hence good and not-so-good relations.
And then there is the highest level, which is ‘Affectionate Care’. It is the best that a relationship can offer. Women are again naturally better at it than men.
Care generates gratitude but affection creates bond. Care nourishes the body while affection enriches the soul. Care demands acknowledgement whereas affection is selfless, non-demanding. Care is intermittent, demand based while affection is omnipresent and continuous. Care brings relief in specific areas; affection envelopes, surrounds and takes over entirely. Care comes and goes at scheduled times, but affection lives with us, in our heart, in our mind and in our home.
If we learn to give Affectionate Care to our relations, it will build bonds which will be almost impossible to break. It will nourish the souls of all involved and will make everyone grow. It is a most worthwhile goal to pursue, a value to stand for and an ideal to live by.
Shall we take the first step towards it, without waiting for the other to take initiative?