I thought a lot today about contempt – what it is exactly and what can be done to dissipate it. It seems to have a big impact on the relationships which contain it and in turn the impact of those relationships on others and on what’s possible for humans attempting collaboration of any kind.
What I think of as contempt is not quite what the dictionary says – a despising or a plain lack of respect – although the definition mentions the words scorn and disdain which hint at what I think of it as. I think of contempt as that steady current of negativity that runs between many pairs or groups of people, flavoring interactions with a note of malice.
This kind of contempt runs quieter but not independent of some of the more visible and widely discussed conditions between humans, but I wonder if it sets the tone for some of the more terrible things we do to each other. It seems to exist not only between the likes of actual warring factions but in families where love is unquestionably present – between spouses and between parents and children, between siblings, between in-laws. What’s interesting to me about it is that because it’s subtle, it’s easier to leave alone, to overlook in our efforts to get along better and improve our relationships with one another.
Anyway, it’s a big beastly thing, contempt, and I’ll be thinking and probably writing about it more soon. But for starters, ever since it came to my attention at a family gathering the other day, I’ve been watching for times when, finding myself wielding it, I could opt to lay it down.