How could devotion turn bad?

Life
Devoted fishermen from Ndao Island, East Nusa Tenggara. When joining their fishing time, Capt. Daniel told me that their devotion to family would not allow them to go home emptyhanded.

Devotion has been one of few words that occupied my idle time. I don’t remember how exactly I started to repeatedly think about it, but few things drove me to.

A friend of mine, a happy mother of a cute little girl, decided to keep her relationship to a man that she considered ‘irresponsble, ungrateful and ignorant.’ Devotion to her litle girl’s future was what kept her strong, she said. She also said to have faith on her relationship with her little girl’s father, but showed hesitance to say that she was devoted to him.

Another friend chose to spend most of her single time taking care of her mother, an eight year long widow who was physically active. She could’ve followed her passion to travel but chose to spend her precious weekends to stay at home. She was close to her mother but she also yearned meeting new people. Devotion to take care her only family drove her to feel content watching and listening to her friends travel stories.

Someone who has shared his life with me had similar experience with his mother. In fact, his devotion grew stronger since his parents got divorced. He told me several times how he went into disagreement with or even hated his mom, but he chose her. In fact, I once felt sorry that he wasn’t as devoted to me as to his mom 😁

Another friend kept her toxic job only to earn money for her little girl. A single mother, she shared frequently how her job – including her manager, her company and her career in the company – drove her crazy most of the times. But she managed to build a thick skin to those to stay devoted to her little girl’s future. “At least until we have our own place we can call home,” she said when I asked when she would consider quitting.

These – and a lot of other stories from my circles – had me pondered, “Who am I devoting my life to? Am I an undevoted person as I move away quickly when things don’t turn as I wanted to? Could devotion relate to specific things instead of person?”

I’ve been trying to be a man with value and mission, holding and putting them above and higher than everything else. In fact, I saw relationships – anything from blood, friend, work to romantic – as a series of shared experience where two or more people voluntarily committed live their shared values and achieve their shared goals. By shared goals, they are still personal goals. When relationship falls apart, do personal goals disappeared as well? If so, I’d highly doubt if they were personal goals.

Let us imagine the opposite situations to these friends of mine. Would she still stay in relationship if her little girl told her to leave her father as she has been the breadwinner anyway? Would she start spending her weekend travelling knowing that her mother chose to stay with her dependable friends or relatives? Would he be tougher to his mother if he met the man of his life (yes, that would be me hahah)? Would she quit her toxic job if she could use her time to get a nice house?

I doubt if these people chose to remain in their current (or the last I know) situations. Sadly, these could actually be very real. She could capitalize her business acumen and start her own business. She could invite relatives to stay at her house and keep her mother accompanied. He could leave his house temporarily to find out whether her mom loved, needed or dependent on him. And she could spend her time outside work to start making her dream job come true.

But why wouldn’t they? As much as I thought I was close to them, I don’t know why. I respected their choice but hardly knew their situations. But then again, they’re here to let me learn.

Another friend of mine gave me his different version of devotion. As a widower, he married a woman almost half his age. He told me that he wanted to devote his life to her. He didn’t try to prove it to me but I saw myself how he stayed at home taking care his family to allow his wife spark in her career, how he grew his interests to her wife’s work to keep their bed talks alive, and how he changed career to have one or two things that he and his wife could do together, professionally. He showed me that it was possible to be devoted to family, not only spouse or children. He showed me that it’s not really a loss or a step back – especially in career – if he knew what he devoted himself to.

I learned that devotion is a beautiful thing. Devotion is where resilience and grit came from. Devotion keeps people afloat when problems weigh them down. Devotion keeps a tiny spark when the world turns dark.

But I also think that devotion is – and should be – a behavior and, as the theory says, it was driven by competence, motivation and capacity. If competence enables people to devote, capacity makes being devoted possible, and motivation makes being devoted bearable. Devotion potentially turns bad when the devoted person has no competence, not in his/her full capacity and not sufficiently and properly motivated.

Personally, I yearned to be devoted to a person. I found it beautiful to have all worries and tiredness lifted up knowing I would return home to meet someone I devoted my life to. But I couldn’t lie, I am and have been devoted to my value and mission and that includes to move on – from places, people and relationships – that do not feed my devotion. But I still keep a tiny hope that I would meet another devoted person to live our shared values and work on our shared missions.

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