What does it mean to have regard for someone? For yourself?
The origin of the word regard is Old French and is made up of “re-“ which means back, and “garder” which means “to guard”. Regarder (the Old French verb) means “to watch”. So, regarding is watching or seeing in a way that is protective, that circles back to safety.
The way I think of it, regard is about allowing someone to have their full humanity. That includes the imperfections, the suffering, the disagreement, the joy and their right to choose their perspective. It means that they are not disposable, that it is not OK to shame or punish them, to tell them what their experience is, and it means that banishment or exile is not on the table. Regard does not, however, require me to agree with them.
Holding someone in their humanity means that our fundamental orientation is that they deserve respect and dignity. If I disagree with them I do not have the right to infringe on their humanity. If I feel hurt by them I still do not have the right to infringe on their humanity. Regard is being able to set boundaries or make agreements without denying the humanity of any of the people involved.
Regard is like love, in that it’s both a place we stand to see another person, and the way we behave toward them. Like love, if we don’t act in a way that lets the other person know how we feel, then they may not believe in our regard or love. Regard is both the things we hold to be true about someone from our vantage point, and our behavior that communicates our perspective to the other person. It is the acknowledgement of the person, and it is the circling back to the safety and validation of being held as a human worthy of respect.
We can also have self-regard. This is the perspective that I hold for myself… one of self-compassion and acknowledgement of my own humanity. The associated behavior is treating myself with respect, honoring that I am having a (likely imperfect) human experience, but that I do not deserve to be shamed, abandoned, or punished… not even by myself. Self-regard holds me to treating myself respectfully, and it holds my inner dialogue to a standard of nourishment and protection rather than criticism and berating. The degrading voice in my head is not mine, it cannot coexist with self-regard.
Ultimately, regard is embedded in a culture of shared humanity, care, and connection. It is also the bedrock of such a culture. Regard also feels like a lighthouse, a beacon, for how I want to be in the world. When I don’t know what to do, or how to handle a situation, I can ask myself what regard would look like if it were present… and I can do that.
Oh so many heartbreaks in a human life. How do we do it? How do we keep living with broken hearts? How do we ever resolve them? Forgiveness? Strength? Moving on?
Honestly, I've learned so much about tending to heartbreak lately. Certainly the current state of the world gives us all fodder for heartbreak work. It returns us to our smallest selves, our vulnerable and soft places. These places are not aligned with the "just do it" mantra of our society... the encouragement to just keep going... to not pay attention to the stuff that bothers us. But, one thing I do know, is that if we don't tend to our heartbreaks, they accumulate.
Tending opens a soft space for being... like laying on the couch with a million blankets, wrapping up in a comforting gentleness, a bit like being held like a small child. Yes, to tend is to hold gently. It is to be with, to sit down next to something or someone and hold their hand. It is not to fix, or to advise. The wisdom of tending gives space to the heartbreak to do its work. To lead the heartbroken through the landscapes of grief and anger... arriving at a hill with a bit of a view... a place that provides context.
It takes time to make this journey, and tending is the attention we give that liminal space so that we can find our way through. This is deeply important work. the tending of heartbreak.
I have always struggled with the concept of forgiveness. And, I can tell you that I've only every found genuine forgiveness (or anything that could look like it) on the other side of tending to heartbreak.
Tending takes showing up again and again, for things that feel like nothing... sitting under the tree, lighting the candle, or sorting stones. Tending is being with a process at the particular place that it is, and allowing it to run its course on its own time. This is hard. It takes longer than you think it will. It moves at the pace of the natural world. And it cannot be rushed.
Tending is also one of the biggest gifts we can give to one another. It builds relationship because it moves slowly and is done one small bit at a time. It creates reliability because it requires us to come back over and over. And tending creates connection because it is based in care and devotion.
Author: Jill clifton
Hi, I'm Jill. My intention with this space is to share how exploring the archetypes of motherhood can make room for us to be whole people within our roles of nurturing our children.