As a submarine officer, I had plenty of opportunities to see ships tied to the dock, ships in transit in the harbor, and ships in the open sea. All of them have this in common: they are held afloat by the water that is outside the ship.
All ships also share this: they all have water inside them. Water inside a ship can either be disgusting or refreshing.
So, ships have water both inside and outside their hulls, and the balance between them determines the state of the ship.
The disgusting water is normally in the ship’s bilge. Bilge water enters the ship in many ways, most of them small and uncontrolled. Bilge water is unfiltered, uncleaned, and uncontained. It always has oil, dirt, and grime floating in it. Looking at bilge water is nauseating. When a ship has too much bilge water, it will sink.
The refreshing water is contained inside tanks. It enters the ship in a controlled fashion, and it is filtered or distilled to make it clean for use. Ships use this water for cooking, cleaning, showers, and running the engineering plant. This water is cool, clear, and inviting. Ships have a limited capacity for holding refreshing water, but they still hold it.
The water outside the ship always contains a bit of the gunk and grime that makes bilge water so disgusting. It doesn’t contain much of this junk, just enough to make it unfit for direct use by the ship’s crew and engineering plant. Systems in the ship put energy into it to clean it and to make it fit for use. In some cases, these systems take the bad stuff from the incoming water and put it in the bilge for a time until the ship’s crew can pump it overboard in a safe way.
The events, interactions, conversations, and relationships in our lives resemble the water both around and inside a ship.
Like water outside a ship, the things that happen external to us have both good and bad pieces to them. In most cases, the good far outweighs the bad even if it takes work to separate them.
Like the refreshing water inside a ship, we may have to work to separate the good from the bad, and we may have to keep some of the bad with us for a while until we find a healthy way to get rid of it.
Like bilge water, the bad events and interactions with others that we experience look pretty nauseating, and, if we let them build up inside of us, they can sink us. They can sink our attitude, our confidence, our ability to interact positively, and our ability to see events clearly.
The people around us, the relationships we engage in and experience, the situations we face; all combine to either keep us afloat or to sink us. Our outlook, our effort to focus on the good, and our willingness to invest energy into relationships will determine the outcomes we experience. The energy that we invest in these areas lets the refreshing water in and keeps the bilge water out.
Sadly, when we let bilge water fill us, we do not get rid of it in a healthy and controlled fashion. Instead, we spew it on the people around us, and, if they are not careful, it can get inside of them as well.
Two people carrying lots of bilge water will find it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship. So, do your part to build healthy relationships by:
- Filtering and distilling your experiences to pull the good from the bad,
- Storing the good inside you, and
- Finding a healthy way to get rid of the bad.
Just as all the water in the ocean cannot sink a ship if it does not get inside, all the negative in the world cannot sink us or our relationships when we do not let it inside.