I and Thou

The I-Thou Relationship

In Martin Buber’s “philosophy of dialogue, a religious existentialism centered on the distinction between the I-Thou relationship and the I-It relationship,” there are two ways of being in relationship. The word “namaste,” with the intention “I bow to the God within you,” captures the I-Thou way of being in relationship.

The I-It Relationship

The I-It relationship reduces every relationship to utility. What can this person do for me is the question behind every consideration and observation. People are judged, evaluated, measured, compared and in a word, used. People who treat others like objects to manipulate are manipulators; they are users.

This I-It relationship:


… will only be

  • a relationship of convenience,

  • a relationship of advantage,

  • a relationship of attachment,

  • a relationship filled with fantasies and expectations that will fail in the face of a real life. (Marshall Vian Summers, Discernment in Relationships, February 13, 2009)

In the I-It way of being, people are “unable to really unite with another, to share their power with another, to yield sufficiently to another so that they can work together as a team. There are many people who never are able to move beyond this….  (Marshall Vian Summers. Interdependence, July 4, 2008)

From Relationships of Usefulness or Advantage to Relationships of Purpose

There is a map, a reliable way to get past the problems in human nature that are a challenge even when equipped by the very best philosophies on Earth.


Beauty is truth, truth beauty,— that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

I gave my love a golden feather.

I gave my love a heart of stone.

When you find a golden feather,

It means you’ll never lose your way back home. —(Robbie Robertson & The Red Road Ensemble)

When you have been bestowed with a golden feather, it comes to signify the golden thread, the truth that runs like an electric current through all things but is not always felt.

Present-Day Interpretations of Buber’s “I and Thou”

C. Terry Warner. Bonds That Set Us Free implemented by the Anasazi Foundation and The Arbinger Institute.