I just spontaneously wanted to write this post to express some of the irks I feel about friendships.
Before I jump into the body of the post, a little confession. Actually, I have already made this confession countless times on this blog (Finding Mr Huggie-Wuggie) but I will here make it again anyway. The confession is that I can be very very quick to walk away from friendships. And what I am going to discuss here is one of the reasons why I can be so quick to walk away. In short, it is about when people do not respect the power of an agreement.
So here is the scenario. I will have a friend. She and I will agree about something and the mutual action that we each have to take based on that agreement. So we each go away. When it goes well is when we both do what we agreed to do based on that agreement that was reached. This is when it goes badly though: after we have reached an agreement, one party will decide “Actually, I prefer to do it this way!” And then they will go ahead, and take a course of action based on what now seems good to them, despite our agreement. Sometimes they will go ahead and do this without making any efforts towards consulting the other party.
Man, I hate this. You know, sometimes in the course of doing whatever it is, it will become clear that there is actually a better mode of action to take. In that case then I think that it is good and right to try to consult the other party or parties, to gain consensus before going ahead with the new better mode of action.
LIfe and death?
Sometimes too, it is quite urgent, or it is even a life or death situation, and you don’t have time to consult other people. Or you try to call them and their phone is off. In that case, I think that anyone would understand if you altered the original course of action to do what seems right to you in the urgency of that situation.
This is where I personally find it frustrating though: when we are not dealing with a life or death situation, when there is no implicit urgency in the matter, when you could in theory have contacted your partners in the agreement. But – you just did not, and you went ahead to make that decision anyway. Some people think that this demonstrates “leadership”. I could not disagree more. All that it demonstrates to me is lack of respect.
Let me here try to think of examples. These kinds of agreements can range from quite small things: “what should we have for dinner tonight?” to quite big things: “How many children should we have?”, “Which house should we buy?”, “Which of the two job offers on different continents with different climates should you take, darling?”. They can also involve agreements between married couples, or between friends…or flatmates, crucially, or business partners or any other acquaintances. Perhaps I am still thinking in Huggie-Wuggie mode, the examples I have given so far seem to primarily concern marital issues. Perhaps between flatmates, it could be agreements such as “which internet package will we go for?”; between friends “Which restaurant should we meet up in tonight?” – etc. Perhaps the reason why it is easier for me to think of marital agreements as examples is because this issue is especially frustrating when it concerns decisions that you have to live with on an ongoing basis.
OK, if someone spontaneously changed their mind about what we would have for dinner, that might annoy me a little, but we can always have the original choice tomorrow, right? Unless it kept happening all the time, it is unlikely to cause anyone much stress. To be honest even then – if I was so desperate for chips and pizza or whatever food, and I knew that my flatmates/spouse had a tendency to change their minds/his mind at the last minute then I would just discreetly buy for myself whatever I actually wanted and I would simply eat it while at work.
However, if someone spontaneously changed their mind for instance about the house that we agreed to buy, or the job that we agreed to take – oh my, I think that I would go ballistic. However, because realistically we would be talking about a husband here, I would not really have much choice but to go along with it – unless it was something flagrantly disobeying God. My point is that I cannot really walk away from my husband, because he is my husband.
But please believe me that if it was a “friend” who did something of that kind of magnitude – or even something a lot smaller than that – then I would easily walk away – without even looking back.
Two years: It is because I cannot walk away from my husband that I really want to make sure I do the two year thing, to hopefully ensure that by the grace of God I marry a man who truly is outstanding. So if it so happens that someone who is truly outstanding like this, went ahead and made an ill-advised decision like that, even of that magnitude, then I could remind myself that despite this one decision he is still a great guy, and I am still so fortunate to be with him; after all no-one is perfect. I could choose to overlook it, move on. Then I could throw myself into his decision and try to make the most of it.
You know what? This is the same with friendships! If I had a friend and I knew that they were absolutely outstanding, and they made a single bad or disrespectful decision like this, then I could put it to the side, try to forget it, move on with the friendship.
The big problem comes though when you have not known someone for that long, so you cannot categorically vouch for their character. And then they do something like this. Do you put it to the side, think to yourself that it might be an uncharacteristic error – or do you just walk away instantly? This is one of the biggest most frustrating questions of my life regarding friendships. For me, in practical terms, it depends on how much I inherently like the person. So if I really like them, then I am more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. However if someone was to continue acting like this before I had had the chance to verify their character, then to be candid that is all the character verification I need. Outta there! Simple!
Acting in this way to renege on an agreement shows that you do not respect the other person, or you do not respect the power of agreement – or both! When you enter into an agreement, then the thing becomes bigger than you as a person. It is not just about you, it is now about us.
This is something else which immensely annoys me: when I make an agreement with someone to do something but they already know that they have no intention of fulfilling their part of the bargain. While we are sitting making that agreement, they will make all the right noises. Yep yep yep, they will definitely do that – definitely! But secretly, even while making that agreement, they are already resolved to do something else. And then naturally they will go off and do exactly what they had always secretly planned to do. And then they will come back and say: “Tosin, I thought…”
Oh my goodness. These are the people that I walk away from. Instantly. No question. This is yet another reason I need to carefully watch potential spouses to make sure my eventual husband is not like this. If this is what you originally wanted to do all along, then why did you not bring it up right from the outset? Usually, this is of course because they know that you will never agree to their own ideas, and pretending to agree is the only way they can make you do what they need you to do. And “Christians” do this all the time. For instance, if they need your money to complete a project that they want to complete, they will pretend that they will actually put the money towards something that you believe in. And then once they have got your money, they will go off and use it to buy their fancy car or whatever – an exaggerated example here! There are more subtle and nuanced examples though.
Sometimes it will happen that we have an argument, sometimes an extended, unending argument, before agreeing on what to do. And I will feel happy that I “won”, that we eventually agreed to go ahead with what I wanted. And then the other party will go off and do exactly what they had wanted to do, what they had been arguing for! Seriously? This is beyond annoying. If you’re reading this and you’re thinking that acting like this is what it means to be “only human”, or “not perfect”, then please go off and find another friend. I am not destined to be your friend. I am not destined to be your wife. If you are not able to truly come to agreement about something, then don’t pretend to be in agreement! Furthermore sometimes I will have reasons for insisting on a certain course of action, which I cannot share with the other parties to the discussion. Sometimes, after people have acted that way, you will go ahead and share the reasons with them. And they will say “Oh Tosin, you should have told me!” With the implication that then, they would have stuck to the terms of the agreement. But that is not the point. The point is that we agreed to a certain course of action – regardless of the underlying reasons which each of us may have brought to that agreement. Because we agreed, then that is what you should have stuck to.
Because you know what, if you and I argue about a course of action, and you “win”, and we agree to do what you want, please believe me that I will go ahead and do exactly what we have agreed – because I believe in the power of agreement. I understand that the agreement is bigger than me.
Do you honestly think it requires any special skill or sophistication to agree one thing – then do another? Do you think that it is because I am completely naïve that I somehow have not apparently worked out how to do that? And the short answer to that is “yes”, apparently many people do think that I am extremely naïve – or that I am somehow available to be taken for granted.
But no, it is not because of naïveté that I don’t do that. Rather, I am showing you what integrity looks like. And candidly speaking, if you were really wise, then you would cling to integrity too. You would come to realise that obeying God in everything is the single smartest thing that you could ever do for your own life. As the Bible says, “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (and knowledge of the Holy One brings understanding).” – Proverbs 9v10
One further expression of this thing: this happened to me once, and it was so annoying. So I agreed with someone about something, buying a particular product. And it was not as if there was an argument about it (from my recollection). It was just an open conversation, I was not particularly moved in any direction. But the point is that we agreed: “This is what we are going to do.” So the other person was in charge of actually going ahead to implement the decision. And then she went off and chose a completely different product to what we had agreed on. And then I said “But what happened…we agreed?!” And she said that “God had told her” to go off and make this different decision. And I was so angry, not with God, but rather with her. The truth is that I did not particularly care about the product in itself; if she had originally suggested the one that she eventually bought, then I would have been happy to go along with that. But what annoyed me was the way she casually went back on our agreement. Furthermore, when Christians say “God told me”, then that is a classic way of manipulating people. The point is that well if “God” says something, then who are we to argue? This is how pastors routinely manipulate their congregations, by saying “God says XYZ”, and the presumption is because they are pastors, they are so holy, they are so deep with God, they will hear more from God, or more clearly than us mere mortals, so who are we to question what they say that God has told them? (This is why I have made it my determination to be deep with God for myself, so that if someone even tries the “God told me” thing, I would simply say “Well He has not told me that!!!”)
Here’s the thing, God cares about human agreement – even if it is something small. It is not at all impossible that God could indeed have told her to go with this different product. However because there were two of us who had made that agreement, even where God legitimately says, then you need to establish consensus – or otherwise break that agreement. The only exception to this is if it is once again a very urgent thing, life or death etc. So I told her “The next time you and I have agreed on something, and God tells you differently, please ask Him to speak to me too!” And then she started saying “Well it’s my money that I was spending!” Well if you think you had the right to make the decision because it was your money, then you should not have dragged me into the charade of making an agreement. You should just have gone ahead and bought whatever product you wanted. However if we agreed, then the question of whosever money it is, is irrelevant. The point is that we agreed!
Finally, a little story about something that happened quite recently where I myself broke a (one-sided) agreement. I hope you will understand why I did it…
So there is someone I know. His heart is in the right place, and he is a genuine guy. However, when he is trying to persuade you of something, he can be so insistent that it becomes pressurisation. Which means that sometimes you will agree to things, not because you want to do them, but rather to get him off your back. And to my Christian brothers – and indeed to my younger self – I would say that this is not a positive trait. No matter how sincerely you believe in what you believe, no matter how much you absolutely know for sure that you are right, it is never, but never good to harass someone into the Kingdom of God, or belief in Christ. Seriously?! So this man was recently texting me, and it felt like a bombardment – like it always does. So he asked me to come to an event. I queried the details with him. It transpired that someone else had already invited me to that event. I had agreed to go on the strength of the invite from the other person. However, she had left out a few crucial details which Mr Insistent filled in. Because of what he told me, I knew that I no longer wanted to go. However, I knew that if I told him that I did not want to go, he would continue to pester me. So I did something which technically was not a lie, but in practice it turned out to be a lie. I told him that I had already told this other person that I would be coming. (Which was true.) What I did not tell him was that I no longer had any intention of coming. And suddenly the bombardment stopped. I guess that this is because he expected me to be there. Also I’m guessing because as a person I fulfil my promises. It is absolutely inherent to who I am.
So on the day of the event a few days later, literally an hour before the event was due to start, I simply texted both people that I was no longer going to come. I know, it was bad, wasn’t it? I’m thinking that now I should simply have told him that someone else had already invited me, and I should just have left it at that. The question though, is whether he would have left it at that.
I am a born-again Christian. I believe in telling the truth at all times. I have already spoken of integrity in this post. However I am also a woman. It is not acceptable for a man to pressurise a woman for any reason at all – even for a good reason, related to Christ. If this is what I need to do to escape from you and your pressurisation, then please believe me that I will do it. Over and over and over again if need be. He and I had discussed these issues before… and it was like he was just refusing to get the message. It was like he was so convinced that I and my faith so desperately needed what he was offering, that my own opinion and my decades of spiritual experience and my ability AND right to make up my own mind were completely irrelevant to him.
To be fair to him, he does sincerely love God, and he does listen about absolutely everything else – except these two things: 1. That he can be very insistent in the first place 2. This particular group that he was inviting me to…
So I guess this is the flip side to this whole issue: when you are coming to an agreement that is all about someone else, and that someone is trying to express something to you that is absolutely personal to who they are, then please listen! And at least try to understand their reasons for disagreeing with you.