In this post, I would like to offer further clarification about the “true concern” post. As I was originally writing that post I was conscious that I was not able to fully convey the sense that I was trying to put across – so here is my second attempt!
This first image represents the idea of getting to know someone very well, and being sure that you know them very well. Once again I am referring here to the theory that it takes two full years of regular face-to-face contact to be confident that you know someone very well.
This second image represents the following idea: when you start getting to know someone, but then the interaction between you is broken for whatever reason. In the case of the person I spoke about on my previous post, the platform that we shared was forcibly taken away leaving us with no further means of getting to know one another.
Because there was no true existing friendship between us and also because neither of us was ready to acknowledge that we were checking the other out, it was not truly possible to mutually establish a fresh platform through which to continue evaluating one another.
So then I was left with the decision of what to do.
The point is this: Because I had not known him for a full two years, I was not sure about being able to make a conclusive analysis of his character.
Knowing him for a full two years would have helped to balance out both negatives and positives I had witnessed in the space of time I did know him. I would have been able to tell what was truly characteristic in his behaviour, versus what may have been uncharacteristic versus what may have been simply pretending (as we all do).
So then the possibility is that he may eventually have demonstrated himself to be excellent, if I had truly let myself get to know him for 2 years. On the other hand, he may have turned out to be very different. So if I had known him for two years I could have romantically dismissed him out of hand or I could have bent over backwards to try to establish a friendship with him. The point is that I would have been clear about how to act.
I eventually decided to walk away for two reasons:
1. Despite the fact that he had to some extent impressed me for the duration of time that I had known him, on balance I was forced to draw a negative conclusion about his behaviour in the short time of space I had known him. I can’t help cynically feeling that the ways he had impressed me corresponded to exactly the ways someone might try to put on an act of having excellent character. The things he did were exactly the things that people would do if trying to convince someone that they were excellent, whether or not this was actually true. And then there were things he did which were definitely less than excellent. At the time I could quite clearly see that they were less than excellent. I just did not know whether a full two year period would balance these out.
I’m sorry if this sounds arrogant as if I presume my own excellence and I’m in a position to evaluate other people’s excellence – or lack thereof. I can’t really go into further details without revealing too much… However I remain confident that in the circumstances my behaviour was outstanding.
2. For us to have continued in trying to interact with one another, it would have required serious prayers on my part.
So ultimately this is what it boiled down to. Yes, I could have prayed and he could have turned out to have phenomenal character. However, even in that situation, there was no guarantee that anything would eventually happen between us romantically. So I could have prayed all that prayer, made all that effort – and still been left romantically empty-handed. And then there was also the possibility that he would not have turned out to be “all that” after all. To my mind, after seeing his behaviour behind all the Christian platitudes, this second possibility was far more likely.
This is where the issue of “concern” comes in. If I was truly concerned about him, then I could have freely invested that prayer into his life, without considering whatever I may or may not have stood to gain. However, because that concern had not already been established between us, I had no choice but to think about it in quite mercenary terms: “What’s in it for me?!” And eventually, I decided that there simply was not enough in it for me to risk wasting my time in prayer without getting something concrete back. So I walked away.
Does that sound awful? Part of me wants to immediately insist that it is of course not truly possible to waste my time in prayer. Each prayer will make a difference, and God does listen and hear and act. However, what I mean is that the only reason I would have prayed for him would have been from the hope of what I may have gained, and if I eventually did not gain that, then for me the prayers would have been a waste of time. If my deep and desperate desire was to bless someone through the investment of prayer time, then to be candid there were other people closer to me to whom I could have given this time more freely and gladly , without needing to receive anything back; that is, people for whom true concern had already been established in my heart.
And now let’s consider the scenario with someone for whom there is genuine concern. In this case, I am happy to give these prayers, to invest the necessary time, without necessarily receiving anything back. The concern I have for this person is enough justification to invest my time like this. The difference between these two people is that this second person has already acted in such a way as to make me sincerely want to care about their life. Crucially, I may not have known them for a full two years either, however, they have already done enough to win my concern to carry on praying even if the platform between us has been broken and they have also demonstrated a few of their own weaknesses.
I think that by default I want to care about people. This is why I would rush to the aid of strangers. Yet sometimes people will give me reasons to not want to care about their life, for instance if they think it reasonable to trample on my head while I’m extending my care to them or if they otherwise take my time for granted. And yet most people will eventually act in these negative ways, which is why true ongoing concern needs to be won by consistently great behaviour, habitually expressing true sacrificial care for other people, even when no-one’s looking, even when you don’t stand to receive anything back; pushing yourself to be the best you can be, not lying to yourself. This is what convinces me of someone’s true worth as a person and therefore it is what most predictably wins my admiration and most makes me want to sacrificially invest my own ongoing care and concern into that someone’s life.
And then there is also the fact that you measure aspects of someone’s life against other aspects. For instance, on the whole, for me as a Black woman, I have a zero tolerance policy to racism. I am even hugely unsympathetic to racial ignorance, which is arguably a lot more forgivable*. However if someone risked his life to run into a burning building to save some children or an elderly couple, then I think I could overlook some racial carelessness.
All said then, I think that true concern comes when someone embodies the values that you truly hold “deep down”. I like to display my characteristics for the sake of attracting someone who truly subscribes to these values. On the other hand, even “true concern” might eventually evaporate if either I change, so that I stop embodying the values which the other person holds dear, or if that other person himself changes, so that he starts valuing other things above the values which I represent. So this is where prayers within marriage come in, that we will both keep pressing into better and better character, and truer and truer values, and as we mutually press in deeper, we will mutually hold one another in higher and higher esteem, and consequently care more and more for one another.
*Except of course when the racial ignorance tumbles forth from my own lips: I am still mortified!
Photo of blue daisy by Albenheim on Pixabay