Thursday, October 15, 2009

That's The Way The, Mortar Crumbles!

So far we've seen how we build the wall of REALationship, using the brick of commitment and the mortar of trust supplied by both parties. We've seen that it needs to be built slowly to allow curing. We've seen that there is risk involved, that sometimes our investment proves not worth the time and effort we put in due to others misusing or taking advantage of our trust, at which point we stop investing in them and find someone who we can invest in.

Today we discuss what happens when trust is betrayed; when the mortar fails and crumbles.

The first victim of the failure in a relationship is trust. Commitment and love more easily survive a breakdown in relationship. Trust doesn't.

It shouldn't.

When our trust is betrayed in a relationship, what should we do? We should immediately forgive if we expect any hope for restoration. When we forgive we are not holding a grudge. In simple terms a grudge is allowing someone else to live in our minds and hearts rent-free. In a grudge, the person we harbor ill feelings toward usually has no clue that we think of them this way.

Need proof? Think to a time that you held a grudge against someone. I'm willing to bet that when you found out they weren't even thinking about it, you got even more angry. Why? We think it is because we cared and they didn't. Truth is, we know about the grudge and they don't. They are clueless because they have their own life and concerns taking up their time. They simply do not take time to think about us or our grudge. If we realized how infrequently we are thought of by others maybe we could let things go more freely.

So how do we go about rebuilding trust?

Getting back to our wall, we need to first remove the damaged mortar. This crumbling mortar is the feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal that we have. This is only removed by forgiveness. This MUST be removed completely if we expect the new mortar to hold. Any old mortar will weaken the wall, causing certain failure. Once the old is gone, we have the chance to mix new mortar and put it into place. At this point we are using our mortar and ours alone.

Why not use mortar that we have mixed with theirs? Because we do not trust them. Trust is the mortar, remember? So at this point we are rebuilding with our materials and labor. We do this in order to extend our trust, bit by bit, to see if there is any chance of rebuilding the wall. As we extend this trust we carefully watch for signs of failure in the construction. If we see that all is well, and the wall is standing firm through their proving trustworthy, then we can begin adding back in their materials and labor. The beauty in all of this is that we now have an opportunity to build the wall stronger than it was before. We see that it has withstood the severest test and been damaged yet still remains.

Trust can be rebuilt, but it is not easy because it requires one to extend their trust and risk having it betrayed yet again. So that is why we rebuild slowly, initially using our materials and labor alone, until such time as we see the relationship is strengthened by trustworthy action on the part of the one with whom the trust was broken, so that they can begin rebuilding the wall of REALationship with us.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Does Trust Carry a High Risk?

So far we've seen trust as the mortar that holds together the wall that is built from the brick of commitment, and that this building takes time if we expect it to stand firm amid the trials and burdens that the wall must endure. Today I want us to look at the risks involved in trusting, and just how our example of the wall demonstrates that those risks are well worth taking.

We must extend our trust for there to be any chance of REALationships in our lives. There is always risk involved when we make ourselves available to others. How much risk we are willing to take determines the level of personal interaction and benefit that can be enjoyed between people.

I am someone that lives in such a way that I tend to extend my trust more freely than many others. I also normally trust more and deeper than many who are resistant to so freely giving their trust away. Yes I do and have been hurt when I trust so freely, but I cannot imagine living any other way. I can certainly understand the hesitance of those who have been greatly hurt by betrayal, and am not in any way minimizing their pain or belittling them for their decision. Maybe I get over things quicker; maybe my carefree attitude lends itself to not being so deeply affected by betrayal.

Not that I have never been deeply hurt by seeing my trust spat upon and cast into the gutter. I have. On more than one occasion. To go on extending my trust so freely could be seen by some as being too cavalier, too naive; too TRUSTING.

That is exactly the point. Even with the risk involved, and the memories of trust betrayals (some still fresh), I continue to extend my trust.

Why? I want to find those who I can trust, who I can develop REALationships with, and until I extend my trust I will have great difficulty developing those friendships. Actually, I have found that in many cases if I do not extend trust first it never will be extended to me.

So I go on building my wall with all who will join me in the task. I offer to many my brick and mortar, and invite them to provide theirs for the task as well. Some jump right in immediately; some observe for a while until they see that this wall is steady and worth building together; some are merely bystanders, intrigued by what they see but having no interest in taking the risk by joining in the task.

To me, all of this is part of life. An old adage from the drywall finishing business is that "you throw a bunch of mud on the wall and work with what sticks". I guess in a way that is what I do and am advocating you try as well.

Sure, there will be times you will be taken advantage of, and certainly hurt. I am. Go on building the wall anyway, inviting whom you will, working with those who join you in the task regardless of where you are in building the wall.

Let the bystanders merely watch if that is their desire. They are the ones missing out on the joy and camaraderie of accomplishing something wonderful: the mutual building of a wall of trust and commitment!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Building of Trust

As stated in my last post, trust is built, not granted. Yes, a certain level of trust must be granted initially, but for trust to grow it must be earned. This leads us to understand that trust building is a partnership, not an individual endeavor. We build trust by giving trust to someone. We expect there to be a level of reciprocation, so that we can know that the one we are trusting understands how trust works.

Trust is something we freely give, not something we are compelled to give.

When we establish relationships with others, we are moving our lives into a parallel path with their own. We do so with the goal in mind of having someone that walks through life with us, that we can also walk through life with. This is the benefit of REALationships: having someone that can pick us up when we're down; encourage us when we want to quit; even carry us when we're too weak to make it on our own. Someone that we can gladly do these things for as well. Those are the people we extend more and greater trust to. They have proven worthy of our trust.

We happily place brick upon brick of commitment in the wall of the life we live with them, using the mortar of trust to build higher, wider, and stronger walls of relationship. The brick we use is supplied by both of us; the mortar blended from the mutual trust extended between those with whom the relationship is being built.

This is the joy of living: having someone to commit to who commits to us.

So what happens when only our brick is being used? When only we are supplying the mortar? When we find out that we have been building the wall with our commitment and trust, yet the other party has been holding back, taking advantage of us by letting us invest all the material and labor while making no effort themselves?

No brick wall can be built without brick and mortar. To build a wall effectively and efficiently takes partnership. At times we lay the brick, at times we mix the mortar, but we work together in building the wall.

This is why we need not trust those who, through their attitudes and actions, prove that they do not trust us. We give our trust to those we deem worthy of it. When someone shows us that they are not trustworthy, then we should not trust them, or commit to them. It is as simple as that.

Our trust is given. It is granted to people that show us...SHOW us...that they are committed to and trust us, just as we commit to and trust in them, by building this wall together with us.

Remember, we freely give the labor, brick, and mortar. No one takes it from us without our permission.

We need not be, and shouldn't be, the only one furnishing the labor and materials for the wall.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Second Aspect of REALationship

We just finished looking at the first aspect of REALationship: commitment. Now we move on to the second aspect: trust.

Remember the illustration of a brick wall? Commitment serves as the brick of the wall, in which the strength and security of the wall exists. Trust is the mortar, the bond that keeps the brick in place and which allows constructing the wall of REALationship.

Trust is built, not granted. As one extends trust to someone else, they wait for their trust to be proven secure before adding more to the wall of REALationship. This is prudent, as you would not want to build a great wall upon an unproven and insecure foundation. REALationships are the same.

We get in trouble when we try to build big relationships before allowing them time to settle in. Due to infatuation, desire, or even what we perceive to be necessity, we sometimes rush the process of building. When this happens we end up with the same issues that arise from building a wall too quickly: when burdens are laid on the wall, it cannot bear them so it breaks down, crumbling over time or crashing down catastrophically. Neither are pretty; both are causes of great loss and added expense.

So how do we avoid catastrophic failure in our relationships? By building trust in such a way that time proves that the wall we have built is capable of being built on further, because it has borne the loads placed on it and has stood fast and firm.

Building takes time. Building trust within REALationships takes even more time.

Trust, like mortar, needs time to cure a bit. Be patient in building REALationships and you will find yours to be safe and secure, able to bear up under greater and greater loads because you have tested and proven them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Commitment is Not Done in a Vacuum

Commitment is deciding to make yourself available, standing strong with someone against the storms of life, daily if not hourly choosing to stay beside them when all others fail and flee, requiring an investment of yourself and your resources, and demonstrating the trust and faithfulness you have for and in them.

Commitments, however, are not meant to be done in a vacuum.

Something to think about: is conditional commitment really commitment? If we place certain conditions on someone before we commit to them, is that actually not committing to them? Is it really wise to commit to someone unconditionally?

Think about a family. If a child does not behave, is it wise or foolish for a parent to continue in full commitment to that child without having certain conditions in place? In a work environment, is it prudent for an employer to keep committing to any employee that regulary steals from the company, keeps everyone stirred up, and is insubordinate?

I don't think conditional commitment is an oxymoron. I know some would disagree, and that's OK. We have to remember that it is OUR choice, OUR investment, OUR resources, that are on the line in any commitments we make. It seems to me that it is wise for us to evaluate our commitments to see if they are truly worth what we put into them. I don't see this as selfish; in fact, I see it as just the opposite.

Each of us is limited in our resources. A buzzword today in business is ROI: Return On Investment. Businesses want to see that the investments they make are going to pay off in the long run for the company. Some see ROI rapidly; some will not see an ROI for a while; but all investments need to bring a yield that is greater than the investment.

In a REALatioinship, ROI is often not considered. I think it needs to be considered carefully. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Where do we choose to spend them? On what, or in who, are we going to invest that time?

I have friendships that have ended. Friendships that I thought would never end. Why? In some cases, distance was a factor. In other cases, I could no longer see a benefit in the friendship, as the investment involved was more than I was willing to make, or was decidedly one sided-I was making all of the investment. A few friendships have ended due to learning who the friend really was, and not liking what I saw, compelling me to end my commitment.

In each case, the commitment I once had made a priority now became less of one, or ended altogether. That's OK. This decision, though not always easy, did allow me to more fully invest in the commitments I still had and were making.

Commitments are very special aspects of REALationships. We need to make the most of the ones we have and let go of the ones no longer bringing any kind of ROI.

Only we can make that determination.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Choice of Commitment

The statement that "no man is an island" is never more true than we see it being lived out today. Since we are designed for relationships, it makes perfect sense that every person, regardless of age, creed, sex, or any other category we may fit into, has a need for commitment. A need to be committed to, and a need to commit to someone else. So how is this lived out? What does a commitment look like?

Just how DO we commit?

Commitment is a choice. It is a decision. Not a one-time thought, but a continual action of the will. To commit to someone is to decide to be there....and be there....and be there. Regardless of the circumstances or outcome.

This is a total giving of self for the greater good of someone else. How better could we show our love and care for someone than to be there for them whenever they require our presence? This is the descriptive living of selflessness. This brings such joy into our lives, because we find meaning in it. Many over the years have sought out the answer to the question "Why am I here?" which is answered at least in part by knowing that through commitment we are serving a purpose much greater than just living in our own little world. Through this decision we see that we can be committed to someone and not just involved with them.

I am reminded of a conversation between a chicken and a pig. The chicken was complaining about the farmer. "That farmer comes and takes all my eggs" the chicken was saying, "and just uses me as a source for his food. I don't think it's right for that farmer to take advantage of me this way. I mean, has the farmer ever considered the impact this has on me? How I feel so pressured to produce every day just so he can have his breakfast?" The pig listened patiently to the chicken's diatribe. The chicken's final complaint was "I just don't think the farmer ever realizes how much of a sacrifice I give for him." It was at this point that the pig spoke up and said, "I really don't see where you have such a sacrifice to make in the farmer's breakfast. You see, you are just involved; I am committed to his ham & egg breakfast."

Now that is real commitment!

Let's live today and every day, seeking how we can be ham to someone and not just eggs!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Strength of Commitment

Commitment is foundational to any REALationship. It is through our commitment to them that others know they will never have to face the storms of life alone. It is not necessarily a great number of people that are around someone that enables them to weather the storm, but it is the strength of the commitment that is made to them, even if this exists only in one or two friends.

To see this proven, take something as simple as a rope or string as an example. If you have a single stranded cord, then there is not much strength in that, because you have similar fibers that are oriented in the same direction. When you have a double stranded cord, then you are sharing that load stress across the fibers of two assemblies that perhaps are oriented in the same direction, yet are not oriented together until they are bound together. A three stranded cord is stronger still, and almost impossible to break.

Try a simple experiment. Take ordinary sewing thread and tie it off to something, then try to break it. A single strand can be snapped with little effort. Then tie off two strands and twist them together, using a pencil or some other anchor point. Now try to break it. It is more difficult, isn't it? Now tie off three strands and twist. Pull on that and let me know how you do.

Here is something else that is universally true. The tighter the twist, the stronger the cord. When two or three strands of thread are loosely twisted it does make a good cord, yet if you take the time to twist the strands tighter you get a much stronger cord.

It is also like this in our commitments within REALationships. When we take the time to invest in others, carefully and methodically entwining our lives with theirs, then we have become for them that two or three stranded cord that is twisted tightly. The great thing about this cord is that it becomes apparent that the likelihood of their also being a two or three stranded cord for us increases greatly. It may not be universally true, but the chances of them standing with us through our storms once we have committed to them in this way increase significantly.

If you knew a hurricane was coming, would you rather tie up your boat to the dock with a bunch of single stranded 1/4" drapery cord, or with two or three ropes made from drapery cord twisted tightly together?

To withstand the storms, whether big or small, I'll take my chances with the two or three ropes. There's more substance to them; more ability to take the stresses that come from being tossed around in the surf and wind.

That's the ticket. That's the foundation of commitment. To be so entwined with someone's life that you appear as one single rope.

This two or three stranded cord is what I want to be for those I commit to.

What about you? Who are you entwined with? Who can you begin entwining your life with?