Saturday, March 29, 2014

Do We Have Enough in Common?

Working and living with someone is not always the easiest thing to do, especially if you don’t have much in common. No, you don’t have to like the same things or share the same beliefs. No, you don’t have to both be morning people or night owls. You both don’t need to be from the same region or even from the same country.  No, those variables are not important, and in some ways, those differences could be assets. But in any “ship” there a few things that you and your friend/partner must have in common to successfully function and live together.  They are a few beliefs that must be agreed upon, shared, accepted and enforced.

The first belief that must be shared is the belief in COMMITMENT. Yes, commitment. Commitments are promises; they are pledges of  support, faith and fidelity.  Commitments are important because they represent an emotional guarantee that you can be counted on in times of tragedy, triumph and transition.  It assures your partner that despite the vicissitudes of life that you will be there to love and lift her, celebrate and motivate her, challenge and cherish her, and value and validate her.  Make no mistake about it. True commitment is important because it communicates loyalty and undergirds trust which helps couples enjoy the good times and endure the bad times.

Even though commitments are vital to the success of our “ships”, many people “toy” with them.  Many people retract their commitments when they are angry or frustrated. Some people use their commitment as a tool to manipulate, bargain or threaten their loved ones. Some treat commitments as if they are optional, discretionary or insignificant. In other words, some people cheapen them or they devalue them.

But here’s the truth. A commitment is a bond; it is a covenant. It is something that should not be trivialized, minimized or marginalized. It is a vow that should always be cherished and honored. And, it should never be subjected to or dependent on transient emotions, temporary situations or momentary circumstances.  Remember this - if your commitment can not withstand the stresses and strains of life, your relationship will not survive. 
The second belief that must be shared is the willingness to engage in productive CONFRONTION. Believe it or not, confrontation is not only healthy, but it is vital to all “ships”. Remember, peace just doesn’t happen; peace must be made. It can only be made when people have the courage and spiritual maturity to explore their feelings, consider their feelings and then share their feelings.  Peace can only be made when people are concerned about their viewpoints but also acknowledge and appreciate the viewpoints of others. Without valuing the needs and perspectives of others, confrontations are just unproductive fights and not what they could be, relationship fortifiers.

The ability to work through obstacles and to deal with opposition fairly and fully will sometimes require conversations that are uncomfortable. If you love and value your partner, don’t turn away from her. Try your best to turn toward her so that you can hear what she has to say. Hearing always precedes healing and hoping. I look forward to sharing more thoughts about healthy confrontation in future articles.

The third concept that two people must have in common is COMPETENCE.  Competence is not a sexy word, however; believing and striving for competence will add to your personal and relationship satisfaction. Let’s face it. Many times people who strive for competence are also life-long learners. They are usually people who are open to continued exploration, discussion and education. Now, that’s hot!! There is nothing sexier than a SMART woman committed to get getting smarter, stronger, healthier and better.  So competency may not be a sexy word but it is an attractive action and a stimulating attitude☺.
Just remember…… if you are a person who strives for competence, people who don’t will frustrate you. Trust me, nothing will irritate you more than a person who is satisfied with mediocrity and only exerts enough energy to be average. Eventually, you will outgrow them, resent them and/or lose respect for them.

What’s unfortunate is that people with a “just enough” mentality are usually comfortable with living below their potential, not only personally but also professionally. And since average is all they hope for or strive for, they are unable or unwilling to understand your desire to be proficient, equipped and capable. It may not be a good thing to say as a minster, but people who embrace mediocrity eventually become leeches and distractions. They don’t want to put in the work to elevate their own lives and they will do their best to prevent you from elevating yours too.

If you want to be in a mutually satisfying relationship, the person has to have a common desire for competence. They have to be willing to leave their comfort zones and their familiar silos to stretch themselves, challenge themselves and expect more from themselves.  If they want to embrace incompetence and be ordinary, that’s fine. But if you want to be extraordinary and strive for excellence, you may want to reconsider if you really have enough in common.

The final principle that you need to have in common is CHARACTER.  Character has multiple definitions and many variables. It is shaped by your experiences, beliefs, childhood and your perspectives.  Character is important; it is the sum total of who you are and it reflects how you navigate in the world.  It influences your behavior, informs your perspectives, determines your ethics and communicates your integrity.

Partners must have a shared meaning/understanding of what constitutes good character; they must have a similar moral compass. Also, they both must be committed to using the shared compass to guide and gauge how they interact with each other and with others. Why? Because to be in a healthy relationship, both partners must have a shared understanding of where the proverbial line is AND both partners must be confident that the proverbial line will never be crossed. Each partner must also be convinced that her reputation will be protected and valued.   In other words, some things must be "a given".

Here’s the truth.  You and your partner don’t have to have the same temperament, but you have to have a common understanding of trust. You don’t have to have the same skills, but you must have similar emotional strength.  You don’t have to be spiritually uniformed, but you must be spiritually unified.  Some things must be similar. In the Christian faith there is a scripture that says  “how can two people walk together unless they agree”. Character is an area that you and your partner must agree.

Being in a partnership or relationship does not require you to be same. But, it does require you to have a common belief in commitment so that your partner knows that whatever happens -good or bad- that she can depend on you to be there with and for her.  It does require that you engage in healthy confrontation so that peace is made and peace is maintained. It requires that you strive for competence in communication, compromise and collaboration and never settle for being or doing “just enough”. It requires a common understanding and a common definition of character so that trust can be nurtured and strengthen. No, having those things in common does not make you a clone, but commonality does support your friendships and partnerships.

Do you have enough in common to have a “ship” that exemplifies faithfulness, love, honesty, transparency, passion and happiness? Can your "ship" weather the storms of life?  Only you can decide.


SharRon Jamison

1 comment:

  1. Great information, but you have to have conversations with the stranger that you don't know in order to know what or if you have in common! I am consistently overlooked because of my disability (physical) and quickly judged as someone who has nothing to offer. However, people have to understand that the same questions you have I do as well! This is the reason why I read your articles, but I have to think differently until that person comes along, wanting to know me and what I hold! GOD us keeping me