So I read some posts today!

PREAMBLE
Well today I was reading some stories online about what people have experienced in their relationships. On one hand, these were anonymous stories. I know that to a certain extent you have to take these stories with at least a slight pinch of salt. On the other hand, if even a small number of those stories was true, or if each story contained at least some parts that were true, then wow. It is incredible that people experience such awful behaviour in relationships and even sometimes in friendships. And the thing is that even if you take it with a pinch of salt it is still so plausible.  For each of those stories it is entirely believable that someone could have behaved like that. In fact, we hear of similar stories every day through the media. We hear of people doing things that are even worse….

I am not going to link to those sources because they are extremely unedifying.  But, unsurprisingly, reading all this got me thinking…

For anyone who ever tells me ever again:
“Tosin, you overthink things, take a chance…on love…with any particular guy…live a little” – my answer, expressed politely, is: “no way”.  A little less politely might mean this is phrased a little more colourfully!

It might be easier here for me to bullet-point everything, then expand on each idea:

-Just because you “love” someone, does not mean that you actually love them

– Character!

-My own little story!

-Spectrum

-Don’t tell someone you are going to leave! (if there is any chance they might turn violent.  if you don’t know for sure, assume that they might be)

-I’m sure that there were a few other ideas that occurred to me on the train – my mind seems to flow most freely on the train these days! However, I cannot think of them just now!

-Oh yes – lovey dovey!

-Even Christian guys…

-Most relationships I imagine will be dire because most people have not made any real commitment to character

-Many of these things will probably seem quite familiar to any regular readers of this blog, because I never stop going on about them!

-I must say that in a way I felt quite vindicated as I was reading these posts, as they vindicated much of what I have always said about relationships.

BTW: You know what my own biggest failing is regarding relationships?  Believe it or not, I am not fussy enough. Really! On this blog, I talk the best game in the world, but in real life I have to learn to insist that someone should be like Jesus – or nothing.  I say this based not actually on my experience with relationships, but rather on my experience with church – which is probably the next best thing!

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POST PROPER – CHARACTER
Well today I was reading some stories online about what people have experienced in their relationships. On one hand, these were anonymous stories. I know that to a certain extent you have to take these stories with at least a slight pinch of salt. On the other hand, if even a small number of those stories was true, or if each story contained at least some parts that were true, then wow. It is incredible that people experience such awful behaviour in relationships and even sometimes in friendships. And the thing is that even if you take it with a pinch of salt it is still so plausible. For each of those stories it is entirely believable that someone could have behaved like that. In fact, we hear of similar stories every day through the media. We hear of people doing things that are even worse….

Reading these accounts re-emphasised to me the importance of character – as if it was ever something I would  be likely to forget.  You know what?  Those accounts that I read seemed so far removed from my own life. In terms of relationships, I have led possibly the most sheltered experience (un)imaginable.  Some things I read today are just so far out of my everyday experience that I find it hard to believe that for many people they are quite unremarkable.  Sometimes, people will go to the front of Church, to talk about their testimony, or how their life has changed since they accepted Christ. And they will start crying profusely. I have certainly been through things that have made me cry.  And yet by watching the way these people truly dissolve in tears you know that in terms of life they have really seen things and really lived things.  Wow. 
And yet, even in all that, from what I read today it was so clear that whichever end of the spectrum you fall at; whether you are a quiet bookworm mouse like me (ha!) or whether you like to live your life at a much faster pace, or if you are someone who is naturally quiet but have found yourself in an unexpected place, if you are looking for a relationship, or a partner, character is absolutely pre-eminent in what you have to insist on. 

And you know what?  Not a single account that I read today articulated it as “character”. (And I read loads!) But if you condense all the thoughts together, everything that everyone complained about, that was and is exactly what the issue is, time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time – as I say, I read loads!

Excellent character is:
-Someone who is not going to lie to you, or lie about you
-Someone who is not going to cheat you, OR cheat on you
– Someone who is not going to take advantage of you, perhaps of the fact that you are very giving, or very forgiving
– Someone who is not going to steal all your money – or any of your money
– Someone who is not going to just lie around the house doing nothing, giving nothing, but taking absolutely everything, while you do all the work
– Someone who is not going to take advantage of their superiority or their power in some way to make you do things that you do not want to do, or things that are not ultimately in your best interests
– Someone who is not going to try to pull you down or make you feel small

What I am going to talk about next is an extremely sensitive topic and it might be capable of triggering painful memories in people.  However very good character also means that someone is not going to sexually assault you or demean you.

On the other hand, excellent character means:
-Someone who recognises your inherent value as a human being.  This means that someone will treat you as incredibly precious and valuable, just because you are alive.  This is how we should all treat one another, all the time. This does not mean that we will always agree – of course we won’t, but all the same we never let ourselves forget that we are dealing with a human being, not a resource, or a way of accomplishing our own goals.
– Someone who will be considerate about your feelings
– Someone who is committed to excellent behaviour not because you as their friend “deserve” excellent behaviour, but rather because they have already made this commitment to themselves long before they met you.  So they will never make you have to “earn” their good behaviour
– Someone who respects your human autonomy, and your right to make certain decisions for yourself, without trying to control or manipulate your decisions

Really, really excellent character in some way I believe always involves a commitment or a determination to yourself. If you meet someone who is rigorously, consistently honest, who tells the truth with candour, or pushes themselves to vulnerability – then please please believe me that this will be because that person has made a commitment to themselves to always tell the truth.  It will not be an accident that somehow they just have not worked out how to lie. The likelihood is that it is something that they have to constantly revisit and renew and recommit themselves to, day in day out. It is a bit like many of the accounts I read today and yesterday, that in a relationship the spouses need to continue choosing one another, day in, day out.

Similarly, if someone is rigorously faithful, that it is not going to be an accident either.  If they refuse to even look at members of the opposite sex, no matter how attractive they might be. If they are utterly scrupulous about never finding themselves alone, accidentally or otherwise with an attractive (or unattractive!) member of the opposite sex; if they manage to always subtly but firmly remove themselves from temptation before that temptation has even had a chance to fully remotely manifest itself – please believe me, that is definitely not an accident! Once again, that takes a resolve, and a determination.

If someone is going to tell the truth and be extremely faithful, that takes two different determinations!  And this is what you want, right, ladies?!!! A man who is rigorously truthful and a man who will be rigorously faithful to you?! If you read this blog, I hope you can appreciate that I like men and  I like the prospect of being in a relationship with a man and I like the fact that they are strong and I like romance and I like…all that. But by the grace of God, I have made the determination to my God and to myself that I am going to be faithful to my husband.  This is even though I do not yet know who I am going to marry. I don’t even know whether I am actually eventually going to marry anyone at all. But I have made the determination that I am going to be faithful to him.

This is why so many relationships are dire: how many people do you think have made determinations about the different aspects of excellent character?

From your daily experience of people you meet and interact with, how many people do you think may have sat down and said: 
“I am going to tell the truth – always” AND
” I am going to be rigorously faithful to my spouse (even where my spouse refuses to meet my legitimate sexual needs)”  AND
“I am going to treat everyone I meet with dignity and honour, whether or not they can be useful to my life”  AND
“I am going to conduct my life with integrity in every single way” AND
“I am going to put my spouse’s needs above my own, even where my spouse refuses to meet my legitimate needs” AND…every other thing that a relationship needs to be successful?!

If you have met someone like that, and he is still romantically unattached and he also happens to be attractive and smiley – please send him over in my direction, I think he might be my long-awaited husband!  Even if he is not a Christian yet, please send him over anyway (how dare you plan to keep him for yourself?!)  Please believe me that to win that kind of character, I would be happy to pray, very very hard indeed! 

I believe that a truly robust and outstanding marriage would involve not just one, or even 5 determinations, but perhaps 10, or even 20 distinct determinations about character each aggressively pursued. And yet I believe that most people have not made a single determination – not even one, about excellent character.  And then you’re surprised to catch them flirting with your attractive neighbour. Or you are surprised to find that they can be a tiny bit tricksy, or selfish with money. Or you are disappointed that they might make unkind remarks about your family. Or you know deep down that they are not 100% sincere. Or you are surprised that they would so casually break all that you have built together to leave for an option that seems better to them.

To repeat I honestly believe that most people have not made even a single determinaton about excellent character.  At the very most, I’m sure most people would strive to be decent – which is a decent start!  However, to get from the level of being “decent” to the level of resolving to be outstanding – that takes something very special.  So many potential spouses that you would meet might never have made any real determination to be faithful (to you) or to treat their spouse (you) –  with unfailing dignity or to tell (you) the truth at all times. Or they might treat you outstandingly, but treat other people poorly.  And then they bring everything that they are; that is, the lack of resolve for 100% truth, fidelity and selflessness into your life, to collide with your own very real imperfections – and you are surprised that it is less than beautiful?!  And the thing is that it really is not about you, just like your imperfections are not about them. Barring some reflection or some soulsearching, exactly the same way they bring these imperfections crashing into your life is exactly the same they will take that same set of imperfections crashing into the life of their next partner, just as you also will carry around your own flaws to collide violently with the failings of the next person you get involved with.

People who have made these multiple determinations for all-round excellence are so rare.  Even within the church. And yet, each of these determinations are absolutely essential for a strong relationship.  And this is why most relationships are bad, and most relationships will continue to be bad:  Because there simply are not enough future spouses to go around who have made the various determinations for excellence in life.  These would also translate to excellence in marriage. So because there are not enough outstanding spouses to go around, most people will either then have to remain single, or to settle for someone who is less than outstanding.  This is the reason why I am still single:  because I too am yet to cross paths with someone who is sincerely committed to being outstanding. And I have not been able to work out where to go to consistently meet people who are committed to being outstanding!  The simple answer to this is definitely not church!  I have chosen to remaining single rather than to put myself through the seeming hell that someone less than excellent would represent.  Most people embarking on relationships might not have made a deliberate choice about this.  However, whether they realise it or not, by not insisting on outstanding character, by not sitting down and doing the hard maths of excellence and seeing that there simply are not enough outstanding people to go around, then they are inadvertently choosing hell for themselves. And going by the articles I read today, hell is apparently exactly what they get – time after time after time after time.

To be continued! 🙂

However, before I leave this here for now, one quick other point that occurs to me is this:  where for instance you are married to someone of solid character and you are facing some marital problems caused not by either of your characters, then you will describe yourselves as going through problems in your marriage. However, if the problem is consistently caused by poor character of one or both spouses – then I believe that the likelihood is greater that you will simply just leave that marriage, cursing as you go.

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