Who Do You Trust?
Have you ever made a mistake in a relationship? Have you hurt or misjudged someone? Have you ever experienced disappointment or betrayal? Whether you’ve been on the giving or the receiving end, you might find this information valuable. When it comes to forming close relationships, you – and only you – have the right to decide whom you should get close to. No one has the right to influence you unfairly, even though they might be looking out for you. But, before you share your heart and soul, be wise: go slowly and tread lightly. Don’t rush into anything.
Naturally, human relationships operate at different degrees of closeness. Here’s one way of looking at the ways we connect with people.
LEVELS OF RELATIONSHIP
Level D: With people we hardly know: “Hi, how’re you doing?”
Level C: This involves small talk only: with people who work at a store or shop, lunch-room workers, distant relatives, casual social contacts, and some co-workers or fellow students.
Level B: This is a closer relationship, which includes people we spend time with regularly and know fairly well. We know their families, their friends, we get pretty close and we may like them a lot. Some people at this level may give us unconditional love, like our mothers, for example. But even with someone that close, we may not share our secret selves.
Level A: This is the deepest level, the level of emotional intimacy, which we experience with the one special person – maybe two – with whom we feel safe to be really real, totally free and honest. With this person we give and receive unconditional love and acceptance, even when we fail. This is our “go to” person, the one we trust above all other people.
Many people have no one to relate to at the closest level. They’re starved for true intimacy. But, if you have such a person in your life, it’s wonderful. If you have two, excellent. If you have more than two, it’s unusual. If you have several, you may have boundary issues, because you’re probably sharing too much, too freely.
FORMING CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS
You may decide to get close to someone just because you like her personality. Maybe you share her musical taste or her love of sports, arts or hobbies; or you have the same sense of humor or friends in common. So, when you’re with her, you feel acceptance and belonging. You understand and like each other, because you have fun together.” So – you think – you could be close friends.
Not so fast. Slow down. If you don’t take the time to be wise, you’re liable to make an error in thinking. That error is to believe that just because someone shares your tastes, they also can be trusted, and they understand and care about you on a deeper level – such as, when you’re in trouble, or sick, or just no fun. That is not always true. Find out about the other person’s integrity, honesty, beliefs and values before you get close. This takes time.
Before moving to level B, take the time to know that person; and take extra special care before going to level A. I’ll tell you how to get that knowledge.
PERSONALITY VS. CHARACTER – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Personality traits are different from character traits; but they can overlap. For example, sense of humor is a personality trait. But, if it’s exercised cruelly at another’s expense, then it involves the character issue of kindness.
WHAT IS PERSONALITY?
It’s an “outside” thing. It’s mainly about our unique selves and how we appear to others – our looks, tastes, hobbies, skills, jobs, or favorite subjects in school; it’s not about our deep selves, nor is it about how we affect others deeply.
Here are a few Personality Traits and their opposites:
Tense VS. Easy-going
Shy VS. Outgoing
Self-confident VS. Self-doubting
Sensible and Patient VS. Impulsive
Creative thinker / spontaneous VS. Well-organized
Motor-mouth VS. Slow to speak
Fast-moving VS. Sluggish
Clumsy VS. Graceful
Sense of humor VS. Humorless
Emotional VS. Cool-headed
Charming VS. Boring
Intuitive (trusts his hunches) VS. Analytical (figures things out)
Always likes to be involved VS. Coolly observant, stays back & waits
Well-coordinated VS. Non-athletic
Physically fit VS. Out of shape
Trusting VS. Suspicious
Personal interests: sports, hobbies, games, collecting unusual objects, travel
Talents and skills: mechanical aptitude, empathy, art, organization, athletics
Matters of taste: clothing, food, music, movies
WHAT IS CHARACTER?
It’s an “inside” thing. Character traits affect the self, but they also affect others.
Here are some Character Traits and their opposites:
Wisdom VS. Foolishness (folly)
Integrity VS. Hypocrisy
Loving care / Empathy VS. Indifference to others
Honesty VS. Deceit
Dependability VS. Unreliability
Self-control VS. Lack of discipline
Mercy and forgiveness VS. Vengefulness and spitefulness
Moral straightness VS. Immorality
Considerateness VS. Thoughtlessness
Strong work ethic VS. Laziness
Puts people at ease VS. Makes people uncomfortable
Sharing / generosity / sacrifice VS. Selfishness / greed
Humility VS. Pride
Patience VS. Impatience
Accepts constructive criticism VS. Can’t take correction
Respect for Boundaries VS. Intrusiveness
Self-respect VS. Self-contempt
Trustworthiness/Loyalty VS. Disloyalty
Focused on others VS. Focused on self
Accepts responsibility VS. Denies and blames others
Courage VS. Cowardice
Do we judge people based on personality or on character? Do you want to hang out with someone because he’s funny? Sure. But do you want to lend that person money, just because he’s funny? Of course not! Do you go to the mall with someone because she’s fun to be with? Sure. Will you have that person sleep over at your house, just because she’s fun? I hope not; she might get into your stuff. Don’t let a person get close until you are satisfied about the quality of his character.
How can you tell if someone has good character? One way to tell is to see the person in frustrating situations, in adversity or under pressure. The way a person handles herself when she’s not getting what she wants is a key to understanding her character. Anyone can be nice when things are going fine; but the person of good character keeps it together when the going gets tough.
Here’s a second way to discern the quality of a person’s character. Abraham Lincoln said that, while adversity or pressure is a reliable test for character … if you want to see a person’s true character, give him power. Power can take many forms. It can mean more money, popularity, talent, a bigger job, winning a contest, a championship, or acceptance to a great college. President Lincoln made a very good point. How does a person react when he’s given power? Is he fair? Is he cocky? Does he get conceited? Does she get impatient and intolerant of the “little people”? Does she go “power crazy” and lose good judgment and common sense? The old saying that “power corrupts” and “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, applies here. Have you ever known people who became conceited after they became popular? … or after they became wealthy? Increased power, wealth and status can reveal a person’s true character.
Now we have two “tests” of character. 1) The Adversity Test and 2) The Power Test.
When I use the word “test” I’m not suggesting that you purposely try to test people, as if you’re manipulating a puppet. Don’t set up situations for the express purpose of doing that. Just observe and notice other people’s behavior. Try to be with them in many different situations and circumstances, which will give you a wider perspective on their behavior and attitudes. Watch for red flags: warning signs of poor character. Don’t ignore those signs.
You ladies out there may conclude that I’m saying you should only be with a man who is a good leader. I don’t mean to suggest that at all. Not all people are meant to be leaders, in the way that the world describes a leader: a governor, a manager, or a boss. If a person does not perform well in that role, it doesn’t mean that he lacks good character. He may not be suited to that role. If you’re looking at him from a spiritual viewpoint, he must, at least, be able to lead by example and service, which is the best kind of leadership, anyway.
Other ways of judging whether a person is safe:
What makes him angry? Sad? What scares him?
What does she laugh at? It takes courage, humility and honesty to laugh at yourself.
Is he a good listener? When you argue, does he “fight fairly”?
How does (s)he relate to the opposite sex parent? A girl who has conflict with her father, or a boy with his mother, will carry that conflict into their relationships with the opposite sex. If you don’t believe this, you’re fooling yourself.
Is the person open about his/her past? Do you know anyone who has known him/her for a long time, and who loves and respects him/her? Is (s)he hiding anything?
Does (s)he have a lot of financial debt? For example how many credit cards does (s)he have? Do not marry anyone who has significant debts. If (s)he objects, run the other way! A person of integrity won’t put you at risk financially.
Do you know his/her family? Does anything about his/her history give you a bad gut feeling?
Does being with him/her make you feel pressured or uncomfortable? Don’t ignore that red flag! Trust your gut.
How does (s)he treat people who are considered ‘lower’ in any way? Does (s)he put down poor, old, young, ethnically different or disabled people?
I hope this will get you to ask yourself some important questions, and to talk about this stuff with your family and friends. If you do, you’ll learn lots about yourself. And if the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, as the Bible teaches, maybe the next step is self-awareness.
One more thing. These teachings are not perfect. Some bad characters cleverly hide their true selves, only to reveal them after their potential “victim” has committed to a relationship. Even so, these guidelines should greatly improve your chances of success in close relationships.