Thursday, January 2, 2014

Asymmetrical Relationships

I have this friend. A talented and creative guy. A good family man. He has a really big heart and a kind soul. As you might have guessed I really like him. However I would have to believe that he does not have the same opinion of me. But I came to terms with asymmetrical relationships many, many years ago. You are probably expecting the “but” to appear anytime now. You are going to have to wait a bit longer. Asymmetrical relationships can be quite painful until you understand why they exist. In the typical asymmetrical relationship one party genuinely has affection and respect for the other party as they are. While the other party seeks to change the first. Or at the very least wishes they would change.

These relationships manifest themselves through the differences in spiritual beliefs most commonly. But this also spills over into political differences as well. I will skip the romantic versions of this phenomenon for now. Although I can safely say that I have observed them as well, both from the outside and the inside.

Now if you have spent anytime reading my previous work you already know that I am a Libertarian and an Individualist. This often confuses people when they learn that I am also a Christian minister. There are folks out there that simply can't reconcile these belief systems. I find it perfectly natural. Although I guess that I would have to. And for me part of that comes from having a rather clear vision of right versus wrong and smart versus stupid. My vision may be wrong. But I don't think so. And it was my faith in God and Jesus as well as my faith in myself that led me to the ministry in the first place.

Now some would call my relationship with God asymmetrical. But it doesn't really fit my definition. You see I am not foolish enough to want to change God. Nor do I believe that God wants to change me. Because surely God could change me with very little effort. But rather God wants me to choose to change for myself. Do you see where the Individualist part works there? God wants me to study the bible. He wants me to maintain the context and try to teach the lessons contained therein to others. This is no easy task. The language translation can be arcane. And with so many people, with ulterior motives, taking verses out of context, you really have to read constantly to deflect outside influences that don't have the best interests of the text at heart. In short, ministry is a full time job... plus. And I am retired.

I am occasionally challenged by people, oddly enough almost always men, with my memory of this chapter or that verse. I almost never engage. There is no point. I will never have the bible committed to memory. And the chances of having a productive discussion with someone obviously seeking to prove their superior knowledge are pretty slim. That's right. I tend to not take shit from some guy that has pride issues. That also confuses them. I am an unlikely minister. And I choose to own that.

Back to my friend. As you might have already surmised, we disagree politically and spiritually often. But we nearly always maintain civility and respect. I really look forward to our exchanges until he becomes personally insulting. I believe that the differences between us can be summarized like this. When we disagree in a fundamental way, I believe that he is either misinformed or misguided. On the other hand he seems to believe that I am evil or mean spirited. And that is about as clear an example of asymmetry as I can describe. But then again, how many of us found our school teachers to be evil or mean spirited?

So when we find ourselves in an asymmetrical relationship, and we are having a fundamental difference of opinion, perhaps we should ask this question. “What do we have a right to expect from the other party?” If we can honestly evaluate our expectations and our rights as they relate to others, then perhaps respect, kindness, and even affection can take the place of anger, coercion, and force.