That was a private message I received recently from one of the followers of Gusto on Facebook, in response to a question I posed of its readers for a topic to write about. I replied by saying that was a great one since it’s something that hits home for me. At first glance, most people would assume that topic to mean the dynamics of a relationship between two people who are intimately involved. Of course, marriage comes instantly to mind. But my mind wanders and it quickly took me to many other areas of life.
When you stop and think about it, “relationships” run the gamut. You have relationships not only with your spouse or intimate partner, but also in many other areas; your relationship with your parents, children, other family members, co-workers, supervisors, God, even your pets!
I believe you get out of life only what you put into it. If all you’re doing day-to-day is going around constantly trying to get people to meet you halfway, because all you’re willing to give is part of yourself to begin with, and not everything you have in your heart and soul, none of your relationships will have full value. Here are some examples of what I mean by that statement.
Many times in our lives, we find ourselves in positions where there’s give and take. Sometimes, we have to give up something in order to get something we want. For instance, when you go to get a loan from the bank, usually you’re mentally prepared that you’ll have to fill out a loan application. But then you find out the bank wants more information from you, sometimes very personal information. I can recall several incidents in my career as a banker when I had to ask my clients for information that they weren’t prepared to give or even saw it coming when I did ask. It was at those times I found myself in the position of “meeting halfway” since some of them balked at what I was asking of them. That was when both my-self and my client were placed in an awkward position, because of this “meeting halfway” notion. Mostly because the element of trust came into play. For example, I remember several times, when I’d asked for all of a farmer’s equipment assets as collateral for a loan, the value far exceeded what was needed for the loan, and far over what was required to meet the bank’s loan-to-policy guidelines. The farmer might say, “Why do you need $100,000 in collateral? All I’m asking you to lend me is $20,000?” My favorite and common response to that was, “What difference does it make if I ask you for $100,000 or $1,000,000? You’re going to pay the loan in good faith anyway, right?” No one could counter that. Point is, a lending relationship is much the same as life relationships in general. It’s entirely about CHARACTER and TRUST. The following example illustrates this point even further.
When I was placed in the Liberal, KS. in-patient treatment program for substance abuse in November, 2008 for six months, there was a laundry list of “house rules.” One that quickly became a constant source of discussion and irritation was the “sign-in” sheet. Whenever I left the house, even to go a couple of blocks away to get a candy bar or newspaper and immediately come back, I was required to write my name down on the sheet, the EXACT time I left, and the time I came back. On the THIRD day I was there, I forgot this little rule. When I came back later that day, the house manager had given me dish duty for the entire week as “punishment.” Remember, I was only one out of 20 or so others who were housed there during that time and all of us had various duties every day; sometimes we had to vacuum, other days it was cleaning the bathrooms, the next week clean the kitchen, and of course, the one no one liked. Washing dishes. When I found out I’d gotten dish duty for something that was an honest mistake, I was pissed. But rather than trying to negotiate, I did what I always do, I gave it my all. I decided if I was going to have to do dishes every day for a week, then those dishes were going to be spotless.
I didn’t give it another thought until the following week, when suddenly the house manager came up to me one day and told me what a great job I did. From that MOMENT forward for the next 5 ½ months, I was given a LOT of latitude in many areas. I was GIVEN the freedom to go places and do things many of my fellow residents weren’t. Why? I hadn’t even asked for those freedoms! I had developed a level of TRUST far exceeding that of the others because of my CHARACTER. Because I decided to give it my all to something as simple as making sure the dishes were spotless.
For those of you who have a religious bent, here’s another example. Do you ever find yourself negotiating with God? Have you ever asked God to do something for you and, in exchange, you’ll give something back? I remember asking Him once a long time ago, “God, IF you get me out of this jam, I’ll do whatever you ask.” We all know it doesn’t work that way with Him. Why should we treat each other as human beings any differently? Don’t be one of those that always goes around negotiating. Give it all you got. Life isn’t a series of “ifs” and “buts.” One of my favorite sayings from a former co-worker in my career as a banker was this: “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d ALL have a very Merry Christmas!” Think about it.
I’m sure you can think of similar stories in your own life, times when you were faced with meeting someone “half-way.” Likewise, think of times in your life when you went into a “relationship” with no pre-conceptions, no thought given to “what’s in it for me?” What were the results? Was there a difference? Sure, there’s no doubt that there are times when you have to meet someone half-way and yes, giving it your all is risky. After all, life doesn’t come with any guarantees and you’re bound to get burned now and then. But, unless you are willing to give ANY relationship everything you have in your being from the get go, with NO conditions, you will never receive full value for it. You only get out of life what you put into it. Think about that the next time you go to your banker to get a loan or someone asks you to do the dishes. I guarantee you from personal experience, the benefit of your actions will many times far exceed whatever you had to put into it.