Every Thursday I’ll post an article having to do with either relational or emotional matters. Hope it helps.
Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint. (Proverbs 25:19)
Decades ago, while babysitting a friend’s two young children, I overheard the littlest one commenting on the snowy scene she was watching on a cartoon:
“It’s so pretty!”, she squealed, then mis-pronounced, “There’s no flakes all over the world.”
Utopia, I thought to myself. A world without flakes. And that got me thinking about what life could be like if people, myself included, were more reliable.
It seems we’re forever dealing with one of two difficult groups: Jerks and Flakes. The Jerks are arguably the worst, because they’re abrasive, obnoxious types. Jerks are rude, mouthy, eternally inconsiderate and generally clueless as to how little respect anyone has for them. But at least they’re easy to spot.
Flakes are another matter. They’re often likeable, friendly types who seem compatible with your values and personality, until you need them to come through on something. They flake on you once; you easily forgive. Then twice, then three times, and still you make excuses because you want to believe the best of them. “He’s busy;” “She’s forgetful but well meaning;” “We must have miscommunicated;” and so on, until it finally hits us: This person is a flake. He can be relied on to be unreliable. What he says he’ll do never happens; making plans with him is a risk; he’s allergic to responsibility. Relying on a guy like that is, as Solomon said, a toothache.
It’s tempting to launch into a commentary on how to deal with these folks – loving confrontation, boundary setting, forgiveness, patience. All true, but today let’s focus less on how to deal with flakes, and more on how to avoid becoming one. Because flakiness is, I find, like body fat. Everybody’s got some; how much, in proportion to the rest of you, is what determines how serious the problem is.
A flake ignores covenant principles; that’s my take on it, anyway. God is a God of covenant, and relationships, by His design, largely rely on covenant principles to run smoothly, much less intimately. So regardless of the nature of our relationship – business, friendship, spousal, familial – there’s an understanding that certain principles and expectations will apply to our relationship. We won’t lie to each other, abuse each other, neglect each other. We’ll follow through on what we commit to each other, be it a financial arrangement or the promise of a phone call. And, in most cases, there’s an understanding we’ll tangibly care for each other by being present, investing in time and effort to keep the relationship healthy, and making sure we’re both benefitting from our bond. We don’t list these responsibilities out in a signed document, but by and large we expect them of each other. And we should.
So how are we doing? A counselor told me years ago that you could gauge a person’s general health by the kind of relationships they have. Agreed. So part of the answer to the “How am I doing?” question lies in the way I’m fulfilling covenant expectations with the people in my life. And on that note, I recall Jesus saying that if I come before God, then remember someone has something against me, I need to literally drop everything and try to make it right with that person. (Matthew 5:23-24) Yes, I know there are times people simply don’t like what you do or say, which is another matter. But if you know you’ve wronged someone, He said, give yourself no peace until you’ve done what you could to reconcile.
Which causes me to ask myself: Is anyone waiting for a return call from me? Have I neglected a promise to get together with someone? Have I dropped communication with anyone without cause or explanation? Do my family members, friends and clients feel I genuinely care about them, or are there inactions on my part making them wonder?
God is faithful. If I’m like Him I’ll be the same. And if I’m falling short, I’ll take it seriously enough to correct, as much as possible, my shortcomings. Because the older I get, the more clearly I see the need to, as John said, “Love not in word, neither in tongue but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:18)
There’s room for falling short of that, I know, and to some point we all do. But continued flakiness is a sin we can avoid, should have no tolerance for in ourselves, and can overcome. God grant we take the people in our lives seriously enough to respect our covenants with them, and their rightful expectations that we honor them.