I’m supposed to be out picking up our Thanksgiving turkey right now. But suddenly an issue that has been bubbling up in my family finally crested. You see a member of my family, let’s call her PJ, has been struggling for a while with the relationships in her life. As a thirty something-year-old PhD student these include professors, fellow PhD’s, undergrads, and many others in university life, in other words superiors, peers, subordinates, friends, and acquaintances. Last night when PJ returned home she recited an event at school where a peer she considers a friend told an acquaintance that PJ was a “demanding” friend. For PJ, this cut a little deep because this has been a characterization used by others to attack her in the past. Here are a few examples: PJ has been told by superiors to overlook rules being broken even when it concerned safety. She has had peers verbally attack her in front of superiors for making the case that overlooking these rules and not protecting those who may be hurt would be wrong. In the end it was easier to say PJ was just too “demanding” than to stand against the crowd. Next: PJ has had subordinates who despite her great efforts, understanding and support refuse to follow protocols required to successfully complete their training. In the end when PJ was finally forced to write a performance review that reflected this, the trainee’s response was not that they failed, rather that PJ was just too “demanding.” Last: For a time PJ took on roommates under the agreement that all utilities were included in the rent and that renters’ behavior should reflect a respect for that. One however always left the windows in her room open. Rain, snow, sweltering heat it didn’t matter. What’s a little water running down the wall or the heat or AC running non-stop? I’m not sure they thought about their behavior, but I am sure they felt it was too “demanding” of PJ to complain.
After reflecting on PJ’s experiences I decided to write this post and ask: As good people, much less Christians in the Pursuit of Gods Character, is there a good and a bad “demanding,” and are we required to be either?
Not wanting to put words in PJ’s mouth, assume these examples and questions come from me. Is it bad to “demand” that the safety of those for whom we take responsibility be at least considered? Is it too “demanding” to insist a person we are training learn to perform basic tasks correctly, especially when the career for which they are preparing depends on it? If we agree to provide comfortable housing for someone, would it be bad to “demand” that they live under a pile of blankets to keep warm? On the other hand if you keep the heat set to a comfortable t-shirt temp is it too “demanding” to require they keep the window closed so your costs aren’t unnecessarily run up?
I’ll stop there, I have a confession to make. I am “demanding.” I “demand” reciprocation. I show respect for those around me, superiors, peers, subordinates, friends, and acquaintances. In return I “demand” the same, no more, but no less. If I invite a friend over and they agree, I “demand,” at least once in awhile, they show up at the agreed upon time. I “demand” those who claim to be my friends not just my acquaintances behave as such, in all company. I instruct subordinates with respect and “demand” that respect be returned. I respect others rights to their opinions, perspectives, and disagreements and “demand” the same. Obviously I am very “demanding” so I will stop the examples here.
Finally, I ask you this. Does it “improve life” to risk others’ safety just because someone will call you names? Does it “improve life” to set your standards based on public objection rather than God’s Character? Are you “improving” others’ lives if you overlook mistreatment rather than risk a friendship? If we are to “improve life” in every moment then doesn’t that include the hard as well as the easy? If God “demands” we behave a certain way as Christians, is it our choice to behave differently?
In the end we are to be loyal to and fearful (respectful) of God and his Character. To “demand” any less of ourselves would not improve God’s Kingdom or bring Him glory, and would not “Improve Life.”
Before PJ was family she was a friend, and I am happy and proud to call her both. She “demands” I be the best person I can be and “demands” the same of herself. Those looking to “Pursue God’s Character” would do well to look to her lead.
© Scott A Caughel 11/24/2015