Here is a story in three buckets. They may not seem to connect at first but if you will bear with me to the end you may reason differently.
BUCKET ONE: Potato; Potato!
40 light years from Earth a planet called 55 Cancri E orbits blisteringly close to its host star and due to the fact that it is largely made of carbon, with a density 8.5 times that of Earth, it seems to be about 1/3 made of diamonds. Yes, this is De Beers greatest nightmare. Enough diamonds to convert the value of Earth diamonds to roughly that of Earth dirt.
The scarcity of a good sharpens our clarity in assigning value to it. Just like abundance, or need might tip the value for the which we seek to trade. We have to reason a lot of personal context/need/want/influence/emotion and stuff to make a good trade.
So, who’s to say what a goat is worth except the person who needs a goat? The purchase of Manhattan (referring to the beads), The Louisiana Purchase, and Alaska were all “good deals” for both parties. Negotiating is based on understanding the needs of those who have what we want.
BUCKET TWO: We trade stuff emotionally
In marriage counseling a rule of thumb is that the “power” in any relationship exists with the person who “needs” the relationship the least. This means that when we do the mental math on what our partner brings to the party and we don’t see them ponying up the same amount of effort that we believe we are putting into the relationship then we experience a perception of imbalance where one person needs the relationship less and therefore can make demands without experiencing as great a consequence. This is not a healthy relationship (just making sure you remember).
Equity is necessary for people to coexist together, but what is equity in a relationship? It isn’t money, right? It is whatever value that you place on what the other person provides that you cannot provide yourself and what value you are willing to give of yourself to that person in order to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Perceptions in healthy relationships that sense balance are usually based on things like personal dignity, emotional affirmation, and safety. The more tactile the transaction of a marriage’s currency of exchange; the less likely the perception of balance can be achieved (just to make sure you remember – sex is a really great tactile item of mutual exchange, but should not be leveraged as emotional currency, rather a product of mutual respect that results from a healthy balance that already exists in the relationship). One definitely comes before the other.
Once again, we find a value system where both participants are very much driven by personal reasoning about what is important to them and calculating a worth to an experience from which we reason deeply personal things like esteem, purpose, identity and our worldview.
BUCKET THREE: Why “why”?
The principle of integrity states that if we only look at a person’s motives for actions without judging her/his intentions then we are only partly seeing that person’s context and potentially failing to be a partner in healing. Motives are things like jealousy, hunger, rage or greed. Each can pull us toward any goal – good or bad. If judged alone without consideration of reason then we cannot see the humanity of how a person may have been weighing out options and intentions. Humans can reason NOT to steal a loaf of bread if they are hungry. NOT to kill out of rage; and, NOT to destroy from a sense of self-gain. Reason becomes a staging area for our thoughts where we pause in collection of many different tangents of how our actions will impact the world and we reckon which way to act.
When you negotiate in relationships or business, do not fail to consider intentions and reasons in addition to the much more easily seen motives.
CONCLUSION: Your intentions are “everything”!
In the Bible story about the Woman with an Issue of Blood (Luke 8:40-56) people were pressing on Jesus from all sides in hopes of receiving something. A miracle, a cure, entertainment, we cannot know precisely except to realize that they were “thronging him” to get it. When, in duress, the woman waded through the pack and “touched the hem of his garment” she was healed. Why her? A whole bunch of other people were touching him, too. But in an almost humorous expression of split personality Jesus asks, “who touched me? I felt power go out from me.” As if his power acted without his permission.
What was the reason? What balancing act from reason allows one person to receive an inconceivable gift in a crowd of people wanting to get the gift? The answer remains the same as all of the above scenarios of transaction.
Consider how reason works when disproportionate wealth and lopsided capacity relates to impoverishment in a way that results in mutual value. I.e. a rich person and a poor person.
Imagine you are feeding a baby cherry pie for the first time. The joy of sugar is awesome!!! And yet in the shear ecstasy of experiencing the most wonderful thing in its new little world she reaches up a dirty handful of pie for you to taste it too. The person feeding the child in no way needs the one messy bite of pie but reasons it as a perfect gift. Almost no other option can be exercised except to receive the offering and enjoy the messiness of the child’s sacrifice.
In the same way Abram believed God (Gen 1:6). God reckoned his faith as righteousness. In no way can Abram stand in perfect righteousness unless God reasoned it to be so. Reason is the fulcrum for discerning value. Some might say that this particular negotiation was a “bad deal” for God. The balancing of transactions in order to reach equitable dignity and integrity is called grace. So, what might be in it for us that we could value “giving grace” as a part of our “receipt” of goods exchanged in this transaction?
It is entirely likely that the best negotiations are always balanced. Salt for service. Money for goats. Grace for faith. And, it is equally likely that imbalanced trades are “one-offs” that leave one feeling cheated and unwilling to continue in that relationship.
Sensing other’s needs and how they might value what they can give allows us to better receive what is offered. Great gifts sometimes look like dirty little hands covered in goo.
So please enjoy some balance today and go negotiate some grace to all the “debtors” in your life.
Yes, everything in this article is a repost from an unread previous blog. You’re not crazy. I reposted to see if repackaging works. New photo, new headline, etc. You’ll let me know. In the meantime. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this whole article wasn’t about relationships and love.