I was recently remembering a painful interaction I had with someone – who happened to be female. And that illustrated a big potential problem that might arise in relationships.
You know, as someone who is not married, sometimes I find it hard to truly sympathise with complaints people have about marriage. I assume without truly thinking it through that in that situation I would be able to assert boundaries, and if you get truly angry, you can just remove yourself from the situation until you have calmed down.
Well this one interaction demonstrated how flawed that thinking can be. And it also showed me how right I have been to insist on character as such an essential criterion for my husband.
So this person is female. And this person tried to force me to do something. What it was was irrelevant. The point though that I am trying to make here is this: I was perfectly confident that what she was saying happened to be wrong. But she was also perfectly confident that she was right. Moreover, she refused to respect my boundaries. The point of this post is not about who of us actually happened to be right in that specific instance. Rather, the point here is that sometimes people will try to force you to do something about which you are a lot more knowledgeable than they are, so you are right and you know that you are right, and you can easily, irrefutably prove it, but they will not understand that you are more knowledgeable or they will not respect your proof for whatever reason, and they will refuse to respect your boundaries, so they will keep insisting, loudly, angrily, insistently, perhaps even make the friendship or relationship conditional on your doing what they want.
In that particular instance, the whole thing caused a big argument, I firmly refused, and I eventually broke that “friendship”. In short I was able to walk away. However, if you are in a marriage, or if this person is a family member, then it is not so easy to walk away. I cannot begin to imagine how infuriating it would be to live with this kind of situation on an ongoing basis. And they refuse to let you go, or to let the matter go, or to agree to disagree. And they might even, as this woman was, be screaming at you, and throwing a tantrum and deliberately trying to provoke you. All about something in which they are painfully ignorant. This particular person apparently wanted to be able to keep hammering me with this matter. It took all the little patience I have got to try to extricate myself from that situation without expressing deep anger, and or lobbing a few home truths, hard, in her direction.
You know, this is the kind of situation that is all but guaranteed to trigger my disdain. This is not a good thing, and I know that I need to work on being more patient. After all, it is not like I am perfect. So sometimes people need to be patient with me too. But people finding it hard to deal with their ego and admit that they are wrong is bad enough already. And then refusing to respect your boundaries on top of that?! As things currently stand, I struggle to respect someone who cannot admit when they are demonstrably wrong. That is one of the most reliable ways of losing my respect. But someone who cannot respect boundaries is not even someone I bother to engage with at all. It is quite pertinent in this particular example that the other person was also female. Because I have established ways to respond if a man does not respect my boundaries, especially my sexual boundaries. Basically, I automatically and permanently walk away from a man and cut him off if he refuses to respect my boundaries. I refuse to be alone with guys anyway, so thankfully, and by the grace of God, it has never been the case that actual sex has ever been in question. What I mean by “refusing to respect my boundaries” is if a man refuses to take “no” for an answer when he asks me out, or if he ever tries to get my number, for instance, and I say “No”, or if he ever tries to get me alone and I also say “No.”
Decision Paralysis: This last paragraph has thrown up two ideas which are going to take this thing off on a tangent: firstly, there is a particular man whom I did cut off, because I had clearly explained to him that I just don’t allow myself to be alone with guys. And he had nodded along that yes, he understood. Then he tricked me into being alone with him, by simply lying outright, and in his own house, no less. And I was mortified that I was so easily tricked. To be fair, his very young son was there, but he was so young that he did not count. Nothing happened, thankfully, but I was utterly petrified, and I literally ran away at the first chance I got. So I cut this man off. Anyway, he was always part of this group that I was also part of. I left it, and I rejoined, and he is more active in that group than ever. So my issue is – how to interact with him in this group? Time has elapsed, he may well have matured as a person, but I simply don’t care. Additionally, he is married, and always was. How does a man trick you into going to his house alone? The answer now, is never again. The answer then, was that he was a pastor, and he said that his wife and another member of the church would be there – that was the lie. And then, when I got there, the house was clearly empty, (other than for him and his very young son), but he said that his wife was in the bedroom. Yeah, like I was born yesterday! This obviously raises the issue that a pastor should not lie. However, this also attests to the non-existent character of so many so-called pastors. He took advantage of my trust in him as a pastor to lie. I am just grateful that that was as far as it went. Because I was literally thinking to myself that day: [I did initially write out what I was thinking, but on reflection I decided to delete it. Please take my word for it that it was not very edifying.]
Secondly, as I write this, I remember, yet again, an advantage of my approach to men. The Bible says “Let all your ways be established” (Proverbs 4v26, new tab). In my life, the practical application of this verse is having consistent systems to handle various things. And because I have a simple system to handle my interaction with men, that cuts out decision paralysis, and thankfully has meant I have never found myself in a dodgy situation, except for literally this one instance with the lying pastor. Basically, I say “No” to everything, and to everyone, until I am sure that I know their character. And even after I know someone’s character, I am not going to be going to his house, unless he also happens to be my husband. So this means that I am never sat there with someone, trying to work out if he might be “a nice person”, or whether I might be able to trust him. The answer is simply “No”, period. Always. After this interaction with the pastor, I no longer go to men’s houses at all. Although, I did go once more to a man’s house, who I also happened to emphatically cut off, eventually, but for very different reasons, and when I went to his house, there were definitely others there! He also showed weak character, in that he tried to take advantage of my hard work and my commitment to the church, and I have also written an angry post about him, but I decided to unpublish it. This next point is so irrevelant, but that day when I went to the second man’s house, I happened to be wearing a top which I also wore just yesterday! I also happened to be wearing that same top, a blue and black cotton number, in my Facebook profile of the time, and that is how this second guy happened to find my Facebook profile! As I say, that last point was completely irrelevant. This all happened years ago, it would have been approx 7 years ago to the day that I went to the second man’s house, for a group dinner, and it shows that I look after my clothes, and I keep them forever! Now I think about it, I bought that top 14 years ago, for £5 in an H&M summer sale! And it almost looks as good as new, but it has recently suddenly become a lot more fragile and acquired a few tears which I have mended, and to be fair there were a few years I did not wear it at all! So that really was a tangent!!! But anyway, knowing what you are doing with the opposite sex and why you do it cuts out decision paralysis!
Actually, I did also go on a few non-specified date with Mr “I wore H&M top to his house.” That is, I went out alone with him to a restaurant and to the cinema at his request, and there may also have been a third “non-date”, which I currently forget, so these were like dates, but he was very careful to not call them dates. Whatever they were, going on these “non dates” with him contravened my policy of “no premarital dating”, and after he showed his true colours I quickly reaffirmed my commitment to reject premarital dating. Nothing whatsoever happened at these non-dates, thankfully, but looking back, it was so careless of me, especially considering who he turned out to be. I must also admit that I did also invite him in turn to the cinema to watch King Kong, on an equally non-specified date but he refused, and I was livid, and I eventually had to go with my sister instead!!! 🤣🤣🤣
Additionally, I have also realised that for me it makes sense to cut off any man who refuses to respect my boundaries at all, whether the matter at hand is remotely related to relationships or not. Like if a man tries to pressurise me about anything at all (while he is not my husband. I am not saying that i am going to be ecstatic if my husband tries to pressurise me about anything, but let’s be candid, the dynamics of marriage are different than with some guy you happen to vaguely know from church.) You know, there are basic standards of conduct that people need to understand before they start interacting with others, and a very key one is that people are entitled to a basic sense of autonomy, to make their own decisions about life. They do not have to do what you say, no matter how convinced you are that something is a good idea, unless you specifically have that authority over them in that specific thing. And the mere fact that you don’t appear to understand that, when you are already in your thirties, means that I do not wish to subject myself to more pressurising by cultivating any regular interaction with you.)
However, since the person in question here in the original scenario was female, then that also made me realise that I just don’t have time for people who refuse to respect my boundaries, period, whether they are male or female. This is all the more true for me because I used to be a people pleaser, I was bought up to be helpful. It has taken a lot of effort to break my people-pleasing tendencies, but now they definitely are broken, and I am definitely not going back there. No no no!!! Oh now, I got so engrossed in my little account of my H&M top that I have completely forgotten why I started writing this post in the first place!!! After re-reading – oh yeah, that was it!!!
This post illustrates a few ways that people can cause you extreme frustration if you happen to be in close interaction with them. All these failings here boil down to character:
1. Insistent woman: ego,
2. Lying pastor: Lying
3. Wore H&M top to his house: Taking advantage
4. Pressuriser: Pressurising someone
Actually, you know what, apart from struggling to keep my temper with “Insistent Woman”, I was outstanding, utterly utterly outstanding, in each of these scenarios. Which is why each of these people, except Mr. Pressuriser (because that was also a true story), tried to get me back. Mr Lying Pastor tried for no less than a year to get me back in his church, constantly calling me. Once there was this “Can you hear me charade” when I clearly recognised his voice on picking the call, I asked who it was, and instead of telling me, he kept saying: “Can you hear me? Can you hear me?!” 🤣🤣🤣 I hung up, he immediately called from another number, a call which i declined.
Question: Why on earth would a pastor antagonise the most active member of his church (outside his own family)?! Perhaps because I was so active, he had assumed that there was something I desperately needed from his tiny church, which had no eligible men…I had to ring my mobile provider at the time to try to block his number. They said that they could not do that, but I could. And that is I believe how I eventually worked out how to block someone via my phone, and the first time I ever blocked anyone via my phone.
Concerning Mr “I wore H&M top to his house”, he not only repeatedly called me from his own number, after I blocked him, but also used other people’s numbers and even (apparently) brand new SIMs to call me. He even kept inventing new email addresses and bombarding me with emails from them, which I would systematically block, until he eventually got fed up. Ultimately, I eventually had to block everyone else on this list except Pressuriser. He was the one who eventually stopped calling me. Of them all he was probably the most sincere one. However, I had already made it clear to him before the actions that ended our friendship that I did not like being pressurised, and he apparently did not get the message…
You know, I have shared stories here of times when my own character has failed. The difference though is that I genuinely work on my character, or at least I used to! Where I am not doing this so actively at the moment it is a matter of time. However, it is always high on my list of priorities. There is a difference between the lapse of someone who does actively work on their character, and the consistently poor behaviour of someone who apparently does not work on their character at all.
So what this boils down to, dear reader, is that not only do you need to insist on people that are close to you having great character, but you also need to work on your character. You. Need. To. Work. On. Your. Character. Don’t think that being “a nice person” is going to cut it. Because it really will not. All of these people are “nice people”. Many, many times that relationships fail, it will be not because of a single lapse of character, but rather because of underlying poor character, where someone does not understand that character is something that they have to actively work on, but they think instead that being “a nice person” is enough to gain access to great interactions with great people. Furthermore, of all these people, only the woman was not a Christian. The others were all leaders in their churches. And these people insist that you should pay an automatic 10 percent of your pre-tax income for the privilege of interacting with their poor character, and benefitting from their “wisdom”. And by the way, this 10% is a basic minimum, and is different from “offerings”. Many pastors are in all sincerity trying to squeeze literally as much money from their members as possible, in the name of honouring God. If you only give 10%, in many churches you will be regarded as being stingy, or unserious as a Christian. To be fair, it’s not like pastors publicly identify how much people are giving. Rather they suggest through their speeches that anyone who “only” gives 10% is “not serious”. (And remember that many of these members do not make a lot of money to start with, AND they are struggling with London rents. And now too the cost of living crisis.) Some pastors seem to preach exclusively on the topic of giving money to the church. Jesus Who?!
And then people say: “Tosin, there is no such thing as a perfect church!” Sorry, I have had enough. And these are not all the stories by the way. Not by any means. I have so many more.
So I am simply not doing it. I. Am. Not. Doing. It. If you like, jump up and down. As Nigerians would say, “I am not doing again!” My church days are truly over, for now, until I see a church where true Christlike character is truly prioritised! Just how much hell is someone supposed to be willing to take in a supposed church, when the church is supposed to be a microcosm of heaven on earth?!
[I have such a habit of doing this: I will finish the original post, then I will keep finding things to add to it. Well this is a point I have made several times before: I know that I am not supposed to say this as a Christian, but my financial situation has improved so much since I stopped going to church. Perhaps that is because I am not sitting under any teaching which is constantly pressurising me to give money for the sake of “being blessed”, so my savings have actually had a chance to grow in my bank accounts. While I was in church, I tried to resist the pressure, but inevitably I would give a small amount here and there, over and above my 10% tithe. These days, I do still put aside money for my tithe as I did back in my churching days, even though I don’t believe now as I did not then that it is a Biblical commandment, but even with that… (Admittedly too there is also a particularly helpful feature of my current financial status which was not the case back when I was in church, which also greatly helps. But even if I did currently pay more in rent…🤣🤣🤣 And you know what, there is also a significant financial and time saving made from not dragging myself across London to countless church activities every week. I would not begrudge any of this if I found a suitable church, but it is all the same a saving I am grateful for while that is not the case.) All this also demonstrates that it is so much easier to simply cut off contact with something or someone who pressurises, than to try to say “no” or “maintain boundaries” while you are in active contact with them. This is why my practice of having “yes”/”no” people is so ridiculously effective in its simplicity, alongside cutting off problematic men and women as I have described above in this post. ]