When I let people know that I evaluate them, from the way people seem to quietly get upset, I get the feeling that some people might mistake that for my testing them. Testing versus evaluating might sound the same, but they are actually very different.
Testing is when someone engineers an artificial situation, which is designed to examine how someone would react or respond. You can understand why people might get upset, if they realised that they were being tested. Because they would not know what was real or fake in their interaction with someone else.
Evaluation on the other hand, does not involve engineering anything. It involves simply just standing by and observing how someone else deals with all the situations of life as they happen. It does not need to be big situations either. It can sometimes be those small everyday things that reveal someone’s character. Actually these small things are particularly useful because it often does not occur to someone that they might be evaluated for them. This is a story that I have shared here before about a party that we held at a certain Christian fellowship I was part of. And crucially, there were clearly not enough pieces of chicken to go around. And please believe me, in my experience chicken is ALWAYS a big part of Christian parties, no matter the ethnicity of the people involved! And this lovely young man (and he truly was lovely, despite what I am about to recount) reached out and from memory I can’t remember what exactly what it was that he did. He either took the very biggest piece of chicken, or he might actually have taken two pieces, when there were already not enough to go around in the first place. You know, I myself have very often done things like that, so this is the kind of thing that people learn with experience. So if this happens once it is not enough to base someone’s character on, it is more an issue if it happens repeatedly, or if someone continues to do it, after being gently rebuked for it. The thing is, in parties I too have often helped myself to more than my fair share of one particular item, thinking “Well, not everyone will want some.” But there is something sacrosanct about chicken, or meat in general. You have to assume that everyone will want some, in fact everyone would love to have two pieces, if they could. But when there is clearly not enough to go around in the first place, and you help yourself to two of the biggest, choicest pieces – I mean, come on! (I might be embellishing the story a little, as I cannot clearly remember it now!) You know, I bet that that man is married now, even though he was a lot younger than I am, and I am sure that his wife is very happy in their relationship, because he was genuinely kind and courteous. This is simply an example of small things that people do that can be quite telling.
Key then to evaluating someone’s character is seeing how someone consistently responds, or conversely, what they might always forget to do.
A problem with testing, or artificially creating scenarios for other people, is that we are human beings, our understanding is limited. Often when we attempt to test people it can be clumsy or silly. God can and does test people, but God is God. His understanding is perfect.
This is a true story, and it relates to someone I have previously written about very unflatteringly on this blog.
He explained how he tested his potential wives. I think he had a selection of women that he wanted to choose from. So basically he took them all shopping individually (at least, I am guessing it was individually) and he told each woman to buy what she wanted. Apparently some of these women were quite extravagant with his money. However, one woman only spent a little amount of money…and that was the woman he married. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking “Seriously?” If any other man out there is thinking of conducting a similar test, let me be the one to tell you “Please don’t do it!” Because this is the most transparent thing to a woman, obviously it is a test where she is to spend as frugally as possible to show that she is not a golddigger or interested in his money. When I first heard the story, I was thinking “Please tell me that that was not the only test that you employed!”
It reminds me a bit of one of our Yoruba wedding customs, where the groom’s family brings some gifts to the bride’s family as part of the traditional Nigerian wedding. Because we love parties so much, Yorubas and West Africans in general will usually have both a traditional native wedding, and then subsequently a Western white wedding, and the traditional ceremony then gets referred to, very inaccurately, as the “engagement”. So as part of the traditional wedding ceremony, or the “engagement”, the groom’s family will bring things such as yams, and supermalt drinks and other food items, perhaps expensive fabrics too. And crucially, they will also bring a single, small Bible. And then the bride is told to go and choose which one of these gifts she wants most, or she finds most valuable. And duh, every bride understands that she is supposed to choose the Bible, because that represents how much she fears and respects God, even if that is not truly the case in her life. So even if a woman is essentially an atheist in her daily life, if marrying into a Christian family, when it comes to her traditional wedding ceremony, she will play the good Christian and dutiful future wife like everyone else and choose the Bible. It is so ploddingly obvious. Honestly, this would be the case even if her future husband was in practice just as much an atheist as she was. In fact, this would still remain true even if her parents-in-law were Professors of atheism. For the wedding ceremony everyone keeps up appearances. Well the obviousness of choosing the Bible is exactly how obvious that man’s test of his potential wives was to me. As it happened, I had a front seat to observe that marriage, and all I can say is…hmm!
Trust me, if you take the time to simply observe, you will not need to invent any crazy tests. Because over time, people will unavoidably show you who they are. Unfortunately, to get reliable results, you do need to watch and evaluate for a good length of time.
However, when people understand that they are being evaluated rather than tested, they often still get upset! It is a bit like in Friends when Ross had that list comparing her to ?Julie?, and Rachel got upset. I don’t know whether people expect us that it somehow breaks the magic of a cosmic bond to sit there and evaluate their character, somehow we should just trust in the specialness of this love that of course you are an amazing person.
Well anyone who has ever been in a relationship, knows that the reality is very different. Actually, anyone who has ever heard anyone simply talk about being in a relationship, also knows that the reality is very different. It seems to me, that as soon as the rubber hits the road, whatever the idiom is, magical mystical considerations of love often quickly recede, to give way to practical considerations of living together.
Perhaps the reason that people get upset is because they don’t really know who they are, and they are looking for a relationship to tell them who they are, to impart value and meaning into their life, for this love to “save” them. Let me be candid with you. The strength of my love is not going to save anybody, as I simply do not have the patience to sit around and endure someone’s less than outstanding character, whether or not it stems from low self-esteem.
Honestly, if you are a Christian then you should already know who you are. If you don’t, I advise you to sit in the Bible for a number of months. Then when you already know who you are, when you have already been saved by the confidence of knowing how much God loves you, and who you are in Him, when you have already worked hard on your character, and know that you can consistently offer excellent character to your future spouse, then you and I can consider a relationship. Trust me, if you were truly strong, and grounded in Christ, you would not be upset at the thought of being evaluated. Rather you would know that making a mistake does not invalidate your identity or your commitment. And honestly, you would know what you have to offer, and how precious, and rare, it truly is. So you would be evaluating other people too.