I watched a sermon online recently by Pastor Ben Stuart from Passion City Church in Washington DC and he proposed the concept of clarity as something you give to someone; an act of kindness.
The sermon was about dating. It was a revision of the fundamentals of dating; the ‘how to’. While this blog post isn’t centred on that, ‘the gift of clarity’ is a concept I took such a liking to that I decided to explore it deeper. Pastor Ben said that lack of clarity causes anxiety and so the nicest thing you can do for someone is provide them with clarity. Now as someone whose overthinking has proven to be a problem time and time again, I want to just say that that’s a big, fat MOOD. I mean, seriously, clarity in any relationship, whether it be between friends, colleagues, or partners, is such an essential part of interacting. I’m talking in terms of your intentions, your expectations, who you are and what you want. Clarity in absolutely everything.
Because no one wants to ask those questions. No one wants to ask you what your intentions are or what you expect from them. Don’t get me wrong – they desperately want to know those things if they ought to have any kind of relationship with you. But they won’t ask you. Alternatively, they may just not think to ask you, especially when it comes to things like what you stand for, rules you live by, where your boundaries are etc. These are things nobody will ask for but that you need to mention. Because what happens instead is
1) anxiety concerning the other person’s intentions/thoughts
Pastor Ben used this in the context of dating so like when a guy asks a girl to ‘hang out’. If that girl is anything like me (and I’m assuming most people), there’s about a million questions swarming through her head at that moment. The main one being: ‘is this a bloody date’. This causes what?
A N X I E T Y.
Simply because you don’t know what to wear, what to expect, how to behave – shoot, you might not even know how to feel yet. I mean, imagine you’re there trying to figure out if this guy or girl is interested in you while simultaneously trying to figure out if you feel the same way. Now imagine figuring out that you could potentially see that person as more than a friend only to realise that they literally meant ‘hang out’ as in, FRIENDS.
You will feel like egg.
Of course it’s not the worst thing to happen in the world; if anything it’s a minor dent to the ego. But why should it be so complicated? Who told you interaction was meant to be a problem solving activity? Being clear about what you want and acknowledging how ambiguities can be misconstrued is such an underrated gesture of generosity. And I say this because we live in times where initiation of relationship (I’m talking about in the general sense again) is practically taboo. In the age of LinkedIn and Tinder, no one feels comfortable with asking the person they look up to to mentor them. No one feels comfortable actually making friendships unless they’ve been formally introduced by a mutual friend. What was once so simple is now such a difficult thing to do. So honestly, it may sound OTT, but you’ll find clarity is really important and something you’ll appreciate when you have it.
Now if you’ve been nodding your head along to everything so far, you’re not gonna like what I have to say next.
To all those that desire to receive clarity from their peers, GIVE clarity. That is: be clear about the fact that you want clarity. Yes, people should give clarity anyways but not everyone does, and not every situation so obviously requires it. So if you want it, ask for it.
“Hey, I just wanted to ask: do you enjoy hanging out everyday or would you prefer space sometimes?”
“Hey, just wanted to make sure that you didn’t feel forced to accept my invitation and that you actually want to be there for my game.”
“Hey, do you see us going anywhere or is this a ‘right now’ thing for you?”
You know, these questions can’t actually hurt you. I promise. And while I accept that some people may not want to answer honestly to some of those questions, it’s important for your sake that you ask because now at least you’ve given the opportunity for clarity. You looked for clarity. The rest is their responsibility.
All I’ve said seems cute and easy (to an extent), but that was concerning clarity at the beginning of your relationship/friendship/partnership/mentorship. Honestly speaking, that is the easy part. It’s more difficult when you feel that you’re too deep into your relations with a person to seek or give clarity now. What if it changes the dynamics of the relationship? What if the person reacts badly? What if your clarity shines light on another issue? What if your relation is completely and entirely severed by clarity?
You want the honest answer?
If it does any of those things stated above, then I tell you, it was supposed to happen that way. If clarity means shining light unto an issue or cutting ties with someone, lack of clarity would mean the opposite: burying the issue as it poisons you slowly or staying in something that’s going no where. Now here is where I’m going to sound a little contradictory.
Timing is everything.
Unfortunately, there is such thing as clarity at the wrong time. It can be beneficial, even crucial, to withhold some information from the other party for a period of time. Information like, for example, how long you intend to maintain a connection with a high profile individual. If your relation to a person is purely business motivated, it might be wiser not to tell them that you’re moving to a different city as you’re building the connection. When people find out that someone they’ve just met or started getting to know is leaving soon, they tend not to put in as much effort into the relationship as they otherwise would have. So, if your goal is to make a lot of connections with some fancy people from Long Island, don’t tell them that you’re moving to Hong Kong and soon won’t have time for them – not yet. Establish a solid connection first, one that you can use.
On the other hand of the spectrum, if you’re in a one month old romantic relationship and you’ve fallen for the other person, that could potentially be information that you might want to withhold until you’ve perceived that the other person is ready to hear it. Similarly, if you’ve found other mentors for specific areas of life and you know that your first mentor is a jealous person and will take it personally. Or if there’s some big drama unfolding that you want to get off your chest but your friend is going through something at the time. I know what people say about being honest with yourself regarding your feelings. So say it to yourself for now. But allow for the other person to be ready to hear it. There’s kindness in clarity but there’s generosity in patience.
I hate to end this on a ‘open to interpretation’ note again, but that’s the whole point of this blog. I don’t have the answers, I can only help you find them. I simply organise messy thoughts and challenge you to see things from other perspectives. So actually, I take it back: I don’t hate to end it this way. Be kind, give clarity, and be wise with your timings. You know what to do.
Live in Peace,