We live our lives based on agendas. Most of our agendas are pretty subdued so that we don’t often recognize them or really comprehend exactly how they affect our behaviors and our choices. On the other hand, some of our agendas are glaring, screaming into our lives in a manner that every action and choice is methodically dictated by them.
Agendas have a methodical way of commandeering our thinking. They can create within us an ever-increasing sense that if we don’t adhere to them we’re going to be in big trouble. While agendas may innocently start out as goals or frameworks that are designed to productively channel various aspects of our lives, they often grow into monolithic proportions. Sometimes our agendas become tyrannical gods, legalistic rules, incessantly demanding expectations or rock-hard boundaries that are held as imperative. We then become our agendas and we subsequently project our agendas into everything we touch.
Because of the intimacy and vulnerability of relationships, agendas tend to rear their ugly heads with quite a bit of force. Most relationships don’t start out that way, but as they evolve so does the implementation and integration of our agendas. In time, our agendas become the things that define the relationship rather than the people in the relationship defining the relationship. There is a dictatorial sense to it all; a suffocating and strangling kind of orientation where people are made to fit an agenda. The relationship itself is thoroughly stifled and ends up pooling in the rank waters of relational stagnation. In time, the relationship can become intolerable and is therefore vacated.
There are a number of agendas that we forcefully cram into relationships, or cram relationships in to. If there’s one thing that’s for certain,certain agendas are certain to kill a relationship. In doing an agenda inventory, we may wish to look for some of these:
The Agenda of Power and Leverage
Typically we build relationships to build out our goals. Relationships have often become little more than a resource with the ultimate objective of the relationship to achieve whatever goal we have in mind. Relationships are often seen as a tool, some sort of asset, something that gives us power or leverage. Sometimes we see it as the thing that supplies us strength or motivation when we’re expended, or that resource undergirds us when our energies flag and our fears flare. It’s that thing that we can fall back on when we need a boost, or turn to when our emotional legs buckle, or something that lends some degree of accountability that causes us to “buck up” when we burning out. Whatever we use it for and wherever it fits, it becomes something of a resource rather than relationship.
To view a relationship as something to be used is to insure its death. When a relationship dies, a bit of us dies with it. In that sense, using a relationship for our advantage is clearly using it for our disadvantage, not to mention that the other person doesn’t fare all that well either. Relationships need to be fed and nurtured with ample space to allow them to flourish. Power and leverage too often becomes punitive and lethal.
The Agenda of “Because We’re Supposed To”
Of course we’re supposed to have friends. And because we’re supposed to have them we’d better go out and round up a few. After all, we wouldn’t want to look like social misfits, or undesirables, or people who live out on the fringe of society and have people look at us kind of sideways. So we have to claim knowledge of somebody, or that we hung out with so and so, or that we’ve have either enough invitations or maybe more than enough. Sometimes relationships are what we’re supposed to have in order to look the part, and so we go out and we collect them. It’s something like playing “dress up” where we put on people like some kind of finery and strut about with an air of importance and social finesse. It’s all about the “look at me” scenario,“ain’t I something?”
People are not clothing nor are they some sort of fashion accessory. They’re not points to be counted as we tally up our social scoreboard. They’re not steps on some sort of social ladder, nor are they an aphrodisiac for our insecurities. This agenda kills relationships.
The Agenda of Working Out My Issues
We all have issues. Sometimes we view relationships as the place where we can work out our issues. There’s some sort of belief that the person we’re in the relationship with will have some sort of ability to help us navigate our issues. It could be that they’re close to us, that we see them as committed to us, that we can be vulnerable with them in ways we can’t with others, or that relationships are all about helping everyone become the best that they can be. Relationships are sometimes seen as having this emotionally magical thing going on that’s got all the mystical ingredients in it. All we’ve got to do is lightly sprinkle this relational fairy dust on us long enough and abracadabra, we’re good. Whatever our mindset might be, relationships are sometimes seen as the place to heal of our issues. While healing can certainly take place, inherently a relationship does not possess everything that we need to heal everything in our lives.
The Agenda of Revenge
Sometimes we’re in a relationship to get back at someone else. The relationship that we’re in is about revenge, about throwing something in someone’s face that hurt us previously. At times the relationship we’re engaged in has little or nothing to do with the person that we’re in the relationship with. The relationship itself is in actuality targeting someone entirely outside the relationship. It’s about retribution fora perceived hurt that was inflicted or a harm done. Sometimes it’s purely about manipulation as we attempt to press our agendas with someone else through the relationship that we’re in. Other times it’s our way to break with another person or an entire social grouping by aligning ourselves with somebody who’s completely removed from them. Revenge wounds everybody, every time.
What’s Your Agenda?
Maybe you never thought about your agendas. They become such a natural part of our thinking we don’t even see them as agendas anymore. But they’re agendas and they’ll have the toxic impact that so many agendas have in relationships. Think about yours. Think about their legitimacy. Think about the agenda of your agendas. Think about where they come from. And most importantly, ask if you really want to keep them.