I had lunch yesterday with a friend of mine during which we took turns bemoaning hilariously bad experiences as customers of what seem to be poorly run businesses.
For example, I've been working with a contractor on behalf of my mother in law. Said contractor, without warning or notice, elected to leave the job site for 3-4 months, explaining that he did so when the third payment did not arrive. The only problem is that, per our agreement, he never requested the aforementioned ‘third payment.’ In short, he departed because he didn’t receive a payment.... that he never requested!?
Then there was ‘Fred’ the mechanic (not his actual name) who advertised ‘on-site repairs’ as one of the services he offered. I politely requested as much for my vehicle. He replied with a rather curt, ‘we’re not interested,’ which has been his habit over the past couple of years (I think it's because I didn't buy the vehicle in question from him).
In full consumer mode, I replied to Fred with this cynical gem:
I really appreciate your consideration. You’ve always been so very helpful and so willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to help us. Don’t know how you do it.
I then gave Fred’s business a negative review of google....and yes, doggone it, that felt pretty good. :-)
I commented to my friend that I often feel tension between my role as a ‘consumer’ and that as a ‘christian,’ albeit a pretty bad one. I think that the tension is the result of two competing mandates. The consumer mandate is 'justice'(ie demand that you receive precisely what you’ve paid for) whereas the mandate of Jesus is 'grace' (i.e. be kind, patient and understanding toward your neighbor, even if they run a rotten business).
Some days I’m a all judge, dispensing justice, using sharp words intended to provoke, to intimidate and yes, even to injure, so as to insure that I get what I paid for. On other days, I’m more a gracious, biting my tongue, exhibiting patience, even willing to suffer an injustice for the sake of someone/something more important.
I’d like to say that when I do the latter, rather than the former, I have a sense of peace inside, knowing that in so doing, I’ve taken the higher and more difficult road, but that's not quite accurate. The truth is that I feel shame no matter what mandate I obey. It’s what therapists call a ‘double-bind.’ A ‘lose-lose’ experience.
For example, when I dispense grace I hear, deep within, ‘Man up and show some courage, ya wuss! Don’t enable people like that. Become whoever you need to become, to get what you paid for! I mean, if you don’t stand up for you, who will?’
On the other hand, when I ‘go ‘Judge Judy’ on someone, demanding justice, these words echo within: ‘Nice job, hypocrite! Let’s just hope this dude doesn’t discover that you work for The Daniel Foundation. The best thing you can do for Jesus is to disassociate yourself from him.'
Can you identify? If so, how do you deal with those dual roles and what often feel like contradictory obligations?
What sayest thou?
All the best,