Comrade, Constituent or Confidant? How to Discern Who's Who.
Confidants are Necessary in Life and Successful LeadershipIf I want to be entertained, informed, inspired, and challenged, T.D. Jakes, one of the most popular Christian pastors on the planet, is a great choice. He is more than a preacher—he dispenses wisdom about marriage, business, finances, and even friendship. One of his most helpful teachings for me has been his take on friendships. Jakes groups friends into three types: confidants, constituents and compatriots. Let’s take a look. Confidants. Confidants are the few people in your life who love you unconditionally. They don’t care about your money, status, weight, looks or lifestyle, and they don’t drop you if it changes. They are on board for the whole trip. They’re the people who will come bail you out of jail, or come get you at midnight if your tire is flat. They will eat double chocolate brownies with you even if they’re on a diet, if you need to share comfort and comfort food while you talk out your disappointment and divorce. But their commitment is also a commitment to truth and honesty. They will confront you on your stuff, refuse to ignore it when you are hurting yourself. They will tell you that your zipper is down, that you need deodorant or a mint, and they will be honest with you about the way you look in that dress, even if you look horrible. If you have 1-2 confidants in your lifetime you are blessed. They are your soul mate type friends. These people are the ones who can handle your dreams without scoffing or being jealous. They are the ones who support your dream, encourage your dream and respect your dream in ways that show they love your dream because they love you. When you’re happy, they’re happy for you. They rejoice when you rejoice, weep when you weep, and no matter the situation, when most others walk away, there they are. What a friend. Constituents. Constituents are typical fans, are with you, and for you, but only for as long as you are for what they are for. They are not for you. They are for what you are for. That’s an important distinction, and you’d better be aware, If you are for a single Dad’s rights, stricter traffic laws, more oversight local politicians, better working environments or whatever, and they are for it too, they will join you. They will be your “friend” and constituent, but they but don’t mistake them for a confidant. If they meet someone who can help them more than you can, they will leave you for that person. If they meet a more influential person, they are gone. They will leave you because they are not for you; they are for what you are for, and will only be with you as long as you are advancing that cause more than someone else can. If you mistake them as your confidants, they will hurt you because you will mistakenly assume they care about you. This happens with business clients, church attenders, even in school. If you have children who have gone on to the next grade in school, only to find their “best friend” in the last grade is now ignoring them, it’s probably because they weren’t really your child’s confidant—they were simply a constituent. Last year they needed someone to play with at recess, eat with at lunch, and help them make it through the day, and now they have someone else. Those experiences can feel a lot like having a confidant. Adults and children alike experience it, and it is painful. Be careful. Confidants are rarely simply evil people, but they are not for you. They are for whatever it was or is that brought you together – be it a job, a political cause or a class. They will drop you when their need is no longer there. Comrades. Comrades are the people who are against what you are against. They are, as Jakes explains, like scaffolding. They come in when something needs to be done, and then leave when the job or task or fight is over. We see a lot of this in political campaigns—people have nothing else in common, but they get together over what they are against. If you’re fighting against a local zoning change, or a political candidate you don’t like, or trying to get an abuser arrested and charged, you and those around you are compatriots. Now you MIGHT find someone in this process that turns out to be a confidant, but don’t immediately assume that because you’re both passionately on the same page about who should be President that you’re suddenly the best of friends and they can be trusted with your “stuff.” Jakes says, don’t be sad when the scaffolding is removed and the compatriots and constituents leave, because the thing you accomplished together still remains. As the saying goes, some people are in your life for a reason and season, not for a lifetime. An area Jakes does not mention, but is also worth thinking about that is slightly different is Compatriots. Compatriots are those people you are with for some reason, generally you're from the same place or you work together. You didn’t choose each other, the situation chose you. You have one thing in common — your location or jobs and the company goals, but other than that, there is no common connection. You share the experience of both the constituent (being for something) and the comrade (being against something), depending on the assignment. You get passionately connected while working on a project or cause about which you both care deeply. You may meet someone in this way who has the potential to become a confidant, but it’s not likely. It can feel that way, but remove the work passion/component and pretty soon you discover you don’t really have a lot in common. This happens over and over through work affairs. Long days and shared work passion draw them together, they assume they are confidants and share everything—and then life breaks up. Actually, in all of these areas we must be alert. In the midst of the task, it can feel like you’re soul mates, but you’re really just high on the one big thing you have in common. Unless you share many common interests, deep respect and a genuine sacrificial love for the other person and they return the same in equal measure to you, you’re not confidants.For instance, a therapist and client are constituents, comrades, and companions in some sense. They are connected for a very specific and worthy purpose--the mental health needs of the client. As you know, it is unethical for you to become confidants, no matter how much it might feel right for either of you. However, both of you bring below the surface needs to these meetings. The positive dynamics of finding a safe person/place to share, transference dynamics the relief of getting what you may not have gotten as a child or are not getting in a current relationship, may cause transference dynamics to occur, and you will feel like confidants, and end up damaging your life. What happens when you mistake someone for a confidant rather than a comrade or a constituent or companion? It can be painful, embarrassing and emotional painful in so many ways. How do you tell the difference? Jakes says only with time. He advises, “When you share a dream or an accomplishment, stop reveling in the excitement of the moment and watch how the person reacts. Do they hesitate? Do they seem less than enthused? Then shut up. They are not confidant material. These are the people who will (1) take your dream and make it their own and go after it regardless of how it affects you (ever had someone steal an idea from you and not give you credit for it?) (2) They will subtly and perhaps even subconsciously sabotage you or (3) they will say nothing, or very little because they really don’t care about you at all. They care about the thing they want, or the thing they are against. They may even hate, resent or be jealous of you. They may bully, gossip or tear you down, but insist they are your friend. They are comrades and constituents. They are not to be trusted with your soul or your dreams.” People who are comrades /constituents/ compatriots are not evil or bad people, although some are. But mostly, they are just not your confidants. It is YOUR responsibility to know the difference. Learn to tell the difference. Teach those you lead to learn to tell the difference. It will save everyone time, resources, heartache and opportunity.I can now give my confidants time and attention because I know who they are. I learned to tell the difference between potential confidants and those who don’t care about me as much as they care about what I can do for them. Oh trust me, they’ll be friendly and charming and professional—but what they’re after is not me, it’s what I can do, the influence I have. And that’s okay. That’s how life works. It’s only when you don’t understand that, that it becomes a problem. That it hurts; that it disrupts the relationships you have with your true confidants.I will be honest. I have made my share of mistakes, and endured my share of heartaches over mistaking these categories of relationships. But over time I’ve learned to prioritize my time and resources based on those who are for a cause, need or project and those who are for me. Listen up here, ambitious workaholics. When we are goal-oriented and driven people, we tend to be “networking” all the time, always looking for someone who can help us. If you have family members you’re neglecting in favor of work, you might want to rethink those priorities, too. Yes, you need some connections, but you will not survive without confidants. Families, particularly children, are very often your greatest confidants, supporters and encouragers. Do you really want to neglect them in favor of someone who will leave the minute a better opportunity, job or resource comes along?Thanks, T.D. Jakes, for spurring our thoughts today in this profound way.