By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
What is the one characteristic that we must have, and must demand in those with whom we are associated? My thought is that it is reliability.
Most virtues exist on a “sliding scale.” These vary from “all the way” excellence to total ineptitude. Most folks are some where in the middle and that is pretty acceptable. The one virtue, however, that is all or nothing is reliability. You are either reliable or you are not. It is sort of like dead or pregnant — either you is or you ain’t. There is no middle ground.
If I employed someone, I would be willing to put up with just about any deficiencies, but not with unreliability. The unreliable person is bound to fail you at precisely the worst possible time. There is an old saying about a Viennese man who, when asked if he had been faithful to his wife, answered, “frequently.” Of course the man who has “frequently” been faithful, has not been faithful at all. By the way, statistics from the Hite Report show that 66% of all married men have been unfaithful at least once. Yet 67% of all married men say that adultery is always wrong.
It is almost impossible to “screen” for reliability except by being around someone for a while and observing them. I heard it said that some people are like “rocks” and others are more like papier-mache painted to look like rocks, but crumble when any pressure is applied.
If you have a relationship with someone who is not reliable, it really doesn’t matter what other admirable characteristics they have if they lack that one, because you never know when they will let you down. We tend, though, many times, to overlook “one” episode of irresponsibility or unreliability and give the person “another chance.” But how many “second chances” are required to realize that someone is UN-reliable? Where do we draw the line?
We must expect consistency from those we deal with on a day-to-day basis. It doesn’t matter much if it is a friendship, a love relationship, or an acquaintance relationship, reliability is a necessity for a successful relationship.
The virtue of reliability is more than just important if we are to avoid the trauma from dealing with psychopaths, it is imperative. If we continue to deal with people who are unreliable, we will continue to experience trauma from those unreliable relationships.
By refusing to tolerate unreliability in those close to us, we make ourselves more immune to psychopathy. By tolerating unreliability in people close to us, we invite pain and emotional trauma. When we find ourselves in a relationship with someone who is unreliable, we must extricate ourselves from the relationship as quickly as possible.