Today, I went to a friend's house to care for a child. We had agreed that I would come to her house around 3pm. Before the time arrived, my son and his finace' came over to visit. As I had not seen them in awhile, I was busy engaging in all of the plans for their upcoming wedding, when I realized that it was a little past 3. I called my friend to explain what had happened and that the time had slipped up on me. I asked if it would be okay to come around 4, which she agreed to.
As I was driving to her house, I was thinking about keeping promises, being dependable, and other such things that make for trust, which drew my mind to character.
I mulled over what constitutes good character and whether or not I had met the "standard" by calling my friend and explaining myself and basically asking for "grace".
I was giving her grace by going to relieve her in the first place. But, that still did not negate my responsibility, as I had an agreement, not in writing, but in verbal form. Because we are friends, I knew she would understand and it would not impune my character. Extraneous circumstances and specific characteristics of people and situations always are elements that can make a simple verbal agreement, complicated. If one is looking for a certain response that is the measure of character, then it is not based on relationship, but on "standards" of expectation, which may or may not say anything about character. My friend fortunately did not think any less of me for calling and explaining, nor for asking for grace, as it concerned her need.
I find that this is what good relationships are about, while formal contracts are based not on personal relationship, but on legal terms to protect interests of the parties involved. The law is the law. The law breaks down the relationship to duty, responsibility, obligation, and such kind, while relationships are bound by strings of commitment out of love, desire, choice, and respect. The law demands, while the relationship does not.
Then, I started thinking about how these two ways of responding are different types of human response in the world. The law defines and protects boundaries, which protects the value and interest of the other party, while relationship cares about the person, as an individual. The law is a way to engage another, as a human, deserving of equal respect, as the person in the contractual relationship, while relationship is a way to engage another on a personal level.
The law defines where individual's or separate parties are divided and then seeks to rectify the differences. This is how divorce cases work. It cannot make the other person stay in the relationship. It is only when both parties agree that the contract can be made negotiating the interests of both parties. This is a legal relationship, which binds the parties together, but does not make the parties committed to each other in any way, other than obligation, or duty. This is not love, but it is respect from afar.
In moral development responding out of fear is the lowest level of moral development. It would have been absurd for me to abruptly leave my son and his fiance' because I feared what my friend might think or do. I would not have been in proper relationship to her, nor would it say much about the trust and respect she had earned in our relationship, either.
Fear means that trust is broken, and one who responds out of fear of punishment in spite of a lack of trust is acting inapropriately, as relationship is first and foremost about trust and character. Trust is about experience with a person, in knowing their dependable reactions, and responses to situations. It is knowing the character of another and knowing that the character can be trusted and will at least act in an ethical way.
Whenever there is a change in the actions or attitudes of another, then there is pause for trust. Questions concerning the other's change need evaluation. This is only common sense. A lack of trust is the only human and healthy thing to do. Otherwise, there will be abuse to oneself, and an enabling of another. Love would consider why, not just that, another has changed and seek to understand. The law would not care.