piggy bankThere are a number of things here in Ireland that from the outside seem quite similar to their American (or at least Upstate NY) counterparts. However, once you’ve dealt with them for a while, you realize that they are quite different.

Not better or worse necessarily, just different.

That said, I think for most of us, we generally interpret different at “not as good.” We romanticise the “good old days,” and get frustrated when things don’t work the way we are used to them working.

When we moved to Dublin, we decided to make an effort when we moved here to not moan and complain about how things worked back in America. Our purpose in moving here was to assimilate to Irish culture, not try to make our little corner of the world as much like NY as possible.

Banking has been one of those areas where we have encountered a lot of bumps in the road. The hardest part about banking however was having to start over.

When we left the US, we had no debt (I still have a few payments on my surgery from last spring, but no debt otherwise.) On top of that, I have a really good credit score.

You know what my credit score is here? Oh wait, I don’t have one. You know how much my American credit score matters here? Náid (That’s zero in Irish)

When we signed up to have electricity in our house, we had to pay a €350 deposit because, “we have no credit.” We’ve paid a lot of deposits this past year. (hopefully we start getting some of them back soon.)

I bring this up because I’ve been thinking about other types of deposits recently.

I originally learned this in regards to leadership, but I think it is even more important when thinking about your spouse, your kids…any relationship that matters to you. For simplicity sake, I’ll stick to it in regards to leadership.

The basic idea is that relationships work a lot like deposits and withdrawals at a bank.

Every time you invest in someone, you are making a deposit into that relationship.

  • You are stuck on something, I help you…I’ve made a deposit.
  • I teach you something that really connects for you…I’ve made a deposit.
  • I do something out of the blue to show I care about you…another deposit.

You get the point.

Now, our hope is that we would make a lot of deposits in a lot of people.

Because, what if we don’t?

Imagine walking into a bank, filling out a withdrawal slip and taking it to the teller. You have $10 in your account, and attempt to take out $100, what happens?

Most of us have probably had that experience where we made some type of error in the check book (I think I just dated myself), and then try to take out money that isn’t there. That’s a good feeling, isn’t it?

Now, it would be great if we were all capable of making regular deposits in the people who matter most to us, and never made any withdrawals. Of course the problem is, with us being human, we make a lot of withdrawals.

I tell you I’ll do something, and I don’t.

  • I say something that hurts you.
  • I fail to support you when you need it.
  • I try something with good intentions, you are on board, and it fails.

Some of these withdrawals happen because we sin…some happen because we do something stupid. Others, because despite our best intentions, things don’t work out.

The important question is not “How can I stop making withdrawals?” (although we can all probably put some effort into “how can I make less and less over time?”) We are all going to make withdrawals with those closest to us.

And each of us, are in many ways similar to a bank in this way. If our relationship is going to be healthy, and stay intact, we had better both be doing more depositing than we are withdrawing.

I used to use this example in Ithaca. Say it is a Sunday morning worship service and while teaching, I say something totally stupid and obnoxious.

Then think about two different people. Think about the person who was there for the first time, and heard that. I just made a huge withdrawal, having never made a deposit of any kind. Most likely, they are not coming back.

Take someone who had been part of the church there for years. I was involved with their discipleship, trained them to be a leader in the church, and I’d invested in their life for a while. Hopefully, they would come up and say, “Bob, you know what you said was not at all appropriate.”

At least my hope would be that they would say something…But the point is, if I’d been making deposits in this relationship for years, they would not just leave.

And again, how the situation is handled from that point plays a part too. If as soon as possible, I get back in front of everybody, apologize for what I said, take ownership, and ask for forgiveness, there is actually an opportunity to make a very large deposit. (Of course, do that every week, and it pretty quickly loses its impact and people realize they don’t really want someone who is stupid and obnoxious on a regular basis investing in their lives any more.)

If however, when my friend comes to confront me with what I’ve done, and I respond poorly…I blow it off…I tell them to mind their own business…whatever.  Do that and all of a sudden a second rather large withdrawal has been taken.

A number of years ago I heard a Cornell professor speaking about marriages. Specifically marriages that were struggling. This person mentioned that research showed that although they expected to discover that critical statements from one spouse to another increased in these marriages, they actually stayed at about the same rate from when the couple was first married. What did change was the amount of positive statements spoken from one to the other.

In other words…they kept making withdrawals at the same rate…the problem was, they had stopped making deposits.

Are most of your relationships in the red, or the black? What relationship should you invest in today?