Covenant versus Contract

2

July 24, 2012 by Brian

This week we skipped the video (because there weren’t any that we could find) and simply had a discussion about a topic that has been on my mind for a while – Covenant versus Contract.  Do you know the difference?

A contract implies that “I’ll do what I say I am going to do…IF… you do what you say your are going to do.”  A covenant means “I’ll do what I say I am going to do regardless of what you do.”  Is marriage a covenant, or contract?  We spent 30 minutes talking about the positive ways that marriages would improve if we (and our wives) acted more covenant, and less contract.  We then talked about whether it was possible to be covenant in business, or if humans were capable of being covenant at all.

Here are a few excerpts from the book “Multiformity of Man” where this concept is discussed in great detail.  A link to the website and more detailed analysis is here.  (I warn you…this is heavy stuff, and it might help to have a degree in astrophysics.)

In a sale the two partners to the contract think of their own advantage. The whole content of a real marriage might be summed up in the statement that the two who are partners are each expected to care more for the other partner’s happiness than for their own! No marriage could survive twenty-four hours if the couple should apply the rule of the law of contracts to their common life. While in business everybody minds his own business, in any dual [relationship] one partner minds the other partner’s business. A wife shall care for her man’s health more than for her own, and her husband shall care more for her comfort than for his own. The duties derived from a contract are fixed in the beginning. The duties in any true partnership are in permanent flux; they are the result not of the words spoken at the beginning but of the acts of the partners to the relationship while it lasts. These actions have a polarizing effect upon the two. The more you become my friend, the more I shall become yours. The mutual dependence is graded, and in the normal evolution of dual relations the two individuals are more and more encircled and transformed into the foci of one ellipse. Consequently, the action of each partner is shaping the form of the dual [relationship]. The polarity is established more definitely each time. Finally, the two are agents of a corporated body for which they stand, for from it they derive their activities. This becomes very clear in cases of absence or death of one partner. Then not only does one try to represent the other but also the general reaction of the partner who is left behind is that of stressing the point of view, the line of action, and the interest of the partner who has passed away. In a contract, however, I am free when the other party ceases of exist. It is a pluralistic or individualistic arrangement. Under the dual [arrangement] I am spellbound by the law of polarization. I remain the other half the more my second self is in decline or is prevented from taking his place. So we can say that a contract by which one party surrenders to the other would be void. Contracts are and must remain temporary arrangements for the individual forms of our existence, fleeting conglomerations for work and against nature outside. But in matrimony a wife surrenders her beauty and health to her husband for better, for worse. And the man surrenders his adventures, his infinite chances. How can such a perilous exposure of the whole being be treated as the result of a willful arrangement between two individuals? In a contract I try to get as much as possible, and to remain as unchanged as possible. In any partnership [covenant] I throw in my lot today without knowing where I shall be tomorrow.

Here is another comparison of Covenant vs Contract that we found helpful to conversation and was handed out to all the guys at the end of the evening.

Like “How to Be a Better Son,” this  topic was one of the most insightful and fun to talk about.  It likely will also be one of the more actionable topics of the last few months based on the commitments made at the end of the evening.  Here are some of the comments as we closed the meeting.

I am going to try and check myself if I find myself keeping score with anyone, especially my wife and kids

I will work hard this week to be more covenant with my wife.  It would make a big difference, I think.

You can’t be covenant with others, if you constantly break promises to yourself.  This week, I am going to try and be more covenant with myself.  I’ll start by making covenants I am capable of keeping.

Instead of always trying to have the upperhand, I will try to extend a hand of support.  I’ll give in first.

One of the guys explained that one of the benefits of HolySmokes was that it gave him some material for more in-depth conversations with friends and family, rather than talking about sports all the time.

2 thoughts on “Covenant versus Contract

  1. Bill Bramer says:

    I’ve been thinking about love between a man and a woman for a long time, having lost two wives to divorce. When we marry, we should be giving unconditional love. But we usually start out with erotic love and work our way into the covenant relationship over time. My experience has been that until that happens, the marriage is in danger.

  2. Brian Dawson says:

    Great concepts, Bill. My management team and I spent the better part of a morning talking about how we can be more covenant in our business dealings. Ultimately, we decided that we are doing well with this concept IF we care more about the person with whom we are doing business than we do about the fact that we are doing business together. If we want to help that person to do well, and succeed in their job and life, even if they weren’t buying anything from us, then we are more likely to act in a covenant way during any business transactions with that person.

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