Posted by: thebylog | October 27, 2004

Can Relationships be Reduced to Math?

Let’s hypothesize about relationships a little bit, based on extremely limited, anecdotal evidence. I want to think about how one person relates to another as a function of how “close” they are to each other.

I’ve noted before that people seem to be very cordial–very nice–to me in general. People that I work with, people that I got to school with, many of the people in church–there’s very little antagonism going on. The common theme among most of the people in my arbitrary groups is that they’re acquaintances, by and large, not people that I live and die with, not people that I bare my soul to.

Ok, but fade back in that continuum of “knowing” a person. Now you’re barely acquaintances, or maybe you don’t even know the person at all. Let the venom come. We had a TA lecture for the first part of my Optimization class this afternoon. People were rude, they sighed, they talked, they acted like they were too cool for whatever–they were mean. Because they didn’t respect the TA, I guess. People say stuff about Kobe Bryant, John Kerry, and the former mayor of Brownsville that they wouldn’t dream of saying if they knew them personally.

Now, get in my face. If you know me, if you know anybody really well, you’ll probably clash with them at some point. Think about domestic violence, think about violence in general. Often (usually?) things happen between people that knew each other well. Either that, or someone kills someone else because they were getting involved with the one dude’s girlfriend. You crash into the people you’re closest to, you just clash with them sometimes.

So, as far as geniality goes, I think we have something of a bell-shaped curve, with level of geniality as a function of how well you know the person. If the knowledge of the person is low, the “niceness” will be low. Once you start to get to know them better, the “niceness” will increase a lot, you’ll have lots of positive (though surface) relations. But then as you increase the closeness of the relationship, as you get really close to a person, the “niceness” factor will once again be reduced.

These are obviously generalization that can be defied by personality types, the transforming power of Christ, and probably other things. But generally this holds true, I think.

Notice, that by “niceness” I do not mean “love.” Love is very different, more like an exponential, because generally the closer you become to a person, the more you love them. You don’t love people (except, perhaps, in a very broad sense) that you don’t know. You love, only slightly more, people that you are acquainted with. But when you get close to a person, your love for them increases like mad.

Like “mad,” ha ha!



  1. If relationships are indeed reduced to math, I have some very lonely days ahead.


  2. “Like mad,” yeah that’s funny.


  3. It doesn’t have to be “bell-shaped”,or whatever, it is what you make it. There is a way to be very straight and very real with the people you love, and continue to grow closer to them without being mean, isn’t there? Don’t get me wrong, I have gotten in people’s faces. Especially the ones I’m close too. But there’s a difference between the inevitable blunt, “realness” you will encounter when relationships deepen, and downright snottiness. It’s true, I would tell a friend of mine they’re annoying me alot sooner than I would tell a complete stranger, but I would tell it to the friend in love, whereas whenever I decided to gather up the courage to say it to the stranger, it would be without love.

  4. That relationship graph is a fascinating concept–I’d certainly never thought of it before, but I’ve been thinking about it, and I think you’re right about the bell-shaped curve, at least in my own interactions. “Iron sharpening iron” is not “niceness,” and when it’s done Biblically, it will often happen on the side of the curve where closeness is high and “niceness” takes a dip. Why is it so difficult, though, to talk to a “brother with a fault” about that fault unless he/she is at the very close level? It’s almost as though there’s a threshold reached. But I ramble. Thanks for the thought–it’s been great fun.

  5. “We sharpen each other like steel on steel…”

    Oh yeah. That’s a great song.


  6. I just listened to that album yesterday! One of GVB’s best, in my opinion. I love that song.

    The album is “I Do Believe,” in case there would unthinkably be someone reading this that didn’t know.


  7. Thanks for thinking of me, Tom.

    Grin. Crystal

  8. Hey Crystal, you alone again? Awwww. But don’t worry, you’re not really alone, ’cause I’m here for you. (That’s supposed to be very comforting. Hey I can be VERY supportive *TOM, TESTIFY*.)

    Good plan. If Lita comes back in November for wedding, hide in big suitcase. And then, ta da, I’d get to meet you. Oh fun, for me anyhow. You actually might really not like me, which would be okay, but then again, you might think I’m the best thing that ever happened to you since fried chicken. Who knows!

    Someday I would like to have a line of anyone that has ever commented in here, ever. And I would like to go up and down the line to my hearts content meeting everybody. Because words are weird. When you meet someone through words you get a completely different picture than what you do meeting them in person. And it’s so funny how you get these mental pictures of what you think a person looks like. It’s not actually amusing until you have a “real” face to compare it to. So if I ever meet any of you and I bend over clenching my side overcome by desperate hysterics, I’m not being rude, I’m just making a comparison of two objects, one being a mere figment of my imagination, and the other, reality.


  9. Yeah, I’m alone again… Sniff.Sniff.
    Yeah, it’d be fun to meet you at the wedding. However.
    Yeah, why don’t you take the line of by-log commentators and put them in order of has-written-the-most to has-written-the-least.
    Yeah, so what do you imagine I look like?


  10. Who has written the most and least? Hmm. Those could be some interesting statistics. I’ll let somebody else do it though.

    I know how you look. Yeah, I love to have an unfair advantage. I’ve seen pictures.


  11. Pictures, as in, what kind? where?


  12. Well, just call me Sherlock. You said you sang with Tapestry and you were the only Crystal in there, so I just assumed……


  13. Piglet, that’s what comes of making our lives so “public.” :-/


  14. Like I was saying…


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