Within the relational matrix, we fundamentally and dynamically relate to each other in 5 ways. The extent and depth of trust and intimacy that we have with and for each other is also reflected in these 5 manners in which we relate one to another.
The first way in which we relate with each other is severally. As an adjective, describing the manner of relating, this word severally means respectively, individually, particularly, specifically, differently and separately. We relate and treat each other as unique and distinct individuals. We recognise that who I am is different from who you are. All that I am and all that I have belongs to me even as all that you are and all that you have belongs to you. In essence, what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours.
To many of us this is the normal and default mode whereby we relate to the majority of the people that we meet and come into contact with everyday; the strangers that we pass by, our colleagues and others in our workplace, services providers to us and so forth.
To relate to each other severally is to recognise the authenticity of our own identity and the authenticity of the identity of others.
In this respect, it is good. Relating to each other severally affirms the integrity and wholeness of who we are as a person and the integrity of others as persons, in their own right, at the same time.
We also relate to each other in a common manner. Though we are several, ‘what is mine is mine and what is yours is yours’, we recognise that sometimes we have shared and overlapping interests. As such, there are times when we choose to pool resources by contributing part of who we are or what we own into a common pool or venture so that parties in common may benefit from such pooling and sharing of resources. At the same time, the downside or lost to us is limited to the contribution that we have put into the common pool: our energy, time, money and the likes.
Relating because and sharing of a common stake enhances and deepens our understanding and appreciation of giving and receiving. We give a little of what is ours and receive a little of what is others within the sharing in the common. We are brought into a new relationship and experience of being fellow stakeholders with others in proportion to the limited contribution that each brings into the common.
Being common shareholders in a limited company is one such relationship. In common, a portion of ‘what is mine and what is yours’, is now being shared in a common pool( the company) and treated as what is ours, in proportion to the contribution that we have made and agreed to. What each person contributed continues to be recognised as that person’s distinct and divisible interest in the common. Another case is when two or more persons hold property as ‘tenants in common’, in equal or unequal shares.
A representative element is found in the next relationship. This is when we relate to someone as a representative of another or be the representative of another. Here, a person(Representative) assumes the role of a person chosen or appointed by another(Appointee) to act or speak for another or others when relating to others. One instance is an ambassador of a country; a person appointed to represent a country in a forum or place. The ambassador does not act or speak for himself as an individual. He acts or speaks for and on behalf of the nation he is representing. Another illustration is an attorney under a Power of Attorney; a person appointed, given the authority and recognised as having the authority to act for and on behalf of the giver or appointee of the Power or Attorney. The attorney is representing his Appointee and acts for and on behalf of his Appointee, as if he is the Appointee.
In relating to a representative, we are not relating to the representative as his own person in his own right, but as a different person, the person he is representing. Being a representative, I am not who I am, my actions are not mine. In a sense I assume the identity of my Appointee and my actions are the actions of my Appointee. It is only when I am not acting as a representative am I, severally, my own person, and responsible personally for my actions.
Representative relationships expresses trust on the Appointee’s part in his representative. However such trust is limited to the restraints that that Appointee has constrained the Representative to. We can clearly see this in the limited scope of ambassadorial or attorney powers. We also notice this in the extent of representation that salespersons, management and/or office bearers can make for and on behalf of the businesses or companies that they represent.
But this kind of trust is a one-way trust, from Appointee to Representative. It does not apply vice versa. What is mine is now made available to another, as my representative, to control, use, deal with, dispose off, for and on behalf of me, unconditionally or within constraints, if any, that have been imposed. What is and belongs to my representative is his and belongs to him alone and I have no right of control or interest whatsoever in it.
Next is a simple joint relationship. We see this when two parties open a joint account in a bank. Both parties must open, operate or close the account. One cannot act without the other. In the joint, though we may be more than one, for all intents and purposes we are considered one, vis a vis ourselves and others who are not part of the joint relationship. What is mine and what is yours, is now, wholly, completely, indivisibly, jointly ours.
All of us must jointly act together, give the same instruction or sign any document before the bank can act on it. This is one fundamental difference with the common relationship. The common relationship does not have this inherent requirement. Another distinction is that in a common relationship each person’s interest or share is distinct and separate. In a joint relationship each and all parties wholly, completely and indivisibly own 100% of all there is in the joint interest or account. This is the reason why in a joint relationship, there is always the right of survivorship. What this means is that on any one party’s demise, the joint interest then becomes the sole interest of the survivor/survivors and belong wholly to the survivor/survivors of the joint relationship. Holding a property as joint owners is a case of this. In a representative relationship, on the appointee’s death, the representative has no right of survivorship to the appointee’s interest and estate. Upon death, the appointee’s executor or administrator will be the person, in law, having the right, authority and control to deal with and administer the appointee’s estate according to will or law.
In a simple joint relationship the element of benefiting another with all that both hold jointly, through the right of survivorship, comes to the fore. The element of trust among the parties in the joint is practically non-existent, as one cannot act for or on behalf of all or any one of the others individually. All must, imperatively, always, act together. As such, each, severally, remains in and retains total control in preventing the others in the joint from enjoying or benefitting of the joint interest, with the exception of the right of survivorship, to which all have agreed to when entering into this relationship.
Finally, though less often, we sometimes relate to each other in a particular or specific joint and several fashion. A joint account in a bank where either party can operate or close is an example of this. Even though it is a joint account and there is right of survivorship, either party’s actions in operating the account will bind the other and is treated as the actions of the other. Some Common Law general commercial partnerships also have this characteristic where all partners have joint and several liabilities for the wrongs or debts of any partner in respect of the business. Joint and several guarantees that are usually given also have this component where the acts of both jointly and/or each severally will be binding on both jointly and each severally.
We notice the existence and application of this particular inter-relational notion of joint and several throughout human history, across civilisation and cultures. One case in point is when someone betrays a sovereign. Oftentimes, not only he but also his whole clan is killed. All in the clan is jointly seen in the act of one. The act of one is deemed the act of all persons in the whole clan jointly and severally. Another case is in the acts of heads of families or clans being treated as binding upon all in the family or clan jointly and severally, especially in occasions of alliances or betrayals between parties.
In this particular joint and several, my actions are treated as the undivided joint acts of myself, and all the others. This is different from being a representative. Here, my actions are also binding on me, in my personal capacity in the joint and several, at all times. As representative, my actions only bind who I represent. They do not bind me unless I am included in the representation.
In joint and several, the element of trust and responsibility of all in the relationship is without constraints. Though we are more than one(several), in the joint we are always seen, considered and acknowledged as one, completely indivisible from all the others (several).
In simple joint, all is one but one is not all, as all must act together all the time. One is not all and cannot act for and as all.
In this particular joint and several, not only is all one, but also, one can act as one, for and as all. One is all and all is one, at all times, in the same moment, always.
This particular joint and several inter-relational idea, as a function, is surprisingly and suitably apt, in relating to, to be illustrative of and comprehending a little bit more the Triune God of the Christian faith. It addresses, from an inter-relational perspective, how Three can be considered One and One can be considered as Three, all at the same time. As among themselves and to others, they can be, if they are joint and several, relationally. Furthurmore, all that belongs to one, belongs to all. All that belongs to all belongs to one.
Three One, One Three, Father, Son, Spirit.