It was a such a natural moment in Sunday school. Ten-year-olds are hardly transparent and innocent like they used to be. But the question came up out of nowhere, agreed upon by all the kids in class, and it deserved an answer.
"Why do adults always fight over who's going to pay?"
The girl who posed the question, and had the attention of the whole class, added to her query. "I mean, if it was me, I would just be like, 'Sure, you can pay. Thanks!'"
I could answer her question.
"Pride, my dear, pride."
I know the kids couldn't understand, but they hung on my words. They didn't get it because money isn't a definer for them yet. They are accustomed to someone always paying for them. They are never expected to pay. All their lunches are free, to their knowledge.
Here's what they don't get: What goes through an adult's mind when the bill comes and she is with company.
Reaction #1: Panic
"Here it comes! I remembered my wallet, right? I have enough money, right? Right? Right? I don't want to look like a beggar."
Reaction #2: Brain-wracking
"What was the purpose of us going out? Is it my friend's birthday? Did I invite her? Is it a special occasion? Did my friend pay the last time we went out? Is there a reason I would be responsible to pay and look stupid if I didn't?"
Reaction #3: Planning
"What if my friend wants to split the check? How do I avoid looking stupid dividing this up? What is half of $17.50? I forget how to divide! What if I mistakenly make her pay more, and she catches it and gets mad?"
Reaction #4: Defeat
"The only way to avoid all of the above and not look like a cheapskate is to offer to pay the whole bill."
In the meantime, the same exact thoughts are going through your friend's mind. The entire thought process lasts from the moment the waitress lays down the bill until someone picks it up - not more than about 4 seconds.
Thus, an argument ensues. You have already made up your mind that you are paying the check. Even if it is your birthday, your mother, or your last dollar.
However, I have found this argument tedious. Essentially, it is a disagreement about who is nicer. I don't want to fight about that. Why is that even a question?
So, some time ago, I've boycotted the argument. You win. You're nicer. And I will believe that every day of the week, too.
So here's how the conversation goes when I go out to eat. (Unless I have a firm reason, such as you have paid for my coffee for the last 4 outings, or we have a standing agreement that we will always split the check and we're okay looking dumb about it together.)
Me: "I've got this one."
You: "No, no, I do."
Me: "Okay. Thank you."
At this point, I imagine you are astonished that I don't continue insisting. And yes, through your mind, I'm sure, wafts the smallest indication that I am always looking for the cheap way out.
But, really, I just don't want to fight. It's a superficial waste of words. We've only a limited amount of time together, so let's put it to good use.
Wow, why aren't more people doing this? Why do the fights continue?
In order to give up the battle, you are conceding defeat. You must be willing to look cheap, when everyone knows you have enough. You must be willing to look like a taker in a place where it's preferable to be the giver.
The one who pays is generous; he's the good guy. The one who takes is the weaker damsel in distress. The taker gives up the right to be the hero. It's almost a gift the receiver can give to the giver- glory.
My chance always comes back around. It may not be seen by those who keep paying my way, but I do get my opportunities.
After all, I do have children...
Passion Under Grace,