I have often analyzed the interconnected relationships around me: in the workplace, as a college student, and just internally in my personal life. I am amazed at the differences present from one person to the next! One individual’s ideal friendship is another’s nightmare; likewise one person’s most shallow relationship may be what someone else considers to be their deepest connection. I am learning that we are all capable of different things in this area, and that’s how God made us, but one thing perplexes me: I see some people extending themselves from a place that seems to continue giving forever. They consider it no problem to drop someone off at the airport, allow a near stranger to borrow items from them, and loan money out with no second glances. They probably haven’t experienced the let-downs or disappointments that are typical of the more guarded. Then the other end of the spectrum are those that I have run into more than what could be coincidence: those people who never entirely let you in, they don’t want you to know their life story, and they rarely keep up with the friendship you thought you had going. Is this because of their personality make-up? Or… is it something more?–a hurt and betrayal that they’ve been holding in forever.
I have classically been a trusting person, until more recently. I was labeled “gullible” in high school, mostly because I would laugh at almost anything and take someone at face value. I know a lot of people thought it was hilarious. So in many relational encounters, I have gone through an evolution of immature “Total trust,” (which is also the equivalent of relationship naivety) then somewhat guarded “Semi-Trust,” and now it feels like I consciously try to strategically watch my friendships and be aware of any red-light signals that an acquaintance is a destructive or deadweight individual: someone who tries to drag others down with them. I have struggled and battled between the extremes of always giving the benefit of the doubt, and the opposite of never giving them a second chance. Though this has been my struggle, I infinitely see the value of giving the second time around a go. My hubby is the kind of man who always takes a second glance; he is very generous, never assumes the worst, and has constantly been my guard against doing this. On the flipside, he’s not a people-pleaser, he doesn’t take things too personally, and he generally keeps peace. I admire these qualities.
So enough bragging on my hubs, though it is a fun pastime. : )
The goal for me in my relational journey has been to try to gauge where things are going and not get my hopes up (because I love new friends, who doesn’t–but some people are just not in it for that, or they can’t be at that point in life): is this going to be an acquaintance situation? Can I help this person? Does this person already have their “friendship roles” filled, therefore they don’t want any more? That last one seems to happen a lot, especially in churches and on college campuses. Troy told me that he realized something about me: ”You don’t want to be in any shallow relationships. You don’t do it. You want to know someone’s life story or nothing at all.” Which is basically true. If I am going to be interacting with someone, I guess I find it repulsive when they close up like a clamshell. I am not a pushy person, and I certainly don’t expect people to just spill their life story when they hardly know me. If I’m in a true friendship, and we spend time together, or hang out in a group, I expect to begin knowing someone’s likes, dislikes, and some of their background. A total give and take. I guess I’m more willing to just open up and be that crazy vulnerable, which has gotten me hurt before, but I’d rather get hurt in closeness than have a fake friendship at any rate.
Within some settings, I’ve realized that traditional friendship, and extending myself deeply, isn’t really a reality. I have tried to extend myself in different ways otherwise, instead of always seeking out that “we can talk any time, go out for coffee, call each other up and relate instantly” friendship, I also try to reach out to the community through a smile. Through service in volunteer areas. Through serving by bringing a hot meal for a tired new mother, or offering to help edit a paper for someone. The small things like that may not always be seen publicly, but they are kindnesses that make a huge difference.
In these things, it is always important for me to remember Agape love. Christ didn’t die for us so that He could get something back in return… He wasn’t disappointed when we let Him down, time and time again. Could you imagine what the salvation story would be like if he had? Wow… not exactly a grace-filled relationship. And so, that is what I want to mirror in my interactions. Since I want friendships, and I have some good ones that I make sure to nurture, its crucial that I make sure those friends know they matter, but I don’t create an “exclusive” us-only clique. Instead of getting upset that a lot of people aren’t willing to put down their pride and open up to new friends, I have to value my old friendships greatly and always make myself available when new ones arise.
Those are just some things swirling around my head today, along with all that rain! : )
Peace & Joy,