It’s a lovely summer day. 9 year old Justin is at a daycare/camp and is sitting on the ground enjoying Chip n’ Dale’s rescue rangers. Disney Afternoon is one of his favorite mid afternoon entertainment options. Things are good. It’s not too warm, it’s not too cool, and the afternoon snack was almost on it’s way. What a living right? When out of nowhere, a fellow daycamper reaches out and caresses him on the cheek. It was a little strange, but it seemed like a nice gesture. Who doesn’t like to be touched right? The girl didn’t seem mean, so it was just taken as a nice gesture. A good afternoon indeed… Until a friend looks at Justin and points at him then starts laughing. What the heck!? The little boy asks what was on his face. Confused, Justin runs to a restroom and examines his face, only to find that there was a large booger on the side of his face. “Why would someone do something like that?” Why would someone decide that I was the one who should be on the receiving end of that?”
That was the day that 9 year old Justin decided that people were either plain cruel, or that there was something that was not good enough about him that made people want to do stupid stuff like that to him. It didn’t just happen in that daycare/camp. Stuff like that happened at school too, and this one of the last straws.
During a break from an intense nerding session a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting and conversing with one of my favorite people, my friend Laura. We spoke a bit about friendships and how they are important. They can be life giving and affirming. I began to speak about a trend that I have had in my life, where I make these friendships that are mostly one sided. I loved being able to be a person that someone came to for advice, and to just hear people out about their problems, but it was never an action that was reciprocated. Not that I met a bunch of jerky people who didn’t care, but I would just close out any tough issues or problems that I was experiencing from people. It was better, in my head, to be that someone who would be there for anyone, than to have to rely on other people for help or guidance (which becomes a real problem, when you don’t want to take your own advice… As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog entry.) This, coupled with my usual tendency to try and be a bridger of people lead me to flutter between friends groups without a lot of big effort. People always have problems, and usually like to talk things out, which gave me the perfect opportunity to be useful, and never have to divulge too much…
Although, I realized that I was definitely lacking the type of friendships that would be life-giving. I was spending so much time trying to protect myself that I gave no opportunities for anyone to help, and I began to really believe that it was just because people didn’t care to invest in me (the human mind can be a crazy dangerous thing, if you’re not careful). The way that I justified this behavior was to push through and convince myself that it was always the safest thing to not divulge too much to any one specific person, because it would just come back to me later and bite me. What wasn’t always apparent to me (thank you Laura), was the fact that this hardness was one of the ways that I was giving signs of rejection to lots of people. It was not just me being scared and protecting myself, it was a way of me saying: “I want to be important enough to you for you to confide in me, but you are not good enough to be that person for me.” I definitely developed a deep attitude of: “I got me. I got you (if you need), but me first.
Honestly, I saw that this approach to things really tired me out. I was wiped after doing any kind of ministry work, or just gathering with friends. It got to the point that I would not be willing to seek out any normal activities. I just wanted to always be in a place that was relatively familiar, with little to no work for me to have to do in terms of getting to know people or making new friends. After 4 years of this feeling, I see that I need to reverse the trend.
Me putting myself out there with people is not something that shows me to be weak. It actually is a show of strength that I can be willing to go out to someone and let them invest in me just as I can invest in them. I might end up with a booger on my face, but going through things like that will only serve for me to be much more effective in discerning who is worth putting time into, and really appreciating the people who I have had the chance to set up those mutually respectful relationships with. That is the new challenge for me. I need to go out and get my hands dirty with people. This could be a crazy thing to go for, or it could be one of those experiences where I realize that one of the things that makes living life magnificent instead of tolerable is giving of myself by actually sharing myself with people.
If you read my blog, and I know you in real life, let’s set up some time to converse about things! Chances are, I have been MIA and probably hard to get a hold of. I am sorry for pushing you away, or declining to attend your events. I’m working on getting back to my A game 🙂