There is nothing more rewarding in this life than relationships – be it friendship, romantic, with Christ. I’ve come to realize that I’m not very good at these things.
Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn. – C.S. Lewis
In October, I wrote a blog called Loving Isn’t Always Easy. It focused on two things: friends who have struggled to show me love, and a little on marriage. It isn’t that I thought of myself as a friendship expert. But the last few months have shown me that I am no where as clear about my love as I thought I was.
November, December, and January proved to have a lot of problems with friends that I have had great relationships with for years. While it takes two to tango, I certainly could have handled things much better. I would whine a lot. Or I would freak out and stop talking. Either I was texting 20 things a day complaining that someone wasn’t responding, or I wasn’t sending anything at all. I was making a lot of crappy choices. I was a bad friend.
One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
During the break, I was sitting at a bar in Santa Ana with a long-time friend. He knew about all of the issues I had recently and was asking me about those. A friend had brought to my attention recently that I do a horrible job at prying into people’s lives when they want me to. I will change the topic because I get worried they might be uncomfortable. I feel nervous. I was raised not to ask questions about people growing up. “It’s none of your business” was like a family motto.
I run from other people’s vulnerability.
I often run fast.
As I explained that to this friend, I could feel myself getting angry. “Why can’t people just TELL me that they want me to ask questions? Then I will. I just need to be told. Why should anyone just expect me to do it? How am I supposed to know that they want that?” I took a deep breath and admitted. “Just now, I wanted to ask you about something since you slipped it into conversation. But I got scared. So I just changed the topic.”
After all, when I want to talk about something personal with a friend, I just do it. However, most people aren’t me.
“Jaymie,” he said after thinking for a bit, “I think it comes down to wanting to know your friend is on your side. Maybe at a basic level, she knows you care about her. I’m not sure if this is true for her. I just think it may be true for most people. If you’re asking me questions, it means that you care. It means that you’re invested. You’re invested in me and you’re invested in my problems and you’re invested in the results. You care. People want that. They want to know that you care.”
“But I do care!” I was hurt. “You know I care! She knows I care! People should know I care! I say it.”
“It’s action. Maybe it’s a little unfair. But that’s what you have to do in friendship. You have to care enough. Chase them away with love if you have to. But don’t let anyone tell you that you didn’t try.”
As he talked, I got teary eyed. Why was it so difficult to show him how much I loved him? Why was it so difficult to show my friend how much I loved her? They KNEW how much I loved others! Why didn’t they realized I had the same love for them?
Later on during that break, I spoke to another friend about how much I loved and cared for my friends. She too had doubts that I loved her. My heart broke and I cried again as I explained it to her.
The disconnect is scary. It always seemed clear to me that people knew I loved them because people knew how much I loved my other friends… so they must have known that the same love applied to them. Well, they didn’t. It doesn’t work that way. You have to show people that you love them. You have to work on it.
I had to work on it.
I still have to work on it.
So I’m trying to learn to ask questions. It isn’t easy. I spent three hours sitting at a bar with a friend last week and asked him nothing important about his life, despite the questions that circled around in my head. I told myself the environment wasn’t right. Maybe that was just an excuse.
There’s another friend that I’m not sure what the damage level is, but I think it’s pretty high. I have no idea how to fix it. It’s a situation that needs a lot of prayer and I’ve given it almost none. That’s another way to love. Pray. Love will pour out.
Let me tell you, reader, something about yourself: you are not a good friend at least sometimes. No matter what you think, you have some moments. It isn’t that you’re mean or rude. You just haven’t figured it all out yet. Neither have I.
May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. – Nelson Mandela
Do not let fears control your actions. I am afraid to ask personal questions. I am afraid of other people’s vulnerability. I didn’t think I was. But there’s something in there that scares me because I run from it. But oy, I want it. I need it. If I lived in hope instead of fears, my conversations with my friends would look very different.