Sunday, January 2, 2011

Friendship: A Dose of My Own Medicine

Over the years and most recently, God has allowed people in my life to mirror back to me the harshness I've dished out. When this happens, I am relieved at how suddenly I'm ready to DROP all pending cases of ongoing offense I argue in His court. I walk away from those encounters thinking, "Okay, this is what they were meaning about grace. Lord, is this how I made so and so feel?"

Tonight, I came heart to heart with a wounded heart. One that looked and felt like mine not long ago. My heart is still hard, dark, and wounded, by the way, but these days I'm way more inclined to weep profusely in prayer (Praise God) about its poor condition than rationalize and defend it.

Consider this malady called pride and a few of its choice manifestations. Not long ago, when I would be offended and had opportunity to vent my offenses, I proved harsh and ungracious--like the guy who was forgiven his million dollar debt only to choke the servant who owed him ten dollars. My ungracious spirit, wanting my offenders to pay, was cloaked in mild diplomatic rhetoric but inwardly I was a lion ready to bite off heads--because I was a slave to my hurt feelings.

And even though my tone of voice was relatively mild; the things I chose to focus on revealed my tone of heart was adversarial, weak, and self-righteous. The ladder reared its head in my compulsory need, in my arguing my case, to compare myself to others who offended me. That is pointing out how "unreal" and insincere they were juxtapose to how fearlessly honest and sincere I was. I took pride in my ability to "be honest."

In my mind, as long as I was keeping it real and being honest, I was justified in my all conclusions about the matter. Keeping it real and being honest is of the essence and utmost importance, of course, but the tone underneath my honesty was bitter and censorious. One didn't have to be too discerning to pick up on it.

It was obvious in the records of wrongs I kept. I was the sacrificed victim, of course. I gave and gave sacrificially of myself to no like exchange. Plus, I was 100% accurate in my version of the story. Conveniently forgetting the proverb that says it is foolish to come out blazing in your position without the HUMILITY to hear the other party's version. In other words, it is perfectly okay to say,
Hey when you did this, it made me feel like that--while being HUMBLE enough to be open to the slightest possibility that your feeling this way may just be about the condition of your heart and not an intentional offense. For many things can be done to hurt someone's feelings--UNINTENTIONALLY.

That said, often times feelings prove to be absolutely correct. But how different would the conversation go, if in saying how you honestly felt about something, you are not ascribing evil to the person at the same time? What if your heart was tender instead of hard when you communicated how you've been hurt? How well would it go over, if we kept in mind that we all stumble in many ways and are imperfect? How well would it go over if we could just accept "I'm sorry", turn the page, and begin new?

The foremost reason this is a dose of my own medicine is that recently I've had a very hard time forgiving someone who hurt me. When they said they were sorry, it wasn't good enough. I didn't believe them. And honestly, I still don't as there is hardcore evidence to suggest that I was accurate in concluding that they were NOT really sorry for or about me, but sorry over how embarrassing the matter made them feel and look in front of their valued peers. They were sorry for wasting more of their time.

Now that is okay with me--I saw and accepted what was and forgave as Christ gave me desire and power--genuinely wishing this person well. I even think I've grown in forgiveness to a point that I could be in the person's presence and enjoy them with no NEED or desire to recall the matter. I already pray affectionately for them. But at the time, I felt the nature of the situation demanded more--and so did my pride. I gave up so much; I trusted their word and they let me down big time. My anger and hurt were justified by all the spectators watching the situation. In other words, it was not just me or just in my mind. There was a cloud of witnesses, if you will, and a trail of similar fall out to confirm.

But when they said sorry, I judged their motive to be insincere, perfunctory, self-righteous and self serving--just like my friend did with me tonight. Even if we talked, my bitter heart would have poisoned them to death with a cocktail of my record of wrongs brewed from my hurt and misery.

With strong doses of self-righteousness and bitterness like I received tonight, the proverb that says everyone seems right in his own eyes until another comes and examines him--puts me in my place and sets a guard about my mouth. It makes me think twice about how I frame my concerns--even legitimate ones. How humiliated I've been when I had to concede that my version and perception of events were skewed by a hard, unclean heart--full of bitterness, envy, and self-righteousness!

While talking with this person tonight, I was horrified as I replayed the exact same critical stance I took with others (when I felt offended by them). How trapped, in my conclusions, I must have made them feel. I was trapped tonight. I felt defeated; like I could not win. I totally understood how they could have felt the way they did, but they were holding me to a standard that I didn't even know I was being expected to meet. But more than that, my friend was wrong in the conclusions they drew. Their conclusions about my actions were exaggerated based on partial information at best. It left them the victim of my implied selfishness as they didn't seem to concede how some of the legit conclusions they drew about my behavior were warranted by their critical "attitude." It felt very "tit for tat."

I was way more relaxed in the relationship and they were keeping score. I realized tonight that, like me at one point, I had been sized up and measured and didn't pass their constant tests of friendship. Instead of humbly telling me what they needed from me as a friend, they held it against me when I didn't deliver to their expectation. Not fair or fun and a way to set yourself up to be a very lonely person.

The scary thing about all this is such a hard approach to friendship is often rooted in unresolved hurts that morph into pride and self-righteousness because these feelings have no other outlet. There is no concept of forgiving and moving on--just because I CHOOSE to love and accept you when you are unacceptable. Or just because life is short--and in the grand scheme of things, this is trivial and not worth losing a solid friendship over. Because these type A personalities, of which I am a kind, follow all the rules, they do everything right the first time; therefore, they expect others to do the same. They are intolerant or impatient with those who do not follow the rules. Three strikes and you are out. They cut you off easily and quickly. They rarely look back and if they do, there will not be any movements of any kind toward reconciliation on their part. They are great responders but poor initiators. They are the elder brother in the story of the prodigal.

Legitimately wrong, yes, some of my offenders were, but I had to realize that we are all humans capable of horrible mistakes.

Therefore, I had to ask a hard question of myself and make a choice. First, am I not human, too, capable of the same errors? Second, the choice: Forgive or not to forgive? That was the question and bottom line if I wanted freedom. I had to do the hard work of struggling in prayer in order to get God's perspective on the situation or continue isolating myself and becoming a critic of all things good--like friendships. For make no mistake about it--these kind of personalities are UNHAPPY ISOLATED PEOPLE.

Another contemplation is I have to wonder if a large part of my being single has to do with the roar I left off when some unsuspecting person stepped on one of my landmines of insecurity or pride. For I actually remember someone responding to me the exact same way I responded to my friend's hardness toward me tonight.

You know when I brought up some past minor detail that the offender forgot, thought was resolved, or thought nothing of, I was "hurt" over it and ascribed an evil motive to it and used it as "Exhibit A" to justify why I'm right for feeling like I felt. Like them, I was horrified and perplexed. Again, I see why the Lord says we must be quick to forgive. It causes problems.

My lessons learned tonight are not new--just reinforced.

  1. As much as it depends upon you--let there be peace.
  2. Some relationships are for a season.
  3. Some people are not at the same level of abandon to Christ which is often the chief reason for relational breakdowns.
  4. Trust God with the lives of His own people and keep in step with Him.
  5. Don't be afraid to lose and let go.
  6. Learn how to hold my relationships--not to tight, not too loose.
  7. Be thankful for a light heart and one quick to turn the page--even if the other party refuses to turn it with me.
  8. It only takes one to forgive. It takes two to reconcile.
  9. Let God add to or subtract from my life.
  10. Let God choose my friends and He shall strengthen the ones that remain!

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