It is so easy to think “it” is about us.
– when we’ve been left out
– when we’ve been overlooked
– when we’ve been avoided
– when we’ve been forgotten
– when we’ve been replaced
Look at those words, even. Most of them imply intent. They imply someone or some ones purposely excluded us, decided we were not good enough, swerved to avoid us, or decided we were not important.
And it is easy, so easy, to think that is what has happened. Because when we are suffering – be it from physical sickness or emotional desolation, be it from loneliness, confusion, or lack of provision, be it from insecurity or heartache – it seems to us that everyone knows how badly we feel, and they just don’t understand or care.
Many of us also assume that because we occasionally post our bidness on a social networking site or tell it to some people who know some of other people, everyone knows. And on the flip side, we think because someone only posts happy, upbeat, attractive updates, photos, Tweets, that they are obviously living a prosperous and joyful existence… with no problems.
Seriously. “We” need to get a grip.
Most of the time, and I do speak to myself here as well as some serious drama queens out there, it isn’t about us. People don’t know. They don’t know about your skills, talents, wants, needs, shortages, gaps, abilities, or dreams. They don’t know, most likely, because you haven’t told them.. and part of the reason is because so many of us spend time speaking in ambiguity on the Internets and so little time making efforts to deepen relationships.
(Buffy always boils it down better than I do…)
Oh, let me give you a real life example. Our neighbor. I don’t know her… don’t know her name. Don’t know if she has kids, good or bad health, potions brewing in her kitchen, a plot to kill our puppy, etc. I know nothing about her, other than she Never Ever says “hi” or makes eye contact, and she enjoys leaving notes for us, our kids, and our guests rather than making an attempt to talk to us. Her notes have typically come at a “bad time,” like on Christmas Eve or when we’re having a birthday party, or when I have 20 minutes to grab dinner for everyone before we have to leave the house again and she’s decided that our dog’s ability to bark is “inconsiderate and unbearable.”
My instinct is to take her scrawled-on-paper-towels-or-sticky-notes less-than-neighborly messages personally. But I won’t. Because I know it’s not *my* dog keeping her up all night, and I know that the 12 inches of exposed mud on her parkway accidentally left by my guest is an accident, not a crime. And I know that she is probably much more miserable about something else than she is about where on the public street my daughter parks her car on a single random night.
She very well might think that all these little incidents mean that our family is personally conspiring against her. Not so much. Because the only time I think of her is when she ignores me in the front yard or leaves me a snotty note.
So am I a better neighbor than she is?
(well, of course not, though maybe more polite. I’m working on it…)
I know a lot of people give something up for this Lenten season. This year, I am giving up ASSUMPTIONS. I am giving up thinking anyone has it better than I do. I am giving up focusing on the crap. And I am giving up waiting for help or friendship instead of just asking for it.
God has given me a new friendship in this past year that is so unlike any other I have had. If you are my friend, you know I am all jump-up-and-down, share the little moments, arms-and-refrigerator-always-open, welcoming, loyal, and enthusiastic. But I am also sosososo insecure, in a “I had no friends for most of 4th grade and the 5th graders always made fun of my clothes” kind of way, so when I get a less-than-warm vibe (doesn’t have to be chilly, just less than warm) or even a lack of returned effort, my mind immediately goes, “She’s just not that into you.” Even though we have honestly shared our insecurities, at length, through tears, several times. Even though every single time I get this way with her, we are always able to talk through it and arrive at a good place. Even though I know, quite frankly, that I am being stupid.
Sometimes we take comfort in self-pity because it is more comfortable that awareness. Self pity means we don’t have to be aware of anyone’s feelings but our own. And where does that get us?
Rod and I have a little sound-bite from a show we gave up on before it was over. I adored Luka & Abby on ER, and I was so sad the first time they broke up (I have no idea how it all went for them in the longrun). Anyway, Luka’s words to Abby during that argument were so blunt and mean that they made us laugh, and when we need a moment of levity during self-pity, they are revived:
I know in these modern times we are encouraged to know ourselves, and I am all for that. But let’s not be so bogged down in awareness of our own selves that we assume everyone else is in touch with us, too. If you need a friend, be a friend. And if that doesn’t work, grab someone’s arm, look her in the eye, and say, “Hey! I need a friend!” And if that doesn’t work… a) Keep trying for awhile (‘toxic’ friendships are another topic entirely) and b) Find someone who is capable of giving you the care you need right then. I know not every friend is going to fit into my “Come curl up on my couch and watch Friends with me” comfort spot, but I have plenty who do – and plenty of available space for the text-friends, restaurant-friends, office-friends, church-hallway-friends, etc., etc.
When we look beyond ourselves, there are a whole lot of good people to behold.