Do you ever re-play old embarrassing moments to yourself and wince again in agony? I do it much less than I used to; I get better every year at forgiving myself and allowing myself to grow. But still, some days I manage to carry around with me labels about myself that are negative. (“I’m such a selfish person,” for example.) I’ll find myself telling myself these things—sometimes in an effort to become a better disciple of Christ. It seems part of my duty, sometimes, to be aware of my shortcomings, either so that I can do better or at least so that I can be humble and try not to judge others so harshly.
But I don’t think that’s right. I’m not sure that’s how Christ wants me to go about thinking of myself. Certainly I don’t think He would approve if I went around thinking constantly about others’ faults, labeling them in my mind (“she’s incapable of recognizing her own faults and apologizing,” for example, or “he’s moody.”) Even though sometimes I do it as a way to remind myself to be charitable and forgive (“Yes, he’s moody. I already knew that about him. I can forgive his recent behavior because I know that’s just his fault that he struggles with, just like I struggle with selfishness”).
So, anyway, I have a friend whom I would like to make a closer friend who has the talent (skill, tendency) of never, ever labeling.
But here’s the thing: she bends so far backwards to avoid labeling that I’m having a hard time getting closer to her. Here’s why.
Whenever we are together, most of the conversation centers around me. Because when she asks how I’m doing, I tell her about my struggles as well as my triumphs. I, like she, am a full-time mother, so often my struggles involve trying to figure out how to help a child with a negative personality trait that he has. Because I want the conversation to be two-sided, I often invite her opinions or suggestions on these kinds of struggles. Which puts her in a position of giving me advice, but it doesn’t bother me because I ask for it.
However, that’s usually the end of the conversation. Because she will not share anything negative about her family (or herself, for that matter). It is a personal policy of hers (she has told me) never to say anything negative about anybody, including herself. So we never talk about struggles she has with her kids or any struggles she might have in trying to get herself to live better.
I resent this. It makes me feel shut out. Surely she has struggles. I don’t want to have a gossip fest, but I do want to be allowed to ease (or at least SEE) her burdens.
But I also resent the feeling that I’m incapable of having a mutually nurturing relationship with someone unless they will “spill dirt” with me. And how egotistical does it make me look to think that I might be able to lighten her burden somehow?
I begin to wonder if I even know how to have a real friendship, whether I really know what a true friend does for her friend. And I can’t figure it out—does this women have other friends that she DOES tell things to? Which would mean that she just doesn’t need me as a closer friend. Strangely, that would ease my mind. I don’t HAVE to be her best friend. Or is it that she doesn’t speak negatively to ANYONE? (This, from what I can tell, seems to be the case.) Is that HEALTHY? And if so, what are girlfriends for in her life? Maybe I am missing something huge about what friends should and should not be to each other.
I ask myself why it is that I want so much to be closer to her. I think it’s because I know that she truly wants, as deeply as I want, to live righteously in every way possible. I’m drawn to people like that. I want to be around them more. But I feel bad about what seems to be a barrier between us, and about my own fear that the barrier is there because I am somehow dependent on HER HAVING WEAKNESSES in order for us to be close.
[p. s. By the way, don't forget to check out my Official Author's Site. The link is the first one there on my sidebar.]