Monday, October 17, 2011

Intentional Relationships: Seeing Past the Smile

Superficial relationships have been on my mind for a long time now and I have discussed the problem with three people in the last week. So, I decided that it is time for a post!!

Two friends hug each other/high five/scream/do something manly.

"Hey! How are you doing?"

"Fine! How are you?"

"Eh, I'm doing okay."

Both stare at each other, nod and then part ways. Sometimes those are the only words said to one another.

I'm so sick of this. I can't even begin to explain how annoying this is getting. People are caring less and less about the emotional, physical, and spiritual state of their friends and peers. What has happened to intentional relationships? Where are the brothers and sisters in Christ that are supposed to weep when you weep and laugh when you laugh?

There have been times when I was asked "how I was" and I said, "Uhm, not doing real great" and the asker (who is supposed to care - since they did, in fact, ask) nodded and walked away. Like normal.

Are we petrified of personal relationships? I mean, really! What's the deal? Maybe people are scared to get to know someone because they don't want to have to be the proverbial, dreaded shoulder to cry on. Perhaps a friend is scared that he or she will be asked to pray - cause everyone knows we don't do that enough. Maybe people are just so wrapped up in what they are doing and what their lives are centered around that they plain. don't. care.

 The latter is what I believe to be the problem. I know it is a mixture of things, but I know this one to be true because I have felt that way. One day, a friend of mine was crying in a public restroom. She was very upset about something going on. She came to me for advice. All my other friends were outside having fun and there I was, stuck in the bathroom giving a counseling session. Needless to say, I was not very happy. I regret my attitude to this day. If I had stopped thinking about what I was "missing out on", how much more loving could I have been? Could I have more clearly directed her? Looking back, I can ask myself this question, "Was I the type of friend I would want?" If I answer honestly, I can only say no.

I am so guilty of superficial relationships.

You know what I was shocked to find? People that I personally know are suicidal. I couldn't believe it when I heard that. How could thus-and-so think about killing themselves? I know that I cannot be the one to blame because of someone's bad decisions - I'm not suggesting that - but, more people than we thought humanly possible are emotionally screaming for someone to love, encourage and LEGIT care about what is going on with their broken hearts. When are we going to start being the type of people that care, love, encourage, and stir up others toward good works and godliness?

I talked to a friend of mine, Davis, yesterday. He is naturally a very happy-go-lucky, love everyone type of guy. His attitude always makes my day. But, after we talked, I discovered that even people like Davis have bad days (whaddaya know?!). Why did this surprise me? Why did it catch me off guard that someone so happy can, in fact, be down? I talked to him about this and what he said inspired this idea: It is possible that we mistake happiness for joy. There is a difference, ya'll. Happiness revolves around our circumstances, and joy is based on our Savior, Christ. When I look at Davis, who is smiling, happy, and serving, I might be mistaking joy for happiness. Davis might be very unhappy - because of tough, earthly situations, but he can still smile and act "okay" because of the joy he has in Christ.

Now, why didn't I think of that before? Why haven't I realized that a smile doesn't mean that someone is emotionally happy, healthy and stable? (I'm not hinting that Davis is unstable. ;p) I've always griped about the fact that people never really see past my smile, but I haven't seen past anyone else's.
That makes me sad. How many opportunities have I missed to be a witness/example/encouragement to someone because I took their smile as an "I'm fine" signal.

I know from experience that it hurts when people simply don't care about what is going on in your heart, mind and soul. I was talking less than a week ago with two friends. I told them something very personal and hard to talk about. To my shock, they both just nodded and grunted politely when I was through baring my soul. And that was it!

Sadly, a girl at my school is terribly lonely. She told me that she realizes that she has no "real" friends. Folks, how many people can say this?! At one point in my life, I could. Is it possible that she can say that because people like me haven't taken the time to care?
Friends? Caring? Is this what the assumed "special relationship" has been reduced to? I value my friends, but this...this is not friendship. I'm sorry. But, how can it be?

God is the perfect friend. Christians all over will say, "I am trying to be like Jesus!" Readers, wouldn't a practical step in sanctification be becoming a Christ-like friend? If I went to Jesus and said, "Jesus, I've had a horrible day" for some reason, I don't think He would grunt and change the subject. I think He would hug me and say, "Let's walk. Tell me all about it." And then I would lay my cares on Him and He would encourage me. Don't take my word for it; listen to what the Bible says:

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

WHOA! Did you catch that? By bearing others' burdens, we are fulfilling the law of Christ! Now, I know we simply cannot have deep, deep relationships with every single person in our lives. Obviously. I wouldn't have time for ANYTHING if I had 100+ deep relationships to attend to. But, I have to become the type of person that really cares about people. It is the law of Christ. If people are smiling, crying, stoical, or being antisocial, it is my job as a Christian to love those people and care for their hearts. .

...And so fulfill the law of Christ.

I'm not going to lie. A bunch of friends have let me down. But, I am so thankful for the friend that never leaves me. He always cares and will always cheer me on my bad days. He is the perfect example. Praise Him!

I have made a resolution to be as intentional as humanly possible when it comes to relationships. No more of these conversational rituals that no one really cares about. You know what? Maybe I will just stop asking "how are you" altogether! It's just a formality that no one will take seriously. Perhaps, I should only ask the question if I am in the setting and ready and wanting to get the real answer.


Jessy said...

Good post ash love ya!!

Carleeeeeee ;p said...

Ash, dude. No lie...I was thinking about this a couple days ago when I was feeling down and people didn't care to ask or check up on me or nothing. It can be hard and hurtful when someone is going through things but people don't take the time to care or anything because they are too busy talking about their issues. It's pretty sad. Anyways, remind me to ask people how they are, truthfully! I can help you too. :) Love you sis,


Ashley said...

Aw thanks sisters.

@Carlee: Thanks for being a friend that checks up on me - legit. I don't know what I would do without you Carkipooh. I will help you but you have to promise to help me too. ;)

Kaylin Waldrop said...

I think this really hit home for me when my Pawpaw passed away right before I left for Camp two summers ago. I began to notice how busy people are with their lives and caught up in the day-to-day routine that sometimes they just don't see past their own world. Honestly, when people asked how i was, I just answered "I'm fine" because I knew they really didn't care to hear. I began to look in my own life and realized that I act the same way. "How are you?" has become a greeting, if you will, and fine is the automated, expected response. Being intentional is a hard thing to strive after, but that's what Jesus was.

I have a friend, Merritt, who taught me a lot about being intentional. She's been through a lot and God really burdened my heart to come along side her. I would text her verses and be there to listen to her. yet even though I was coming along side her, she was doing the same for me. after we would talk, she would always ask how I was doing. I would say fine, and she would ask if I was really fine. She wanted more than the typical answer. It was a very different experience-one i desire to replicate.

Kaylin Waldrop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lexi W. said...

God is so GOOD!!! I love how He always knows just what we need to hear, and how He puts us through the same things so we can work through them together! It reminds me of a verse I really like, 2 Timothy 2:22, "Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts." Thanks for the wonderful (and very much needed) reminder that I am pursuing Christ when I intentionally take time to care about others.

Lexi W.

Miguel said...

Great post, and so true. I've been talking to a few of my close friends about this because it's frustrating when we place a value on the quantity of friends rather than the quality. I mean, especially in social networking sites, you have people going out and saying "look! I have 500 friends" but in reality, I could bet that they don't have one "true" friend. A friend that would cry with them, laugh with them, literally hurt with them. But, on the other side, it is hard trying to be a true friend, because we're human and selfish by nature... So I guess the challenge isn't to ever be, or find, that perfect friend--because outside of Christ, the perfect friend doesn't exist--but to find the good friend, even if that friend might be a "Samaritan." And to be more than the good friend, but to be willing to be a brother or sister, which means loving others as we should, and confronting them when needed, and just being there when no one else wants to be. Anyway... sorry for ranting on your post :P Thanks again for posting this; it was a great reminder :)

JoyFaith said...

Ashley! I just wrote a post about how God was our bff and I had the same feelings about what you said in this post! I'm so glad you are always there for me and let me cry on your shoulder. I love you so much and I thank God to have a friend like you! Oh, and I still have the A loves S on my hand! :)


Logan said...

That's some great wisdom! And I totally agree with you. I do admit, I don't struggle with superficial friendships- I've got several close friends and dozens of good friends and friends, so it isn't that much of an issue. But I do know many people who wish they had deeper friendships. I think it's a real problem. Friendships are so important and when they become shallow or non-existent, we get real lonely, self-conscious, and depressed. I've moved twice, and it's taken me about two years each time to get one real friend. It's amazing how long it takes to build a solid friendship. And I've heard so many of my friends admit they wished for more friends and deeper friendships. It's definitely a problem, and it needs to be addressed. Good job, Ashley!

Meggie said...

Hi Ashley,

Great timing, I am just about to leave for youth group where I have a lot of superficial friendships. I like to respect other peoples lives, so I dont probe to deep, but I think I should, if they want a real friend and I want a real friend, we should both be ready to do that.
So great timing, I am about to answer about twenty 'how are yous' and this time I can answer properly, and ask the other person how they really are.


Ashley said...

Thanks for all the great feedback. So many of you have so much wisdom! I enjoy reading your comments. They are an extension to my thoughts and often take me much further then my posts ever show! Thanks everyone!

Felipe Gama said...

Man... I had just posted the biggest comment ever written in a blog but I think it didn't go through, did you not receive it?

It took me like two hours to write that... oh well, if it's not here tomorrow morning I will just write it again, no complaining about cleaning tables or writing humonguous pieces of text, right? :P