What do you do when you start to realize that the people you put first don’t ever seem to be around to return the favor?
This is a question I have to ask myself daily; yet, no solution has presented itself. We’re told since childhood that there is nothing more valuable than that of a good friendship. Try to think back for a minute – how old were you when you first heard “The Golden Rule”: treat others how you would like to be treated? My own memory isn’t the strongest, but I’d bet good money that I was told these words during my first year of peer interaction. Because I had missed out on pre-school or day care that would mean sometime during my kindergarten education. You yourself might have been instructed to uphold this “rule” sometime earlier.
As children we work on our social skills. We were taught to share, and to ask before borrowing personal belongings. We sat through assemblies that emphasized the consequences of bullying, and had been reprimanded for gossiping in class. Whether best buddies or not, we verbally told each other “thank you”, “bless you”, “happy birthday”, and “I’m sorry”.
By young adulthood – we’re still working on our social skills.
It can be frustrating. I know how easily I get irritated when a stranger doesn’t return basic common courtesies. A quick “thanks” if I held the door open for thirty seconds in the rain while waiting for your slow butt to reach the threshold would do, ya know? I struggle with the fact that all that “Golden Rule” training hadn’t made an impact on people of 20+ years of age. Didn’t we all get passed notes taken by our teachers? Didn’t we all silently cheer when the morning announcements included a surprise school assembly? I’m learning to forgive these strangers. I’m finding it extremely difficult to forgive my friends.
Of all the things that have to potential to knock down my confidence level, the obvious disinterest of friends has the hardest impact. Like the wallflowers in middle school dodgeball, it would be a nice gesture to not always be called upon last. It hurts to not be included in plans, to watch other mutual friends be offered little reminders of appreciation, to not be greeted with an equal amount of enthusiasm when walking through the door. Do you find yourself planning birthday outings? Do you tag people on social media when you come across a post that reminds you of them? We go out of our way because the thought of potentially causing someone we love a spark of happiness makes us happy in return. But, if we aren’t on the opposite end of such happiness, does that signal that we aren’t as important in the eyes of our loved ones? This thought is painful. I’ve meditated on this possibility countless times, and I’ve been driven to tears more than I’d care to admit.
I haven’t found a solution. I can’t not think these intrusive thoughts. I see myself being ignored by the people who I give the upmost attention to. I don’t approach them. I allow myself to silently hurt and retreat from social interactions until I can snap out of the visible misery. So, what do I suggest? Without coming across as a hypocrite, my advice would be to take the initiative: confront your friends when their actions (or maybe lack thereof) hurt you. Don’t be aggressive. They may not realize that they are coming across as negligent. After all, they are handling their own life journey. They are likely going through their own struggles and searching for well-pressed some answers.
Talking with the people you love, as intimidating as that sounds, is great life practice. Preventing miscommunication prevents grudges and passive aggression. Communication is my best solution. I can’t change people, but I can work on myself. I can choose how to handle my relationships and how to present myself to strangers. It takes strength, something I pray for all the time, but the benefits of being a good friend are too large to take for granted. There really is something to be said about “The Golden Rule”. Here’s to your strength.
Gifting peace upon you this February morning,