"To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted." Titus 1:5
Happy Thirteenth Day Everyone!
Today, I thank God for self-reflection and introspection because it allows me to examine my heart, my intentions, my attitudes and my behaviors to see if they mirror what God has told me to do and how He has told me to behave in certain situations.
Several days ago, I was talking to a friend excitedly about another friend to whom I resumed talking, after seeing each other on Facebook. It led into a discussion about her real feelings towards me, some assumptions that she has made and continue to make about my dynamics in my friendships and me being quite frustrated, to say the least. She mentioned to me that she didn't agree with how I cultivated expectations in my friendships, particularly in my friendships with people who have partners/significant others. She inferred that she thought I was an "emotional crutch" in my friendships. She mentioned an example of one of her friendships and said that she didn't let her female friend talk to her about her husband or marriage because she said she wasn't responsible for being her friend's "emotional crutch." My friend went on to say that she thinks it's inappropriate for her to be a friend's go to person for prayer about the friend's spouse, a sounding board for everything her friend has to say concerning that spouse, and so forth.
I should preface this discussion with what was said before this. When we talked about the friendship I resumed, she asked me why the friend wasn't a potential love interest for me. I told her that my friend and I didn't have that type of relationship but also that I know he got married a few years ago and he told me it was a long story. She then asked as if scolding a child "you didn't ask him about his marriage, right, because you tend to have problems inserting yourself into other people's relationships?" At hearing that from her, I felt the sucker punch and shade being thrown from a million miles away. In my head I was like "hunh?WT....!!!!???? Where in the world did that come from? When have I ever inserted myself into people's relationships or marriages?" I was really pissed off and now in my mind asking God how to address my friend's accusations because, clearly, something was off with her perception of my character. I answered her out loud, saying, "No, I didn't ask him about his marriage" and realized that I had to get off the phone because I was already two minutes late for a board meeting. There was no time in that moment to adequately address her comments but they beyond bothered me and I knew that they needed to be addressed. First, here she was talking down to me like I was a child and she was a head master. Then, I needed to know from where that critique/opinion/accusation was coming. I was thinking to myself, "I don't think what she is saying is true." But, if this person has known me for more than two decades, perhaps I should explore if she has observed something that I didn't know or see or had thoughts of me that I needed to further explore. I really needed to know why this "accusation" was coming from left field?
My board meeting lasted two hours. Honestly, I was only semi-present in the meeting because I was thinking about that comment. I thought it was a real jab at my character and basically how God designed me.
To me, some things, like marriage and friendships, are very sacred and not to be violated. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't play around with God's covenant of marriage. My friends/confidants can tell you that when it comes to marriage and fighting for it (except in cases of abuse), I will lead you back to God's three-fold cord of covenant, which is not easily broken. I am also a big advocate of the family and how God wants to restore it. A married couple's union is off limits to anyone who is not invited in. Additionally, I pride myself in being loyal, a really great friend and confidant to the people in my circle and who I call friend. I am also one who loves hard and am "die-hard/all in" when I call someone friend. I really take to heart, loving one's neighbor as I love myself.
Admittedly, I can say that my idea of friendship has caused me some hurt throughout my life because some people I called "friend" were not as loyal to me as I was to them. Some weren't honest and some were only around to use. At times, I realized that someone I called "friend" wasn't capable of accepting or understanding the true friendship I was offering because they were too hurt and traumatized to receive the type of genuine love I was giving. In those cases, I walked away. On two occasions in particular, I spent more than decades cultivating those friendships, only to have those persons walk away. And yes I was devastated. While there have been these bumps and bruises along the way, I am happy to say that throughout my lifetime, I have gotten it right (for me) more times than I have gotten it wrong. Way more people have stayed to cultivate and build firm friendships than those who left. As you have already read from earlier post, I have some really great, amazing friends in my circle.
So, that comment to me was very offensive.
After my meeting, I let my friend know that I thought she was throwing shade and that her line of questioning and the way she spoke to me was condescending. I also let her know that I thought her comment/inferences were off base and asked her to explain why she thought that way. She brought up an instance with a friend that happened when we were in college over twenty years ago! Then she began to share her perspective about the situation. It boiled down to her sharing that she thought I walked away emotional hurt from my friendship because I expected my friend to choose me over his partner. Again her account and lens of the situation was inaccurate. When I shared with her why I walked away from the situation hurt it boiled down to two issues:
1. If someone calls you their friend, no one should ever be allowed/able to lie to them about who you are and the loyalty of your friendship to break it up; No one should ever be allowed to talk badly about you or sabbatoge your character to your friend. Your friend should KNOW you and always rise up to shut that down. (Period!) If they don't, give that friendship the side eye and walk away from it.
In my opinion, if I am that kind of loyal to my friends, I should be able to expect that kind of loyalty back from them. When I find out that I don't have that mutual loyalty, I'm going to be hurt and in fact I was hurt. That kind of expectation from me is not out of line nor is it dysfunctional. For me that situation was not about me interfering in someone's relationship or walking away hurt because someone was choosing someone else over me. It was about knowing that a friend who I was ride-or die-loyal to for over 12+ years wasn't loyal enough back to me to not let someone lie about me or sabbatoge the friendship we created.
2. After decades of cultivating a friendship with someone, dishonesty and deceit should not be an issue in that relationship. (Another, period for me!) I have always told my friends, " I'm sacred space; I don't want to be your friend if you can't trust me with your truth, whatever it is, and I should be able to love you and accept you with your flaws." Since I mean that from the core of my being when I say it, when a person with whom I have known and arrived at the INTIMATE stage of friendship with (meaning our souls are connected) is dishonest or deceitful with me, it turns me off (disgusts me); it truly breaks down the friendship; and hurts me to my core. Is the expectation of honesty from a friend my soul is connected with a dysfunctional expectation? Again, I don't think so. But, this is all my opinion.
I walked away from that discussion and sat with God about it for two days. I asked God what He thought of me and if He had any issues with the way I handled my relationships. I wanted to know if my expectations in my relationships were being cultivated dysfunctionally. I wanted to know if I should stop allowing my friends to let me be their go to person/sounding boards in all matters (including their relationships or marriages). I wanted to know if I had violated God's marriage covenant and if I had led any of my friends to do the wrong thing when I prayed with them, fasted with them for their marriages, gave them scriptures, encouraged them to communicate with their spouses about their concerns etc. I wanted to know if I had or was interfering in anyone's relationship of which I didn't know or wasn't aware.
Reader, I need you to know that absolutely love and adore God and want to please Him in all my ways. At this stage of my life, if I'm falling short in any way or there is something that doesn't please God. It has to go! I want my heart pure and my hands clean before the Lord in EVERY area of my life. I'm very committed to changing those things about myself that are not correct, when I get those failed heart checks back from the Lord (see Day 2). If this person's perspective of me was accurate, clearly, things about me needed to change and I was walking around with a skewed perception of myself.
In the midmorning, I believe God began to speak to me from three scriptures that He brought to me as I was reading my Bible, meditating, and laying this issue once again before Him. A peace came over my spirit. The first was found in Jeremiah 1:5 and states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The next scripture was in Titus 1:15 which states, "To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted." The last scripture was in Luke 10:41-42, and states "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen that good part, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I walked away from my time with the Lord with a few nuggets. The Lord knows me, by name, by the hairs on my head, and even before I was a thought in my mother's mind. God knows how He designed me to think and move and to have my being in Him. God hasn't designed me like anyone on this planet. I'm different and unique. I'm not better than anyone or above anyone, I'm just me. (And hopefully, everyone I meet or who knows me will be and have been touched by the love and light of God that flows through me.) I have my own unique way of doing things and thinking about things.
How I choose to operate in my friendships is not right or wrong. My expectations of my friends are not dysfunctional, but reasonable requests of mutual love and respect. My friend said that she has standards/protocols her relationships. Her standards/protocols and expectations for her relationships do not have to be mine and they also don't define whether mine are wrong. Like Mary in Luke 10, I have chosen the good part for me, and I can't let anyone take that away from me. I can't let people project or impose their ways, their thoughts, their opinions on me or let them define how I should operate in specific areas of my life. Me and God have our system and it's okay for us. When I'm out of alignment, God will surely let me know and realign me. (And Lord knows those heart checks are no joke, hard work and the purification process is one that I personally do not like to do! Better to just stay in alignment.)
I learned that I have to be careful about perceiving myself and others through a defiled lens. I also can't allow another person's defiled lens to be projected on to my intentions, my actions, my attitudes and my behaviors to define or alter them. My friend saw situations very different than I did or what actually happened. I'm not sure why that is but perhaps she is seeing from a distorted lens. If one's heart is pure, one will see and carry out things with pure motives. Condescension, judgement or even holding an opinion for over twenty years is not the result of a pure heart or pure motive. If there is a defect of any kind in one's heart (i.e. hurt, bitterness, anger, pride), one's motives, actions, behaviors, and attitude will be defiled by that defect. One will only see and act from the distorted lens of that defect. I do wonder if my friend, without realizing it, said those things from the place of a defiled heart and a distorted lens. Only God knows that.
I just pray that we all learn to see from the lens of a pure heart.
Today as we give thanks for self-reflection, perhaps there is some real introspection that needs to be done on your heart. If you know that there is a heart defect, preventing you from seeing a situation from a healthy and a completely whole lens, lay it down at the altar and ask God to help you clean out your heart. If you have been acting out of a critical spirit, judging folks, being condescending to them or projecting things and you know it is not really you, ask God for a realignment and to expose what is occurring so that you can get some help with healing yourself. Ask yourself and the folks you have offended for forgiveness. It is never too late to change course for the better.
Have a great day of thanks!