If you put too much stock in people, they will let you down every time. This was something a wise adult in my life once told me. I’ve come to the conclusion that this wise adult was correct.
We can all talk a good game and try our darndest to be good people. You hear about people who really practice the biblical advice of turning the other cheek and loving their enemies. OK, so it’s not too easy to love an enemy and most of us just try to avoid that person.
But what if you have people who have endeared themselves to you in some way, yet suddenly you find yourself faced with the facts. There’s something wrong with the friendship and it has taken you this long to figure it out.
Maybe you are friends with someone who is a narcissist. I find the topic of narcissism fascinating because there are several kinds of narcissists. I’ve heard sermons on narcissists, read articles and I wrote a column on it once. It made me perform a checklist or two on myself. We all have a little narcissist in us. Look it up and read about it.
How about the friend who constantly bad mouths people whenever you are together? You know that when you are around this person, he or she is going to rake someone over the coals. Indeed, the main topic of conversation is talking about someone else, usually in a negative way.
We have friends who are loyal to you until things don’t go their way. They are generous, solid, loving friends. But then, something happens and gets stuck in their craw, and they turn on you immediately. Never mind the circumstances. Never mind the perspective. They are offended and your name is mud.
There are people you are friends or acquaintances with who want to be around you, but they want you around to be the audience. These are people who only talk about themselves, never ask about you or your family, and are only worried about “talking at” you. When you try to interject something into the conversation, you get the empty “uh huh” and then the next sentence might as well begin with “OK, back to me.”
You also run into friends who don’t trust a soul on earth. Maybe they’ve been betrayed too many times. In order to be this person’s friend, you have to jump through hoops and prove yourself. Sometimes, said friend makes you do such things for years and it’s the solid, loyal friend who sticks with it.
Sometimes we really have to examine people. Who are they really? We can’t assume people are mean to the core or have black hearts. People get their feelings hurt, people have a bad day, people experience hard times or depression. You really never know what you are dealing with when you respond to other people. I’ve often wondered if we could all deal with one another better if we could take the time to look more closely.
I also think we must have empathy, no matter what we see. Again, we can’t assume a friend is an awful person. We know people who make wrong decisions, have big mouths, have a hateful streak from time to time. But who are they really? What does their heart look like?
My reason for writing all of this is because I went on a long drive recently, all alone. I was thinking about the type of friend I’ve been to people after listening to a radio sermon. I wrote this column in my head as I drove along.
You see, all of the negative aspects I’ve listed above are characteristics I have had from time to time. I’ve been (and still can be) the guy who has bad mouthed. I’ve turned on loyal, good friends at the drop of a hat because they hurt my feelings or somehow, in my mind, “wronged me.”
I’ve talked ugly to people I love and I’ve been hateful to people I care about the most. There have been times I have regretted something that has come out of my mouth almost the minute after I said it. Sometimes I’ve been able to rectify the situation and sometimes I haven’t. At times, grace and mercy have been extended to me and at times, a shift in the relationship has occurred.
I’ve said things I shouldn’t, laughed at things no one found funny and let people down. I’ve lied to get out of situations, thought of ways to seek revenge, and vowed not to speak to a person or hold a grudge. I could go on and on about the mistakes I’ve made. I could list hundreds of ways I’ve let my friends down.
All I can say is I’m grateful to people who have stuck by me and I’m grateful for the people who recognize everyone is human; capable of messing up and being a jerk. How awful it would be if we weren’t able to find common ground again and realize what we liked about each other in the first place.
Long ago, I had a good heart-to-heart talk with an older gentleman. He was somewhat of a mentor of mine, and I spoke to him about an opinion I’d expressed once in his presence. It was of a sensitive nature, and I didn’t realize until later he may have taken what I had said in the wrong way.
After I explained myself, he looked at me with the wise eyes of a person who had seen it all. “Son, that didn’t bother me a bit. I know you better than that, and I know where your heart is most of the time.”
It was a valuable conversation.
I think it’s important to ask ourselves the same questions about those we care about. Would that person intentionally try to offend us? Have we known that person to be kind and good most of the time? Looking at the history of this person, can we see a history of good work and good intentions?
We would all be better off if we took time to do this.
After all, some of us are hard to love sometimes.