When I was just seven years old I had to give up everything I knew and loved…again. I didn’t know why but my parents told me we were moving right away. Can I be blunt? It sucked! I had finally established a set of friends that I knew would greet me at school and a steady flow of little girls who were enamored with my cute little “baby face” and waited in line at recess to kiss me. That’s right I was a schoolyard playa’! I was king of my world…until I got home. At home things couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact it was that year that I first tried to run away from home. After hearing the constant fighting at home and one too many bouts with my older brother, I packed up my “only true friends” – my stuffed animals – and headed down the road on my used bike with the broken seat, never to return. No, I didn’t have a plan or a destination, just more frustration than sense. I had only “run away” for five minutes before my mom found the mean note I left in the basement telling them all goodbye forever and she sent my brother after me. Needless to say, I was “escorted” home to a very unhappy mother and when dad got home from work it got worse. (Yes, I’m glad I did not grow up on the streets or end up on a milk carton! Thank you family.) After settling into my old routine again and becoming the family joke for “packing dolls” I decided to make the best of it…until I got a better chance to do it all again. I began a journey that day to find me…or lose me I guess, and over the next 30 years of my life, repeated that cycle again and again in some way. One thing never changed though, I was always seeking something more than just the illusion of friendship.
I was always told how great friends were and that it was one of the best things in life, but every friend I had I lost, eventually and by the time I was 14, nothing had changed. I went to countless schools and churches in yet again countless towns, each time having to come in as the “odd man out” and wait until the right circumstances placed myself and someone else in each others path for a short time with hopefully something in common. Eventually I learned to be a social chameleon trying to fit in with every people group. At church I accepted my role as a good little boy who always did the right thing (although nothing could be further from the truth and I knew it). At school people put a hundred different labels on me each one more humiliating than the last, until one day at one of those many schools I saw a kid who just seemed to rise above it all. So, I did what I had learned to do…I mimicked him. I found out where he got his awesome clothes and how he got his hair those colors and made it stand straight up as if to say “I don’t need you…you need me!” I cannot tell you how much I wanted to be that secure in myself and know who I was. Turns out after a long trial and error process I started feeling exactly that way and didn’t need to mimic him anymore. Good thing too! He was just as lost as everyone else I had ever met. Around this time I found hope in Jesus as my savior and friend. Being disillusioned by the church and religions and social norms, I liked the idea that Jesus was also not “normal” in his society and often misunderstood by friends, family and church leaders. I liked best that he had not let it make Him into something worse…but stayed true to the “spirit of the law” and not the “letter of the law”. (That just means that there are right things that can be used wrong, but Jesus always did the right thing for the right reasons, even when no one approved.) I found out He wouldn’t force me to love Him or force me to act like I’m something I’m not. He also wouldn’t force me to go anywhere against my will which is pretty huge for a kid who was forced to uproot so many times. He didn’t need me to be like Him to love me and accept me, but would lovingly challenge me to improve and be like Him more and more with His help and His power. Not a bad deal for a kid with no willpower to improve myself for any reason.
The years passed… soon I was 21, 28, then 35. As I creep ever so quickly to 40,
I guess the question now would be: “Did it work?” Well let’s see…
Has Jesus ever pressured me to be normal? Not once. Has He ever forced me to love Him? Nope. Has He ever asked me to act like someone else or hide who I am? Again, no. Has He ever forced me to go anywhere against my will? Never. Now for sake of argument here: neither did any of my stuffed animals. Let’s be real. There are many things He has done however that no stuffed animal or friend (real or imagined) could have done for me. He has inspired me to do the right thing just because it is right…even when it got me in trouble. He told me the truth: that life would be hard and that I would face much rejection in this world, but that He would never leave me. It has been hard. I have been rejected a lot. He’s still here, lovingly guiding me. He guided me to the one relationship that has lasted more than half of my life… and she is here because she wants to be. (Interestingly enough, her name is Faith!) He took me from being a failing student to a person who is sought after for wisdom! (schools and colleges pay me to teach their students how to live healthy and successful lives and my books have been used for curriculum…who knew?) Yes. It’s worked. So let’s get back to human friendships as the subject.
As I look back and see few lifelong friends that still support my decisions to improve and few that I truly trust enough to share my real feelings with, it seems that most relationships I have had with people have been based on fear. Sometimes mine, but mostly theirs I think. Fear of loneliness, fear of being left out, fear that (they or I ) will not understand and fear that (they or I ) will just someday leave. I can’t help but feel that the majority of the ones who call themselves my friends are here by some sort of obligatory reason and when I hear their criticisms of my choices or dreams it makes me wonder why we do this. Why do we put up with people in our lives who don’t genuinely like us? Why do we let people influence us who criticize every decision we make because it’s not what they would do or how they would do it? Why do allow people who are manipulative and selfish stay in our lives? I have always wanted to be free of this kind of relationship. (I’m being honest.) It seems so wrong to be with people because you have to. Shouldn’t friendships be more…organic than that?
I’m not saying don’t work at friendship and relationships. Quite contrary to the way it might seem in this post I have given time and energy to many relationships until it has made me sick. Literally! I have bent over backwards and stood on my head for some some so called friends who just took everything from me (time, energy, assets, mental health) and that wasn’t enough! They needed more. When I finally said enough is enough and refused to give them anymore…they have lashed out like a little baby screaming for a bottle. Well, sorry kiddo: It’s time to be weaned. Go find some other sucker who you can bleed dry. There is no more for you here. Sometimes you just gotta weed the garden! – know what I mean?
If you find yourself in a fear-based relationship and you’ve given until you are sick. End it. Some people are happy with the illusion of friendship because they are getting everything out of the relationship and have no problem sucking you dry. If people around you don’t understand your decision… spike your hair up and walk proud. You are in good company.
For those of you who read this and think: My this guy sounds upset! Well, be assured… I don’t care. ;) I am going to keep marching onward and upward with a majority of people telling me I can’t make it, or I’m doing it all wrong. Guess what? Doctors told me I shouldn’t be able to function normally or have any lasting or healthy relationships and I have plenty. Religious people who reject and demean people for most any reason told me I couldn’t reach the youth of this nation by being myself because it didn’t line up with their way of doing it…well, they were wrong! “Friends” who gave up on me when I went through the darkest time of my adult life, either came back to make things right, or left for good…and I’m still changing lives and changing my own. I have the one friend I need most. He will never leave me or forsake me and together we are finding more “rejects” out there looking for something more than the illusion of friendship.
What’s your thoughts?