Shortage of conversation about respectful relationships is a primary factor in deeper world problems. Don’t shirk responsibility to communicate, deal with it assertively.
I can give without reciprocity. That’s just reality. But I can’t keep spending time and energy confessing to people who refuse to confess anything to me. I can’t reveal the integral nature of our friendship if the other person takes zero steps to acknowledge that basic integrity. I cannot continually deceive a friend by not calling out passive-aggressive behavior as a cause of pain in dysfunctional relationships.
However, I’ll spend ALL DAY TALKING WITH ONE PERSON if I feel they are coming to me from an authentic place. If they are courageously venting their deepest hungers and fears, trusting me to be compassionate and truthful, and, above all else, if they admit that I have given them something substantial. Because they have acknowledged me, and seen my prerogative, I will help them win a trophy in their heart-mind. Even if they feel untrained to spar with me. They have some faith in ME that I’ll use to build up their strength and courage.
Absence of reciprocity from several close acquaintances over the years has me examining what I’ve done to make dysfunctional relationships manifest.
The amount of time I’ve spent this year just writing and speaking to people seems only to accelerate, but perhaps some of it has been my own callowness. Am I talking ‘at’ people who did not ask for real conversations with me in the first place? Who do I think I am? Why am I even talking? So yes, I question myself:
“What is wrong with me?” Am I throwing pearls before swine only to be trampled? (Mt 7:6)
There are more humble, more virtuous, and nicer people getting fewer opportunities than I. Surely many uncool, reckless, and mean folks receive good fortune and blissful happiness. It rains on the just and the wicked. Period. That’s reality, and I can acknowledge the facts of life and try to be more “mature,” as the famous translation implies. (Mt 5:45) But this isn’t your dad’s canned Bible thump, nor your hippy mom’s flowery anti-pop philosophy. I already know those sucking the life out of others are only successful if givers allow themselves to be taken advantage of.
I don’t have to give my real friends disclaimers about who I am or am not, yet I know how to apologize in advance for my “religious-speak” because my visions still cannot predict other perceptions of who I am. I can be malleable, but others may always be uncomfortable with my syntax and context.
Usually at a key moment of doubt, I notice how my truest friends are patient with me. They understand when I’m late, or broke and can’t pay them back right away. They listen to me pontificate or whine about my hectic life, and forgive me for not listening to their interesting story too. They have every right (and duty) to call me out as a friend if I’m being obtuse or insensitive. I know how to say ‘sorry’ and actually mean it, and they know how to accept the apology.
How do I tell the difference?
My truest friends build my stamina and perseverance in this struggle as well. But even more so, they quit being full of passivity and aggression. First with me and then with others. When they see those dead-end behaviors actually hurt people, they immediately see their own awakening. Then I can see all my words are not in vain. And I grow too. WE grow as friends.
When I finally get down to business of being someone’s real friend, and listening to him or her, and hear all the collateral damage in their language and jade in their tone of voice, I finally get to the bottom of it all. I have to peel away many layers of obfuscation. Often, they’re experiencing similarly ugly miscommunications in their relationships. This person might be exhausted from spending all kinds of muscle and patience on another person, but the patience is not appreciated. The sensitivity of perceiving unbalance is not praised as a positive character trait. Rather, it is criticized, and the perpetrator just glosses it over and remains mute. The danger for the compassionate person is precisely this reactive pacifism; to simply grow another layer of thick skin. Emotional maturity is good, but turning past sentiments into conditions for giving love seems a cold and vengeful variety of detachment.
Avoiding confrontation with a friend is sometimes passive aggressiveness. This silence is essentially a lack of respect for that friend and can be destructive to the friendship. Avoiding belligerence is good, but disengaging someone who needs your feedback, or withdrawing from someone who requires your patience and presence is a true act of non-compassion. Real laziness can masquerade under the guise of someone purporting to try to remain a ‘peacekeeper,’ and I would rather call it what it is: pure empathetic sloth.
Some people, instead of courageously confronting their demons and unpacking their baggage, would rather cower for fear of being exposed as weak. But that would still be playing into their own indoctrination into popular culture that haughtily shames victims as ‘overly-sensitive,’ and insists that humility is a sign of weakness. In actuality, it is them who is a victim of the collateral damage of a #CultureOfDeath, which blatantly promotes violence, aggression, and bullying everywhere you look.
Some people conditioned like this are okay to ignore you, yet think they can remain in your good graces, as a friend, without having to listen to you, speak to you, or lift a finger for you. And it’s the ultimate disappointment to watch my friend fail to input their key piece into ‘our’ puzzle.
I don’t want to be bossy or try to naively fix people or change the way they talk and think. I do not continually elevate myself or claim to be ‘wiser.’ I seek peace and tranquility for myself, but only if you trust that I care about balance in your life, and happiness in all of your relationships. I can only focus on how I ‘relate’ to you, right here, right now. If my words towards you are passionate and involved, you will see how hard I am focusing on our discourse.Photo: darkday./Flickr