Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor Part 2 -Relationships

Loving thy neighbor in action rather than thought takes a lot of work. Admittedly I am not all that great at it but I have decided to try. Maybe you are like me, thinking "that sounds theory". Loving everybody as myself is a great ideal, like world peace. What can I do? How can I impact anything? I still find myself passing my own silent judgment on others based on what they look like or the situation I see them in. I see people on the street and the moment is a snapshot compared to their whole life and yet, I sign myself up to be the judge, jury and executioner even without thinking about it.

My example? A taste of my own medicine I am afraid. I would often walk around my favorite shopping center back home. It was an upscale complex with store fronts outside and classical music piped in. I always felt lighter in spirit being there, usually with toddler in tow, strolling around taking in the scenery and window displays. Being that I am a person who likes to people watch and literally notices every minor detail, I often took notice of younger women with small children who didn't appear to be married. My assumption, of course, was that these children were A) hers, B) born out of wedlock and C) had broken homes. Pretty harsh judgment huh? Heard yourself say that in your mind a few times? My "backatcha" came a few months after my husband died. My daughter and I would go out to lunch after church and this day we selected one of our favorites, Burton's Grill. We sat at a corner table, right next to an older couple. The woman was instantly entranced with my Carli. They were talking, she was smiling at my daughter intently and taking her in. I was smiling too. People are often very taken with Carli. She easily engages with people and her brilliant smile and gigantic blue eyes make it easy to forget what you were doing a minute ago. I was enjoying the exchange and the woman was looking over at me smiling back, until I put my left hand on the table. I wasn't wearing my wedding ring that day. She took notice and abruptly ended the conversation with Carli and turned her body away. I was very shocked. I wanted to scream at her "I am a widow"! How did it feel coming back the other way to me? Not too good. I don't know anyone's situation and anyone I pass judgment on based on what I see can easily not be what it appears at all and even if it is, is it mine to decide what is right or wrong?

Loving thy neighbor has more impact at home as I have come to realize. I have taken stock of my relationships and how I interact in them. How loving am I to my friends? Well, if you have known me long enough you already know the answer to the question. The truth is, I make a great associate, a pretty good acquaintance and a lousy close friend. Why? I am sure there are a lot of reasons but none of that really matters because the results are the same. I am hard to get to know. Oh sure, I will banter on for hours at parties, chat you up when I have the time, most people say I am funny and easy to talk to. If you are waiting for me to call to say "hi" you might be waiting a long time. I am very slow to return calls. I often don't ask about things or follow up on conversations like I should. I am standoffish, aloof and removed. The ones that are closest too me are the ones who have just too much persistence every time I try to deflect something that is too intimate or personal. I give them a lot of credit. They have just accepted me after all these years. I have even been mean and harsh with my words to a few. Thankfully, I have sought forgiveness and it has been received well although I would say those relationships bare scars. Loving? That could use some work.

What does it mean for me to love my friends then? My family? It means I have some work to do. Being in a relationship means there are two people working toward a common goal, a deeper intimacy. Both sides must be willing to be vulnerable and take a risk. I've been burned in the past, haven't we all. Not every experience is going to be the bad ones we've endured. Honesty, that's a big one. I have learned that I just have share what's on my heart and mind. Chips fall where they may. I have gone through so much in the last year that the pain of keeping to myself just hurts too bad to not let my friends have the opportunity to be there for me. The results? Well, they have taught me that it is okay to be open. In return, they have been more open to me with things that are hurting them. Interesting, isn't it? We get to bond and to be completely on the level, the best friendships are forged in fire anyway. I have been more willing to make phone calls rather than wait for the phone to ring and most importantly just letting people know what's going on with me and being real. It is so freeing to just be yourself and not really worry about "appearances". Even if it doesn't work out that way and you find yourself in a relationship with someone who is less than loving as a result of sharing yourself, at least you know what you've got between you and you can plan accordingly without any false pretenses.

I've learned to give people a chance. I've met some really, really nice people lately. Some I had met a long time ago and have recently let them get to know me. I participated and showed interest in them and they returned the favor. Amazing how that works. It's okay find out if someone you know, even very little is a great person to share in your life. Make no assumptions, that is my new motto. I was always resistant to letting myself get passed my own preconceived notions to get to know someone. What bondage. I held myself prisoner in my own judgment of others, what a shame. I am glad I am getting through that.

I've learned to say "I'm, sorry" a long time ago. Mostly, now I try to acknowledge my shortcomings with people. I try to share my knowledge of my limited communication. I tell them I am working on it. Although, telling someone you are working on something means you really have to be working on it or it just feels like a lie, for both of you. I am trying to be better. Why? I want the people in my life to know I love them and I do value the time in my life that they have been with me. All of them, no matter how little I know them, they are in my life for a reason and that reason is for me to love them in whatever way I can. Maybe it is just sharing photographs of kids, saying a kind word, wishing well, offering to pray for something. Maybe it is an occasional coffee or lunch. I can be much more in depth too. The important thing is to love the people in your life in whatever way they will let you and be ready to do it.

Loving my neighbor starts with the ones closest to me, my family and friends. I love you guys!

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