The Jerks

I’m really tired of you……you joy stealers. Especially you who try to manipulate those I care about and make them feel less. Especially those of you who were sent by God to be their family, but also those who have pretended to be their friends. To put it simply, you’re jerks.

Yep, I understand that you are people to be pitied, though you would say that is not what you are after. You live life….sadly. Your purpose is wrong. You are making the world so much worse instead of so much better. And why? For many of you it’s a hellfire determination to manipulate and a lack of ability to live your own identity.

You look at the world with very dark glasses. You see darkness everywhere. You often don’t see that you are the one creating much of that darkness.

How do you know if this is you? Let me try to start a checklist. You may be a jerk if….

  • You were to weigh your conversation during a given day, and much of what comes out of your life is negative talk about others. Or the world in general.
  • You think everyone should think like you. Your experience, your knowledge, trumps that of others and makes you feel superior.
  • You act as though you have been given the role of the Holy Spirit in other’s people lives. You spend a lot of time trying to show them how wrong they are. (Note: God felt only one Holy Spirit was necessary. If you’re walking around a mere mortal on the outside of people, you’re not it.)
  • A lot of your time is spent worrying about the choices of other people….who they marry, how they spend their money and time, the dumb things they did in the past or do now, the friends with whom they associate. There are natural consequences to those things…..they don’t need you to fix them.
  • You feel acute embarrassment for the actions of others. Nope….it’s not yours to indulge in. Not if you birthed them, taught them, married them, introduced them, or told them. Yep….we all may cringe occasionally about the behavior of “our people”. If it lasts more than a moment, you’re probably going too far. You’re not them.
  • You bring up the same subject of contention each and every time you are around them. (They heard you the first time. Now you are Charlie Brown’s teacher.)
  • You don’t appreciate the good things about people. If you say you love them but can’t seem to come up with anything good about them? You don’t.
  • You’re passive aggressive with the people in your life. They “should” know what hurt you, bothered you, concerned you. You shouldn’t need to tell them. Or you have told them, sort of. Kind of. Well… shouldn’t need to tell them. Or it’s not worth the hassle. Yet you think of nothing else when you see them…and it’s obvious an elephant is in the room. But since you don’t point it out, they just feel something’s off. And that something is you.
  • You abdicate your responsibility to parent. Or care for your own parents who raised you with love.
  • You allow others to make your choices for you…and you blame them if you are confronted. They don’t like someone, so you don’t, They don’t agree with their lifestyle, so you don’t. They hate someone, so you do. They think you should make a certain choice, so you do. No grown up should ever blame others for how they treat people. It’s all on you. Even if it was their idea.
  • You judge others based on factors out of their control…or even those in their control that may be the result of a different life experience than yours. Their skin color. Their hair color. Their gender. Their family. Their sexuality. Their handicaps. Their political party. Their income. Their charitable contributions. Their religion, culture, or lack thereof.
  • You shun people for actual or imagined “sins”. This means you overtly or covertly stay away from them. It may be because they leave your church or their spouse or because their family member is arrested. Is it really the time to stay away?
  • You make negative comments about children. Or their parents. In front of them. Even if you spin it well and no one else appears to notice.
  • What you say you believe is not evident in how you live your life. You say you serve love, but spew hate.

You are the hateful ones. Your superpower is to make people cry and doubt they are a masterpiece of the creator. You never will change the world for the good….because even if you have a good point, the delivery of your message makes people run in the other direction. Sometimes even when they would agree with that point if you took a softer approach and both spoke and listened and tried to understand them.

Know this….you may think no one knows, but we do. We’re watching. Some of us can even treat you kindly, knowing you are a jerk.

I hope I stepped on some toes. I hope some of you may feel a pang when reading some of these things and take steps to change.

To those who refuse to acknowledge or make an effort to get better? We’ll be there for your victims. And yes….they are victims and you are a perpetrator. We will love them. We will be kind to them. We will gently lead them to work through their problems. We will remind them you are jerks. And while sometimes it seems that you rule the world, you don’t. Love and kindness will win.

And to those who have been the victims, you are not wrong. You don’t deserve what you have been through. Don’t let the jerks keep you down. They’re not worth it. Forgive them. That means release the pain of their transgression. Live your life with joy. That will be your revenge. Even if you’re not the vengeful type.


The Life Sentence or the Death Penalty

I have spent far more time on a jury than the average person. One time it was three weeks straight. Several other times around a week. Several other times I was just sitting in the jury pool waiting to see if they would need me (that was back when you went for a week, and were only released early if they knew no other jury would be needed.)

I’m always amazed at how many people do their best not to serve on a jury. We seem to love to judge each other from our armchairs. You would think people would love the opportunity to do it “for real”. Yes, I know there are times when the lack of income would be devastating (I believe payment was about a $12 a day last time I served), but most just seem like it would be a bother. And in some ways it is, but personally if I were ever on trial I would like someone like me on the jury. I will always try to serve when called. Though the three weeks in one swoop was a bit much (though it was incredibly dramatic and as the judge said to us afterward “Show me a movie, book, or TV show where you had more drama than what you have seen in the past few weeks.” He was right. We only missed the soundtrack.)

But people screw up. We’re not perfect. There are days when we are insensitive. There are days we see overly sensitive. There are days when we are quick to be angry. There are days when we are passive-aggressive. There are days when we are self-centered. There are days we don’t notice you or we fail to include you. There are days when we are unkind. There are days when we do stupid and inconsiderate things. There are days when we are demeaning. There are days when we do not rise to your defense when others spread gossip about you. There are days we are disrespectful.

People get on my nerves. I suspect some days someone may get on yours, too. When they do, I tend to pass judgment of them in my mind. But what kind of internal judge resides in there? Am I kind and merciful, or do I effectively give them a life sentence or the death penalty? Because for one silly thing, we can despise that person forever and ever, amen. (We usually do it with a certain amount of self-righteousness.)

When I look at my options for conviction, there are many. Why is it that I still often find I have given them a life sentence or the death penalty?

I’m certainly no Pollyanna. I do go through periods of time when I dislike people. I learned to ask myself the life sentence/death penalty question when I noticed other people holding long grudges towards people for reasons I found….well, silly. It made me start to examine how often I unintentionally did the same.

When I did Leadership Statesville years ago through the Statesville Chamber of Commerce we used to make a trip to Central Prison. I went there when I went through the program and then a couple of extra times when I served on the board (I found it fascinating). The first time I was floored to find the death row prisoners were not kept away from us….we mingled with them with no bars between us. Most seemed so young, yet they had committed heinous crimes. I will admit I struggle with the death penalty when I ask myself the question “Could I administer the lethal injection?” I feel I should be able to say yes if I believe in it that much.

But to never speak to someone again because they were rude to me? Because they threw a temper tantrum that seemed over the top and unnecessary? Because they failed to invite me to a party or snubbed me when they saw me out? My logical self doesn’t believe those acts should require such a harsh sentencing. Yet how come sometimes that is effectively how I respond?

This is not to say that there are some people I choose not to have in my life on a regular basis or spend time with. If you are rude to wait staff in a restaurant, I probably won’t choose to go out to meals with you again. If you have anger issues, I’m not going to hang around to give your anger an audience (unless I feel the need to stand close to make sure you are not abusive to another person or animal.) If you constantly rant on politics or religion or any issue for which you have closed the door on learning a new point of view, I’ll probably find you to be a bore quickly and will make my escape. Life is too short to listen to your diatribes. Even if I agree with you overall.

Of all of the wrongs done to me in my life, none have been death penalty crimes. Some particularly heinous things did seem like it for a season. But it’s much easier to live in a world where our mind is not the killer court. Just maybe if we give people a chance at parole we will find that while they may have faults, they may also be delightful and able to teach us something. That’s been my experience. And I am so glad I backed off of my original sentence for them. The death penalty or life sentence just costs me too much….and I prefer a world of merciful judges.

When They’re "Just Not That Into You"

Prologue – There are some things in my life that are incredibly difficult to write about, but these days I think perhaps they are the most important for me to tackle. These are the things we tend to hold in, our private miseries that expose us as vulnerable and human, bringing all of our insecurities to the surface and making us fear that exposing them them may make us have to admit some of them as true.

But if I try to articulate this when I am still trying to come to terms with it all, it may help others who are going through it themselves. Or it may remind them that they are not alone. Because the story isn’t unusual and many of us share it. And from being there with many others who have gone through it (and having gone through it myself a time or two), I know there really should be no shame in it. I have always been very private about my romantic life, at the threat-to-national-security security clearance level (as friends and family can attest), but when trying to live out loud we sometimes need to share parts of that story….because it is a very big part of who we are.
I found myself falling for him, this guy I knew. He was intelligent and funny. Compassionate. Kind. He had the ability to be friends with both men and women, something important to me, who counts both among my closest friends. I have had to end several relationships because men were not comfortable with this part of my life. He gave me great advice, advice that rang true with who I am and what I believe. He encouraged me to do hard things and supported me as I did them. He told me stories that were both funny and heartbreaking. He was easy to talk with on any number of subjects. We could go from silly to serious in the same sentence. I could say anything without offending or embarrassing. He made my life better and more fun.
But, as I look back, there was never any true indication that he was interested in me as more than a friend. Oh, I wanted to make it so. He banters well, and is engaging and flirty. I read more into it than he ever intended. I thought maybe his feelings were on the same level as mine. The “maybe” in that sentence is significant….a part of me also knew maybe not. Probably not. The sign I wanted to ignore? While we were in constant communication, he never craved spending time with me. He would never inconvenience himself for me. He was satisfied with a text life and not much more. I struggled with that throughout, but would always make excuses for it. He was tired, he was stressed, his life was just too complicated now. All true, and possibly real factors, but still when it gets down to it, it really doesn’t matter. The conclusion is the same. I was trying to force a relationship.
Sometimes you have to face the fact that they’re “just not that into you”. My friend Steve raised a lot of that to the surface when I was explaining it all to him and he made me answer out loud the questions I had been asking myself. Not liking the answers I had tried to avoid them and spin them into something that was not quite the truth. But I can’t lie, or avoid the truth, with good friends or when speaking out loud. Steve’s line of questioning was quite like a deprogramming. My mind had joined the cult of stupid and I needed to face facts. Stellar friend that he is, Steve was not going to let me stay in my fantasy land, which was a fun place to be most of the time, quite honestly, and I did resist vacating the premises.
Steve kept going back to a few points. The biggest, the one that would cover all of my excuses, was “Men are simple. You’re trying to make him complicated.” I was. I could come up with believable reasons for all inconsistent behavior. But as Steve pointed out, if a man is really interested in you, they will crave your presence. Their nature will force them to pursue you. It will not seem like an inconvenience, or too much work, or something that will add stress to their life. Relationships, good relationships, make life richer and take stress away. The phrase I like to use is “salve for the soul.” Good relationships heal us and strengthen us and make us feel better about who we are. If someone really wants that relationship with you, nothing will get in the way of making it happen.
Other questions that Steve asked me several times (being a lawyer he would ask me to answer the same questions over and over until he felt that I “got it”) was “Do you think you are good for him? Do you think you would make his life better?” Those questions seemed weird to me at first, but when I said “Yes!” for about the third time Steve said “Then can you see that this is about him, it’s not about you?” While I still struggle with this conclusion, it did make me look at it in a different light. I think we were/are good for each other. Truth is that at this time he just didn’t fully want what I had to offer. He didn’t share my vision of us. Or, darn it, he just wasn’t really attracted to me. Whatever the truth, we just weren’t in sync. And no matter what, you can’t dictate another person’s point of view. Nor should you want to.
But it is most important to say that this guy is not a jerk (as we often tell our friends they are when a guy isn’t interested in them) for not feeling about me the way I feel about him. You feel what you feel. So many factors impact. There is often no rhyme or reason. When I looked back at it all, the signs are so clear. He had never made promises or proclamations or had done anything but be who he was, where he was. I see now that in some ways he warned me. He told me what his priorities were and a romantic relationship wasn’t one of them. But the logical conclusion just wasn’t where I wanted to head, so I ignored it.
This weekend (after my de-programming was complete) I finally did tell him that I had realized he “just wasn’t that into me” (by text….it seemed fitting, though that may have been wrong. I’m not always brave), and he somewhat tried to deny it. He said he felt we were headed in the relationship direction, but we were becoming friends first. He said he just wanted to proceed into the relationship slowly because he had made the mistake of moving too fast in the past. But he really didn’t argue with any sort of intensity. I think he was just being kind. Or is shielding himself from the reality, too. I’m fine with moving slowly in relationships, in being friends first. I think that is often a wise course of action. But even when developing friendships you need/you want to spend time together. If there is always an excuse not to do so, does that person really want to be your friend ? Your real friends find ways to spend time with you, even when their lives are busy or there are other obstacles. They open their life up to you. They draw you close. Because once again, you are salve to their soul and they to yours. You interest them, you delight them. You are not a burden that adds to their load. If you’re keeping each other at arm’s length (or keeping miles between you, all of the time), how is it possible to grow a relationship? There’s slow and there’s no.
It’s tough to be single. I really don’t want to go through this part of my life alone, but alone is much better than hanging out in someone’s waiting room for an appointment that is not on their schedule. During this time of life I am resolved to be braver, take chances, and boldly go after what I want. I deal with reality, operate from a position of strength….and try to overcome my weakness. 
Truth is I want to share my life now with a great love. It may not ever happen, but I remain hopeful and open to it. I will continue to look for someone with this guy’s great qualities – someone smart, funny, mature, kind, hard-working, and an encouragement to me being the best me I can be – but I also need someone who is willing, ready, and able to hold my hand and jump into the relationship together. Settling for less leads to heartbreak almost all of the time. If he couldn’t jump with me, it was time to walk away from the possibility and instead be available for another guy. A guy who will look at me and smile and willingly (and a bit recklessly), reach for my hand and jump. If you run into this guy, send him my way. Because I am ready for him now. I am also willing to wait for him and I still vow not to settle for less.
Postscript – It was incredibly painful (and frankly a bit humiliating) as I began writing this, but I knew I had to do it. Even if the idea of it made a bit sick. Once I started, I found it helped my perspective. Several of my friends have been through various relationship disasters lately, and have bravely shared with me their personal pain. I need to be willing to do the same, but to even do it a bit more openly. I think we need to discuss these things with each other more, and not keep them hidden. We need to release it and be open to better. When we hold it in, often we end up letting it do major damage….such as making us see ourselves as less than we are….and hardening ourselves to the beautiful possibilities we can gain by learning from our mistakes (if we made mistakes) and being ready for what comes next.

Truth is this….it’s been worth every emotion given or gained. I don’t regret a moment. I am not broken….though admittedly there are a few cracks. They will heal and make me stronger and more interesting. My life is richer for knowing him and having gone through it all. Hopefully he will come to trust me as a friend, as I do him.

The most important lesson I’ve taken away for my single friends? There are amazing folks out there (this guy an example….not an exclusion). We need to keep our eyes open and try until the right combination and the right timing clicks into place. We need to enjoy the journey until we realize it’s not good for us, or them, and then we move away and towards something that is. I have tons of amazing single friends. Really spectacular women and men. When you other singles find one that attracts your attention…..don’t hesitate to get to know them. They just may be waiting for you. Be kind, and as honest as you can be throughout. If things don’t work out, end it well and turn around and try again. Let’s explore the possibilities and have fun in the pursuit. It should be fun, and it shouldn’t shatter us. Because they’re “just not into us” does not mean we are lacking. It means nothing except it’s time to move on towards someone who is.

Locked Out

The great news is that finally I got rid of my wretched Blackberry work phone and moved to an iPhone 6. Contrary to my friend Al, who hates all things “i”, I love i-Stuff. My personal phone is an iPhone 4s, and while I liked the first one I had, my current one has had some issues. But compared to the Blackberry, it is amazing.

But the 6……oh. Love at first sight. Well, maybe at least love at first fingerprint. I loved that little feature. I have a bazillion passwords to remember, that have to be changed every three months (or more often when I forget them), so being able to get into my phone by the touch of my fingerprint…a game changer. Well, until the day it wouldn’t accept my fingerprint…..and what I knew to be my password.

It drove me nuts. I kept trying. Some if you know what happens when you try your iPhone password too much. It totally locked me out of my phone. To the point where I had to do a total factory re-set. Which I didn’t have time for. So for three days I had to go without my work phone, until I had time to re-do everything. Actually it was five days….I got the phone going, but then had to re-do my company set-up. Painful.

I was around a lot of people this past weekend. One thing about being in a crowd…you analyze people. At least I do. I love the relationship dynamics and the electricity and even watching those just going through the motions. My latest revelation? There are some folks that drive me nuts. Who I just don’t get. Who I will think I understand one moment, and then they simply confound me. It’s like I’m putting my fingerprint on that phone sensor and getting in with no issue 100 times, but doing the exact same thing again and it locks me out. On one hand I think these folks are “my people” and yet on the other I wonder if I understand them at all. If they’re “my people” I should understand them, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
I look at me from a few paces back and I suspect I may be a bit confounding myself. Sometimes I may mask my feelings. Sometimes I act like I don’t care about something when I care very much. Sometimes I can’t quite figure out what I am feeling and so what comes out reads as something entirely different than what it really is. Sometimes I am tired and mentally exhausted and it comes out as anger and impatience. Sometimes something innocent triggers pain and I do a dance so no one looks in my eyes and sees it there. Sometimes I am aloof, but at the core scared. Sometimes in need of attention, so clumsily try to get it. Other times in need of anonymity, so trying to blend in to the point of not being seen. Sometimes I am simply out of my depth, and try to pretend that I am not.

Knowing all this about me, it shouldn’t surprise me that sometimes I can’t get a good read on others. I think that on one hand we all want people to understand us, but yet a part of us may want to remain a mystery. If we let them too close, they just may see that we’re all vulnerable human beings who want someone’s thumbprint to open up the secret to who we are, but are scared to let them get too close.

That Blackberry of mine was not a great communication tool. I only took it out to read an occasional email. But my rebooted iPhone 6….it’s doing the job for which it was intended. I want to use it and it opens up new avenues of communication. Maybe our relationships need a factory reboot… before we simply put them on a shelf. Maybe we need to focus on forgetting the past, beginning again, and see if we can do things different. It’s intimidating, it can be difficult, and it is confounding…but that is the world of relationships. It is worth the investment of some time and attention….even if the pathway may seem a bit confusing. It may get us to the place where our fingerprint opens up a world of possibilities for closeness and intimacy and relationships that are genuine.

The Smile Underneath

I was talking on the phone at work to this lady about Medicare supplements when she said her husband had a few questions for me. He was a definite character and his questions all began with a story. A rather long story, that didn’t lead to an obvious point. I could feel the impatience of his wife through the phone line and hear her urging him to wrap it up. He started protesting “She called me to the phone, now she doesn’t want me to ask my questions.” It was obvious that she just didn’t want to hear his stories…..again. They continued to quibble, until he finally asked his questions, and she dismissed him. I could hear him protesting and grumbling as he walked away. He had more to say but she felt like he had said enough. He had. From that little exchange, though, I could feel the love between them…..and the smiles in their voices as they argued with each other and were so good for each other. It made me smile, too.

We all know that everyone is made up of their internal and their external. What we see on the outside is often very different than what would be seen on the inside. Relationships are like that, too. Relationships, like people, have character. What is important is not who people are when everyone is looking, but who they are when no one is looking. Or who they are when they don’t think people are paying attention. The little moments show the roots of the relationship.

These roots are fed by two (or more) people, who come to the relationship with “their stuff”. Are our roots allowing the other person (people) in the relationship to thrive, or are we choking the life out of them? It’s one of the things in life I find to be most interesting.

Below the surface some people hide a tempest, which can rise quickly and unexpectedly. This can be shocking to see, scary and annoying, even when you understand that this tempest represents unresolved pain. To live with that tempest on the edge of eruption day after day is quite a difficult thing to maneuver. These folks walk through life with an internal volcano, dormant but brewing to active. How difficult is it to live with that in your belly? How difficult is it to live with that by your side? They don’t care if they hurt others as they erupt, because they are so blind with pain that they can’t see where the lava goes when the volcano finally erupts. The lava can cause a lot of damage, but usually they only notice the damage they suffer. Or they beat themselves up internally for the pain they know they cause, but won’t admit it or apologize to the people they have hurt. Sometimes they do apologize afterward, and there are dramatic make-up gestures and promises. Still the cycle continues. Whether you are the volcano or the lava victim, how you go forward in the relationship reveals much about who you are. To stop the cycle, you have to become quite self-aware, difficult in the midst of constant volcanic activity. If you don’t stop it, you sometimes also become a volcano, or a fire starter, or a big pile of ash. Sometimes if you are in a relationship with a volcano you have to move away from them, because the constant threat of volcanic activity makes creating a real life difficult.

Other people seem totally dispassionate about life and each other. They don’t seem to care what the other thinks or feels, and many questions they are asked are answered with “whatever”. They roll their eyes or speak passive-aggressive comments, but don’t express what is really on their mind. They seem to have given up in one sense, but yet exist in limbo. They do nothing to improve things. Life could be worse, but it could be so much better. They exist in blah. It’s interesting to watch for someone like me, who doesn’t feel dispassionate about much (except perhaps manufactured drama.) Do they really not care? And what makes a person stay in a relationship (be it a love relationship or a friendship) with someone like this? Some would say low self-esteem. Maybe sometimes. But I think perhaps often they are kindred spirits, albeit maybe one a passive-aggressive one. Could it also sometimes be relational laziness?

Then there are the givers…..they give, and give, and give…..which would seem like it would be a great and awesome thing, until you’re on the receiving end and just too exhausted trying to reciprocate. Sometimes the giving is based in a purity that is hard for “sinners” to match, and at other times they are playing to the crowd and waiting for the applause to begin. Sometimes there are underlying tones of dissatisfaction coming off the giver that others aren’t living (or giving) up to their standards. You can’t seem to win with them, but yet it’s also difficult to confront. (You’re mad because they’re doing something good?) Often apathy sets in for the “less giving”, and the “non-marathon giver” just decides to be a taker without worrying about reciprocation….or they start to spend their time with someone with whom the pressure is not as intense. The giver’s position? “I give, and give, and give and no one ever appreciates it.” Did you ever wonder why? Really?

Relationships are funny things. If we all were bathed in perfection, maybe they would be easy. It’s difficult to realize that while it is easier to visually see where the other person is wrong, we can only effectively change when we allow ourselves to focus only on that person in the mirror. Not to say we can’t be a change agent in the lives of others…we can and we should. But we don’t usually do that by focusing on them. When we change ourselves, and live reflectively and positively, people notice. When we don’t allow ourselves to feed bad behavior, sometimes it dies. You can’t always ignore the bad, but helping someone see and develop their strengths as they minimize their weaknesses is the true picture of a good relationship.

This couple I mentioned earlier. The thing that I loved most about them was that underneath it all they encouraged the good in each other. They appreciated the strengths, recognized the weaknesses, but were each other’s equilibrium. His gift of gab left unrestrained could have made him a bore, but she kept it in check so that his charm glowed. They were honest with each other and felt the freedom to argue with no consequences except good ones. They obviously had great affection and appreciation for each other. They worked as a team, even if a bit of a disjointed one. They talked and argued, agreed and disagreed, but underneath it all there was always a smile and passion for each other that overrode everything else. That smile underneath the facade made all the difference. He had her back, and she had his. It made their relationship steadfast, and comfortable, and gave them confidence. They were better together than apart.

We need to inflame the affection and burn the rubbish. We all come into relationships with a certain amount of baggage, carting around a caseload of issues. Love doesn’t require perfection, but it is difficult for it to thrive without kindness. Smiling on them, showing you have recognized the special….people need that. It’s what “your people” deserve. It’s what you should require. Smiling on people takes root and grows and allows people to live in freedom, and perhaps gives them confidence to leave behind the baggage that has been weighing them down. There are enough people in life who give the message “You’re not…..enough.” What if our message is “You are….plenty” and we use words that affirm their value. With a smile that can be heard in our voice, and generates from the depths of our hearts. Don’t be a doormat in your relationships, but also watch where you are stepping. There may be a body there.

Behind the Charm and the Beauty

Day 31 in Proverbs

Proverbs 31:8-9 “But you must defend those who are helpless and have no hope.  Be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless.”
Proverbs 31: 28-29 “Her children praise her, and with great pride her husband says, ‘There are many good women, but you are the best!'”

Proverbs 31:30 “Charm can be deceiving, and beauty fades away, but a woman who honors the Lord deserves to be praised.  Show her respect – praise her in public for what she has done.”


The description of the “Proverbs 31 woman” intimidates me.  I’m quite certain that if you read the description, I am not who immediately came to your mind!  I have friends who I see in the description, though, or who strive to be like her.  I definitely do respect them for all that they do.  Even if I had the marriage and the children, I am not sure I could live up to the ideals.  But I hope I would make the attempt.  

In successful relationships, there is work to be done.  We need to be willing to do whatever we can to support those who are our family.  When people talk about having a 50-50 relationship, I generally roll my eyes.  No true relationship is ever that balanced.  Someone generally has to give more, and someone needs to receive more.  The percentages of who is giving and who is receiving should change from time to time, and should weigh more heavily in each direction on a regular basis.  Problems occur when one person is doing almost all of the giving, and one person is doing all of the receiving.  Both parties need to be willing to make the sacrifices that will bond them closer.  They need to care for each other so much that they don’t feel the sacrifice….they just want to make their partner’s life better.

I was having a conversation with one of my friends the other day and we were talking about marriage.  She was celebrating her 28th wedding anniversary.  They’ve accomplished a lot in that time.  They will continue to do so.  As their friend, one of the things that makes me smile is how they work together to build their life.  She supports him, and he supports her.  Even after all of this time, it is obvious they genuinely and practically care for each other.  When we were talking she said “He really is my best friend.  There is no one in the world I would rather spend time with.”  That hasn’t been built by emotions, which can flounder….it has been built because they both are willing to sacrifice for each other and make each other the primary focus of their lives.  I know each looks at each other they say to themselves “You are the best and I am glad I chose you!”  I see it every time I am around them.

I have seen a lot of people in relationships who have a need to let everyone know constantly how very much in love they are and often put on public demonstrations of their affection.  Those are usually the relationships that fail.  It’s more about showing off than anything else….and when you show off in that way, you usually are a bit self centered and trying to get outside affirmation for inside deficiencies.  Not a great recipe for a long term relationship.  True love generally is quieter than that…’s less public.  It’s not necessary that others notice how great you are as a couple….it’s right there between you and solid.  When you are around other people,  you are so confident in the relationship that you both can give others attention and share your focus (while occasionally catching the eye of their partner across the room and smiling.) 

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t share the good things about your relationship and praise the other person publicly.  You definitely should.  Personally I love when I hear my couple friends talk about their spouse like they made a good choice!  But your relationship should mostly reside between the two of you.  Relationships are never strengthened when you constantly either share the laundry list of your partner’s faults with the world or have the need to constantly brag about how great the two of you are together.  Plus, it bores us!  (Note….sometimes you do need to talk to friends about what is going on in your relationship to gain perspective.  Just be wise about who you choose to talk to…and don’t make it a public topic of conversation.)

A lot of people who focus on this chapter only notice that section about the women.  That’s all you ever hear about.  There’s something to be said for the “Proverbs 31 man”, too, though. Men who make an effort to be caring and show it.  Who notice those with needs and have compassionate hearts to work to provide for them and defend them.  Who are involved in their community.  Who not only support their partner, but really do put them above all others.  Who don’t just see their lives as a playground, or think their world is all about them and their needs, but are looking outside and noticing the needs of others.  Especially those they call family.  I love seeing that kind of man!

Charm and beauty are wonderful things, but they are very deceptive.  They’re not always what they appear to be.  They can be illusions.  Their allure fades.  Those who honor God…..who are willing to do the work and get their hands dirty, who are willing to live sacrificially, those whose pride come from being people of purpose who care for others….those are the people we should aspire to be.  I am not the Proverbs 31 woman.  But I am surrounded by quite a few of them.  So yea to the Proverbs 31 woman….and to the Proverbs 31 man.  I am watching you, as are others.  May we all see you, and learn from you, and want to become more like you.  And may you be the kind of people we most respect.

(I made it through Proverbs blogging!!!!  There were times when I wondered if I would.  And also completed the 4,000 squat challenge during the month of July.  And had my annual physical and went on a cruise with my niece Maggie.  It has been a good month!  Happy birthday month to me!  Thank you Lord for another wonderful year of life….I know it is a gift and I hope you see I am using it well.  And if not, poke me!)

Drinking From Your Own Well

Day 5 in Proverbs

Proverbs 5:15-16 “You should be faithful to your wife, just as you take water from your own well.  And don’t be like a stream from which just any woman may take a drink.”

Proverbs 5:22-23 “Sinners are trapped and caught by their own evil deeds.  They get lost and die because of their foolishness and lack of self-control.”

So my first thought with this chapter is “Yea!  I am a single woman!  This deals with a guy and his marriage.  Nothing for me to do here!”  If I approach it like that, it is fun reading….it is so much easier to hear about the problems of others than my own.   But OK….I guess if I really look at it I can find a few things that may apply for me and others that aren’t in this particular demographic.  And some for those who are.  I’ll give it a try.

So Solomon is talking to his son about women…and faithfulness to your wife.  Solomon had what….about 1,000 wives?  Oh, the irony.  How many women were there around that he wasn’t married to?  I think maybe this was less of an issue for him than some men.  Or maybe not.  Maybe the issues are the same regardless of the number.  He definitely had plenty of experience with women….and surprisingly enough time to think and develop wisdom, too.  I’m sure some of that wisdom came from the day to day struggle to juggle the 1,000 wives.  One day maybe I will understand the whole 1,000 wives thing.  He did have the means to provide for them materially….but how could he meet their emotional needs?  Guess they didn’t worry much about that then.  But regardless his advice to his son is good.  Wonder what he said to his daughters.

As my friend Steve so eloquently commented, the minds of most men are taken up mostly by sex and amusement.  I believe him.  So it is no wonder that Solomon is trying to teach his son to engage his brain a bit as he goes through his day.  A good conversation for a man to have with his son.

Doing what we aren’t supposed to do….it’s fun.  Flattery and someone taking an interest in you….. also fun.  Consequences when you take it all too far?  Usually not fun at all!  But that is reality.  And wise people think about the reality instead of just the fantasy.  They weigh the potential cost before they make the purchase.

I have never understood starting one relationship when you are in the midst of another one to which you have committed.  I know plenty of people who do it….but it adds a layer of complexity that would confuse my ADD mind.  That’s when the opportunities seem to happen, though….there is something about being in a relationship that seems to make us more attractive.  (Note:  I think commitment is the key here.  I get a bit annoyed with single friends who get bent out of shape because they go out with someone once or twice and then they find out that person goes out with someone else.  If you haven’t had a direct “commitment” conversation…..get over it.  Or have that conversation.) 

But as I can confess….I tend to end relationships pretty easily and probably too quickly.  So… issue is just not the one they are speaking to here.   (Aside….Reminds me of a conversation I had the other day with a couple of friends about the concept of firing people.  I had always thought that would be a difficult thing, until I really started managing people.  Then I decided if they were bad at their job or uncommitted to it, it is kinder to everyone to let them go and explore other options.  So, while the conversation is not pleasant….the result is the best for all.  After this conversation, I immediately realized I feel the same way in relationships.  But I don’t rush to decisions with employees, and I think I do with men.  I’m going to work on it…..and if anyone ever asks me out again we will see how it goes.)

Still “taking water from someone else’s well” is definitely an issue for many people.  I would say that whether it be about relationships or not, it is an issue for most of us.  A lot of it has to do with envy.  We want what we don’t have.  Best definition of envy I have ever heard is “the sign of a measurer.”  We have a nice piece of cake, but look at that of our companion and theirs is slightly bigger.  It ruins the enjoyment of our cake a bit.  Or a lot.  Some would even refuse to eat their cake until justice was done.  Human nature which is funny when you realize it happening.

It’s easy for anyone to be taken in by the attention of someone with whom you don’t share day to day life issues.  You are just having to deal with the gloss.  Underneath that gloss we all have “our stuff”, which is made more difficult when we are in an relationship and/or living with someone.  I live by myself, and honestly….. there are days when I get on my own nerves.  But while basking in the glow of the compliments of the flatterer may provide temporary relieve, it adds layers to your problems.  And it takes some of the best of you away from your partner and gives it to someone else.  What are they left with?  The “stuff.”  Yuck.  Is that what you would want?  The leftover pieces after the best has been given to someone else?

Marriages/relationships take work.  Easy for me to say, but yeah….it annoys me sometimes when I see two amazing people who have been blessed to find each other and are now making each other’s life miserable when with a little work it could be really great.  People should feel important to their spouse/partner and they need to know they are cherished.  (Hey…don’t say “Yeah!” here and mean your spouse….if there is an issue consider maybe it’s you that isn’t doing this enough….or doing it well!)  Part of the work that people are talking about is getting to know what the other person needs from you to feel this.  It may not be the same as what you need.   I have never read Gary Chapman’s love languages book, but have heard enough about it to know that almost across the board it seems that most men need physical touch to show them love (just say yes) while most women need acts of service (maybe empty the dishwasher without prompting or thinking it is her job to do it, because she usually does.)  Needs vary….so you just can’t assume (Mr. Chapman says there are five currencies.)  Like I said… it takes work to figure this stuff out.  And sometimes doing things that aren’t natural, convenient or fun.  But the rewards can be a re-vitalized relationship.  In the long run, investment in your own property tends to be a better return to you than stealing from your neighbor.

So what does this single girl glean from this passage today?  

  • We all have issues with foolishness and self-control  (Me more than most.)
  • We need to know we are all vulnerable to something or someone, learn what our vulnerabilities are (and we can add to them, but usually not subtract) and create a plan to make sure we don’t let them beat us;
  • We need to know that the grass is not always greener in the neighbor’s back yard and develop an appreciation for what we have;
  • Sometimes we have to look at our life with a fresh perspective; 
  • We can only change us.  We can’t change others.  But often the change in ourselves, makes the whole situation better;
  • We are responsible for our own happiness….and that happiness is birthed inside out and not outside in; and 
  • Listen to your father, mother, teachers and others who know you.  Sometimes they know of what they speak.