I came across something interesting this week while reading C.S. Lewis. True friendship is what happens between people when they realize they have a passion in common. Whether it be wrenching or rubber stamping, when I find another who believes as I do, that a particular pursuit really matters in life, I have found a friend. We may not have the same approach, but the matter we’re both pursuing matters to both of us. We can now seek truth, discuss alternatives, and enjoy the quest – together. We’re doing something we’d each do anyway – but now we have someone to share it with. It lightens the load and brings options to issues. It’s even better with more people. I was never jealous when showing up at my buddy’s house that someone else was there – quite the contrary; now it’s a party!
So what do I love, and who are my real friends? What makes me meaningful to any set of friends? I know what I love: dogs and horses make the world so much more approachable, cars are what excitement and freedom are all about, and health makes it all available to me. Without family and friends to love and share the love, none of it is worthwhile.
But I find I’ve spent so much time worrying about the smell of my horse or the presence of my dog offending someone, not matching up to someone else’s definition of “good”, that I’ve never been true to myself. I had nothing to share. Without anything to bring to the party, I have precious few friends. What a waste! What was it my buddy told me recently? If you don’t like me or what I have to say, you are free to change the channel. I need to be strong enough in myself to not feel that I need to be all things all people. I’ve had people around me that I seriously don’t like, but the minute they leave in a huff, I’m a wreck. I feel like Mr. Potato Head on Toy Story: “Now I have Guilt!”
It boils down to wanting to be accepted. But friendships, Lewis went on, are never built on one person wanting a friend. This was so incredibly enlightening to me. They are built on mutual interest. If I give up myself to be what you want, you haven’t gotten me; you’ve gotten more of yourself. That’s not mutual interest. I like to be around others like me, but it works best when they are just enough different from me that we can both grow in the relationship. Our common interest holds us together; our differences make the time spent more fulfilling. We each have a different perspective to add to the common pot.
But then I read an old Calvin & Hobbes cartoon this afternoon. Calvin was talking to his stuffed tiger and said that, once you know things you start seeing problems everywhere… and fixing problems always seems to require personal change. And change means doing things that aren’t fun. He concluded his thought by announcing, as their wagon went over a cliff, that the secret to happiness is short-term, stupid self-interest.
Molding myself to someone else’s wants would definitely be short-term and stupid. I know it hasn’t brought me happiness. Molding them to my desires, if possible, would suit my self-interest, but for how long? And why have I never expected that anyone would mold themselves to me when I was so willing to be molded to them? I am so glad that my eyes have been opened to this aspect of me. It allows me to pick myself up from the heap at the bottom of the cliff.
I cannot continue trying to soft-pedal who I really am so others will like me, or change myself to meet their standards. That’s not a real solution. God created me to be me. I need to see where I am not meeting God’s standards – and set those parts right in order to really be myself. It is definitely not easy, and I’m having to face things that I didn’t want to face. But the more I grow along His lines, the more I like myself. And that in itself gives me something to bring to the party. I’m reminded of somebody who once asked me to marry him. He was so determined to make me love him that I felt like I was being slobbered by an orphaned puppy, not wooed by a strong suitor. I couldn’t get away from him fast enough. His friends have never seen that side of him, ever. Had he been confident of himself, whether I took him or left him, he probably could’ve had me. The very thing that has repulsed me every time I’ve seen it is who I’ve been in my own personal relationships. Yuck!
Confidence and the smile that accompanies it is the key. I have a favorite blogger who always concludes his articles with a comment about his being the loudest house on the street. I used to really worry about that when I lived in suburbia. I was scared to death somebody was going to call CPS on me, noise control, something. And then I realized that when I stopped worrying about controlling the hullabaloo and fitting even my family into some sort of magazine cover mold, we started having a lot of fun together. Sure, the kids fight and mom blows up on occasion. But most of the noise emanating from our ever-flapping doors and windows is play and squeals of laughter. I need to treasure the noise of my household, because it will be over too soon. This is who I am. Take me or leave me.
I just have to face myself. I am not silent by nature, and I cannot silence my children into being angelic any more than myself. If you want to see my house at its best, when it is quiet, neat, and orderly, you should visit between the hours of midnight and 5 am. That’s the only time you will find everything perfect. Otherwise, you get the reality of a houseful of children, dogs, schoolwork and Lego buildings, with sibling spats sprinkled through it all. Probably some laundry on the couch, too. Pretty much what I see when I go to my friends’ houses…..
Hmm. I guess that’s why we’re friends. We have real life in common. Cars and horses don’t fit into this season of my life – so I have few friendships anymore based on them. Our season of life is children, and raising them the best way we know how. That’s where my friends are. I have been looking for something that wasn’t real, because I have not been real.
I’ve come to love my walks down that dusty road, talking to the dogs that guard the sheep and goats, petting the horses that chuckle at me as I walk by, and spending time alone with not a sound anywhere to interrupt my thoughts and prayers. They have been the key to finding myself and restoring my health – every step has worked and sweated off all the impurities and insecurities while building strength and confidence into the real me underneath. I am no longer afraid to be me. Now I have something to bring to the party!