I recently spent the morning with a friend and on my way to meet up with her, I realized that we had met thirty years ago. I immediately thought of all we’ve been through and how steadfast of a friend she has been to me. I have been in a season of feeling misunderstood and judged and disliked (when I am NOT in a season like that?) and so I felt instant comfort when I remembered that I have her, and a handful of others, who are solidly in my corner.
I have people in my life who do not know me and who do not like me. These are the critics, the haters, those who weigh in from a distance. And though it makes me sad to have these kinds of people in my life, I really don’t care about them or their opinions of me all that much. (I just read this great quote: “If they don’t know you personally, don’t take it personally.”) You probably have people like this too. It’s a shame to have these kind of people in our lives, but we can live with it if our skin is thick enough.
And I have people in my life who do know me and who do not like me. I have more of these than I wish I had, especially as a Christian. Especially as a girl who hates knowing there are people out in the world who have looked me over and thought, eh, I don’t think so. Especially as a girl who was bullied as a child, who always felt never quite enough, who never felt she fit in, who never felt like she had a good friend, who spent her life trying so hard to get people to like her. This makes me very, very sad. But I’m guessing I’m not alone on this one either…you, I’m afraid, probably have a person or two (or more, like me) who know you and don’t like who you are. Sigh. (A great, big, sad sigh.)
And I have people in my life who do not truly know me and who like me. These are my readers (well, most of them think I’m okay); these are also people who I have rubbed shoulders with from time to time who think I’m an overall nice person but who I have never had a meaningful conversation with. You probably have a lot of these people in your life too. It’s nice to have these kinds of people in your life, but your world would not fall apart if you didn’t.
But here’s the best category, in my opinion: I have people in my life who truly do know me and my heart and my thoughts and my life and my past and my present and what makes me tick and who have seen me mad and sad and yet at the very same time they also still (somehow, by the sweet, sweet grace of God) love me for who I am. I can count on two hands the people who fall into this category for me. I unfortunately can be a bristly person, so I don’t have many of these.
But the ones I do have are golden. The ones who know me know me well…because I’ve let them in and because they’ve bothered to care and taken the time to truly try to get to know who I am as a person. They’ve looked beyond the shy and the sarcasm to who I really am. These who know me and love me…they love me deeply and loyally and committedly and they’ve got my back and they trust me and I trust them and they claim not to see in me what horrible things that others have said about me.
These are the ones I pour into. These are the ones I pull in nice and close. These are the wagons I call for to circle around me when the harsh words come rolling in over my heart to remind me who I really am. These are the ones I turn to, for help and prayer and a listening ear. These are the ones you’ll find me crying with (or laughing to the point of tears) in restaurants or on our couches or on walks or on porches. These are the ones whose opinions really matter to me. The rest of the world is just noise to me (or should be), but these are the voices I listen to. Because when they speak to me, it’s out of a knowing love.
Brene Brown in her book Rising Strong talks about making a list that is one-inch x one-inch and writing the names of the people whose voices you are going to listen to, and that when the criticism or harsh words roll your way, you ask yourself, “Is that person on my list?” and if they’re not, you let the words fall to the ground and move on. (I created this list and have it on my phone and I consult it regularly and it has already helped me tremendously.)
We probably all have all of these kinds of people in our lives. But we all only have so much time on our hands, so much emotional energy to dole out. So, if I had to pick, and if I were to make a suggestion, I’d say run hard and fast after the people who know and love you, and do all you can to know and love them back. Love those who want you to love them and be respectful to and prayerful for those who don’t. You are only one person, one precious-hearted human being who can only take so much and can only do so much. So choose your tribe with the utmost care.
Jesus, teach us to love much, to love deeply, to love sacrificially, but to love wisely and well. Amen.
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