Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Another one bites the dust--friendship, that is.

Well, it happened again. I have said goodbye to yet another person I thought was a friend. This was someone I loved dearly and would have done anything for. Heck, I would have followed him to the gates of Hell (and then pull him back of course). But, none of this mattered to him. Eight years, down the drain!

(Sidebar: If you have been following my posts on Facebook, please don't think I am dragging this on; I am just talking it out.)

For some reason, I just cannot keep friends. Things start out well at first; we would be bosom buddies always talking and hanging out. Then, promises are broken. Then, the person is flaky. Then, I try to call them out on their flakiness or distance only for them to put a guilt trip on me. Then, they stop calling. Then, I wash my hands of the friendship and move on.

I used to think that it was me that caused people to abandon me. Sure, I could have outlandish ideas and can be quite emotional. I occasionally would worry that I would wear out the person I was friends with. In retrospect, prayer, and a pep talk from my lovely wife, I realized that the issue was not necessarily with me. I have almost always been good to my friends. I call them (even though I hate telephones), I write to them, I arrange gatherings to hang out with them, I celebrate with them when things are going well, I mourn with them when they are struggling, and I try to help them as much as I could When a friend was having financial problems, I gave (not lent) money to them. I have even done things I knew were wrong in order to help them. In high school, a friend of mine was struggling with her Grammar class, and I let her cheat from my test paper. Not proud of it, but I did it. All I ever asked from my friends was loyalty, devotion, and respect. I once told someone that if a friend would give me 40% of what I give them, I would be happy. The issue with me is, I keep picking the wrong people to be friends. It is often said that a girl who is abused by her father becomes a woman who only date and marry men who are just like their father. In my case, I seem to befriend people who are just like select members of my family. What most of these ex-friends have in common is that they eventually treat me like some kind of primate. They will put me on a pedestal at first, but then they will only play with me when they are bored and their true friends are not around. They will then try to put me in a costume and make it their mission to get me to think the way they feel I should think, rebuking me when I do not. When they finally realize I am a man and not a monkey, they back away.

With this ex-friend, we will call him Charlie, I thought it was different. I knew him for eight years, and we hung out together relatively often, going to each other's houses, going out for a beer, bike riding, and dining. I never thought I would say goodbye to him unless we were putting the other in the grave. I really loved him, and I told him that he was the best friend I had ever known, and he accepted this. I felt comfortable with him because he was a minister. Then this week, he told me that he felt that we had become too close and that our relationship never should have transposed from minister-layperson. He tells me this after 8 fricking years and all that we had been through together! Actually, I am proud of how I responded to his bullcrap; instead of pleading or crying like a punk, I mustered the courage, after hearing him out, to stand up and walk out the door--reserving my dignity.

A little background to this: almost a month ago, I became unhappy with my former church and decided to return to my old church. While he kept saying that the decision was mine, I knew he was displeased with my decision--even though he is not the pastor or have full membership with either of these churches. I tried to explain to him why I needed to leave, but instead of even trying to understand, he just said that I was being legalistic. When I called him on this and that I needed to be validated by friends, he said that a true friend tells the truth. Yes, but a true friend tries to understand first! He then said that the subject was closed, and he did not respond to my emails for weeks. When we met on Monday, he recapped what we were discussing and his opinions on it. When he paused and, shocked, I tried to speak, he picked up where he left off. After concluding, basically, that we should return to a minister-layperson basis, he then tried to change the subject with something lighter, such as whether the wife and I were planning to move.

Two things, beside the dagger in my heart, stuck out from that conversation. First, while he did not use the word "legalistic," he insinuated it to me yet again. Basically, for the years I knew him, every time I said something he disagreed with, he called me legalistic. He barely even asked follow up questions; he just called me legalistic. So quick to judge someone you disagree with! The word legalistic seems to be a term liberal Christians use to reprimand Bible-believing Christian. Year after year of being called this, I start to cringe when I hear it. In fact, legalistic is now a taboo word for me. Use it in my presence, and you will incur my wrath! (Sort of kidding) Another thing: he often accused me of not celebrating my faith and the freedom the Gospel brings. What?! Maybe I don't talk about it the way people do, but I certainly write about it--in my poems and hymns! I celebrate it by defending it from those who are nauseated by it. For him to know for so many years and still tell me that I do not celebrate my faith tells me that he wasn't paying attention and that he sees only what he wants to see!

It is now crystal clear to me that Charlie never wanted to be my friend; instead, it seems that I was nothing more to him than his project. He wanted to persuade me to be the type to lose trust for the superiority of Scripture in order to accept his ideas, and he must have been thrilled to see me disassociate from a man he loathes--a man whose principles, seemingly, are very similar to mine. Yet, when I told Charlie that I was my own person and to accept me as I have accepted him, he knew that his mission failed, and he told me that we were too close. If we were closer than he would have preferred, it is his own fault. I never asked to go to his house--he invited me. In fact, half of the things we did together were initiated by him. Then, when I will not think like him, he throws away 8 years of friendship? My love and loyalty meant nothing to him? Actually, this is not the first time a person tried to make me their mission, only to bail out when I discarded the bait. I am no one's project! I am a man who wants to be friends to people! If I feel I cannot accept a person for who they are, I never get too serious with them.

If I learned anything from this ordeal, it is this: no matter what a person's station is in their life, I will never accept a friendship with them at face value. I will be extra cautious with whom I allow into my heart. Plus, I will only befriend those who can give as much as they take. I will not be shaken again! I will implement the zero tolerance rule with my friends. If someone crosses the line or loses interest in the friendship, I will reach out to them and try patience. But, if they are relentless, that's it!

As for Charlie, he may have wounded my heart, but he did not destroy it. I will let no one destroy me, and those who try to are beneath me! Like Antaeus, the more I am pushed to the ground, the stronger I will become. All of us, especially I, will be judged at the Great White Throne. God will recall this incident, and Charlie will have to explain himself before he enters the Kingdom of Heaven. For now, I just hope that what he gets will be of greater value than what he gave up.

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