The Project-Friend

A new friend of mine asked me recently if I had picked them as a “project friend.” I knew immediately what that meant, I’ve just never been asked that question before, point blank.

 

The “project friend”: a person one takes on for an undisclosed amount of time to guide them through, convict them of, and teach them things that they genuinely couldn’t receive anywhere else.  (*sarcasm)

 

The “project-friender”: a person who frequently chooses to surround themselves with people who they perceive to need their help, and proceed to give their help throughout the relationship.

Project friender

 

 

Everyone loves a good project friend.  

Rephrase, us first-born, type-A personalities love a good project friend.  We get to boss them, pinch them, squeeze them, and watch them grow.  And sometimes, just SOMETIMES, we stay friends.

 

I’m a fixer.  It’s what I do for a living.  Think Olivia Pope of ABC’s “Scandal”, with a slightly less-fabulous tan. People pay me to boss them around, essentially.  To tell them what’s wrong with the situation, and tell them what needs to be done to fix it.  I give advice, compel people to action, and challenge them to find what’s buried deep down within them.  How on earth does one keep that from permeating other areas of life?

 

Wrong question, lady.  OF COURSE it’s going to seep through the cracks of one’s professional upstairs floor and end up all over the living room couch, but you can certainly control who sits on the couch, can’t you?

 

The right question is, how do you view your friends as peers?  Equals?  With each of you bringing to the table strengths and weaknesses that build, sharpen, and encourage each other?  The right question is how do you do this for at least PART of the time.

 

Well, to start off with, ask the Father to SHOW you their worth. He gave His son to be murdered in their place, (and, need I remind you, your place as well) so I’m fairly certain that they mean a great deal to Him.  What, that isn’t good enough for you?

 

There will be times when advice is needed of course, and God will put you in front of them, with the experience to give the advice, at that moment.  Everyone is messed up, each in our own ways, and to varying degrees.  You might need the advice next.

 

Another right question: WHEN DO YOU SHUT UP?  Just because you have great advice to give (whose advice doesn’t sound perfect in their own heads, right?) might not necessarily mean that you need to deliver it yet, or ever.

 

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7  ESV

 

It’s God who gives our words fruit, meaning, and a responsibility. Our advice is useless, unless God, in His infinite power, makes it effective.  And so often, I myself become gravely convicted, taught, or encouraged myself through the giving of advice, whether it goes on to “help” the other person or not.

 

When my friend asked me this question, my reaction was so strong, I had to take a break from the conversation.  WHY?

 

Hellooooo conviction.  I do have a tendency to fix my friends.  And what else is that skill than using your friends to make yourself seem or feel more relevant/powerful/important?

 

It’s PRIDE.  At its simplest, and yet its deepest.  As if I couldn’t possibly learn anything from this clearly inferior person.

 

Think back, to “that person” or “those people” in your life, who have been the most influential.  Was this person or these people trying to fix you, change you, judge you?  Not usually.

 

It was the person who was THERE FOR YOU.  Just… there.  Listening, giving advice when asked, and being open to what God was showing THEM through the experience.

 

That’s the kind of friend I want to be.  That’s the kind of friend I’ve asked God to turn me into.  That’s the kind of friend that I, just a few days ago, realized I am nothing like.  Yet.

 

Advertisements

NO STRINGS ATTACHED

no_strings_attached (2)

What is love?  “Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.”  Cue head banging.  (If you’re too young to remember this, here:)

 

Some maintain that love is an emotion.  Or that love is an ability.  Or that love is a verb.

 

I belong in the “love is an action” camp.  Think about it, to act in love IS to love. After actors get paid to kiss each other, fake intimacy, and act as though they’re in love, often, it turns into the real thing. They start dating, they get married, they cheat on their current spouse with their co-star. So what’s the difference, I wonder.  Between acting love, and feeling it.

 

I used to be a professional Ballroom Dancer.  Yes, I KNOW.  It’s just as glamorous as it sounds.  And in that industry, it’s extremely commonplace for dance partners to fall in love.  I fell in love with my dance partner, and 2½ years later, he became my husband.  That’s popular too. For dance partners to get married.  (And about 3 years later, to get divorced. Hence why I USED to be a professional dancer.  I’m still married, FYI.)  When playing up the sexuality of the Rumba or Cha Cha, you’re stepping through the actions of a couple in love, or in lust.  Maybe it’s more love -as in the heartfelt affection- when you dance the Waltz.

 

And as if by some sort of pre-meditated inside joke, every movie about one-night-stands or cheap and meaningless sex ends with the characters falling in love. The moral of the story is always that when you ACT in love, the body can’t can’t tell the difference. Two people who behave as though they’re experiencing love, end up experiencing  just that.

 

So there’s this photographer who puts random people together in intimate poses before taking their picture.

 These strangers who get thrown together to pose as couples, fathers, daughters, Aunts, or Grandmothers end up feeling affection for the random person that they’re hugging in the picture.

 

The “Love Dare,” as described in the book and movie “Fireproof” is the concept of acting out love whether or not you receive any in return. Eventually, the giver (and receiver) of this display of affection is powerless against the stream of emotion.  And often, in the beginning, it’s only an ACT of affection, that later morphs into actuality.

 

I’m definitely not the world’s foremost authority on this subject, but I can most certainly tell you one thing: never easier is love received in my heart, than when it’s created in my heart first.  And never easier is it created in my heart, than when it’s created in my hands first.  It’s easy to stop acting, but I want an award nomination.

 

Love is an ACTion.  Better make it an Oscar-worthy performance.

 

“LISTEN, Lady….”

I am fairly convinced, at this point in my life, that Walmart exists for the sole purpose of reminding me that I am not God.  To remind us mortals exactly how broken we are.  To test our patience, and our ability to love and deal with annoying people.

 

The retail giant has developed quite an impressive reputation for its ability to attract the scum of the earth. Sounds harsh, but you know it’s true. So why do I shop there you ask? Well, for all you know I could be the scum of the universe as well. That’s why this anonymous blogging thing is so exciting. Kind of like internet dating. I could be anyone.

 

So I’m in line at Walmart the other day.  A lady walks up to the cashier who’s ringing me up -who is already moving at a glacial pace.  The woman bears a bag full of merchandise.

 

“This was left in one of the buggies,” she says to my cashier.

 

(You see, here in the South, they’re not called “carts,” but rather “buggies,” which I believe is a truer representation of their dixie souls.)

 

My first thought was: how sweet of this lady to bring it back, rather than just run off with the free stuff.  Maybe there is hope for the People of Walmart.

Mad Walmart smiley

 

The cashier, who obviously would rather be in a dentist’s chair than at work that day, replied with attitude, “well, I can’t do anything with it, you’ll have to take it down to Customer Service.”

 

The woman, who appeared very proud of herself for bringing back the lost goods, threw her hands in the air at the suggestion of a greater inconvenience.  She huffed.  She puffed.  She stood there in disbelief that further action had been requested of her.

 

Then, muttering something under her breath about “just trying to be nice and do the right thing…” she stomped over to the trash can, rid herself of the abomination, and stormed out of the store.

 

Come on.  I mean, COME FREAKING ON.  Listen, lady.  I’m sorry that you didn’t get your expected gold stars, but don’t volunteer to “be nice and do the right thing” unless you’re willing to, um, actually do it.

 

Nobody held a gun to your head and forced you to turn in the goods.  You volunteered of your own volition, and heaven forbid you be asked to follow through with it.

 

Why did this outrage me so much?  Was it ridiculous? Yes. Was it selfish? Yes.  Did I feel convicted?   Hmmmm.  Possibly.

 

How many times have I done something like that?  Against people.  Against my God.

My relationship with God is a beautiful mess.  He’s the beauty, I’m the mess.

 

I, too, am inconvenienced at the thought of having to follow through with something that I know and believe is the “right” thing, and perhaps have already volunteered to do.  But how DARE anyone actually hold me to it.  Or the circumstances hold me to it.

 

Don’t you know…  I’M God.  I make my own decisions.  I can’t be bothered with things as troublesome as service, selflessness, or generosity.  And if so, it will be on MY TERMS.  In MY time.

Come on.  I mean, COME FREAKING ON.

 

 

 

 

Are humans basically good?

I’m generally a good person.  I tip 20%, brake for squirrels, rarely use curse words, have never been arrested, etc. Isn’t it funny how often people say that? “I’m a good person, ya know?”  Usually followed, (exactly how I did) by a list of reasons that prove it.

But you know what else people say quite a bit?  “Nobody’s perfect.”  I realize that “perfect” and “good” are not the same word, but it’s interesting to be in a culture where two almost-opposing terms are used more than please and thank you.

Sad box-person

“Is the heart of the human race, basically good?”

I know plenty of people, but since I can’t speak for them, I’ll examine myself on this one.  A friend recently bought me dinner.  We had agreed to go dutch, but she swiped the bill at the last second, and refused to take my money.  Several hours (yes HOURS) later, we got up to leave, and I forgot to thank her.  I, the “good person” had been blessed by my friend, and just completely forgot to feel grateful.  I don’t know what to call that, but the word that comes to mind certainly isn’t “good.”

good

 [goo d]

adjective, bet·ter, best.

1. morally excellent; virtuous; righteous.

I was not consumed with moral excellence, I was consumed with selfishness.  But since no one was intensely hurt by my actions, or lack thereof, it’s harder to call it “selfishness,” isn’t it?

“Well that’s not THAT bad.  It was a small mistake, more forgetful than malicious.”  But who are we, but a collection of small actions?  And if the heart of the human race is basically good, then making extremely small, good decisions should be a piece of chocolate cake, right?

So driving home, I’m hit with this sense of conviction.  “Phew,” I remind myself, “good thing I’ve never murdered anyone.”  But the second wave of conviction wasn’t far behind!  The underlying reasons I do all these “basically good” acts is self-serving too!  Maybe not 100%, but I don’t think anyone could deny the presence of some selfish influence.  The reason I tip 20%: because I want -and expect- good service, because I want the server to like me, and I want the people I’m with to be impressed with my generosity.

The reason I don’t often curse: because I want to be respected as an intelligent person who can use a wide array of terms to describe situations.  The reason I brake for squirrels?  So I don’t get blood on my car.  How inconvenient would that be?  The reason I’ve never been arrested: (notice I didn’t say committed a crime) is because I have a reputation to uphold.

But nobody’s perfect, right?  Many people in our world today would arguably maintain that if one person’s crimes against another weren’t physical, then it’s not as bad or evil as it could have been.  Stealing a purse isn’t as bad as hitting someone, verbally de-valuing someone isn’t as bad as punching them, raping isn’t as bad as murdering.

Let me ask this, how many people do you know who have been through something physically traumatic at the hand of someone else?  (Beating, raping, abuse, shooting.)  Maybe a few come to mind.  And these few were no doubt greatly affected by these experiences.

Now, how many people do you know who have been through something emotionally or relationally traumatic?  (Divorce, verbal threats, end of a friendship, breakup.)  Ummmm, let’s see, EVERYONE.  You.  Me.  My friend who bought me dinner.

Isn’t it strange that we consider these “little” things we do to one another to be no big deal and just part of life as “basically good” people?  But in reality, these selfish, hurtful things affect everyone we’ve ever met, more often, many could argue, than physical crimes against one another.

Basically, the things that we use as examples of our “goodness” are most often the culprit in dividing friends/lovers/families and causing our own happiness to deteriorate.  The very actions that we offer as proof that make us “not as bad as the people who do such-and-such” are usually the ones giving the “nobody’s perfect” statement its truth.

Less than perfect is, well, IMPERFECT, now isn’t it?  Synonyms include: flawed, deficient, below-par, and defected.  Hmmm.