The promise of the first day of school was also a promise of making new friends. But, once you get past the age of circle time and, even going to school, making friends becomes a little more tricky. Being a blogger has made it a bit easier, but there is a certain amount of scrutiny that plays into who is friends with whom. So, I have written this blog post, not to explain my friend choices, but to maybe shed some light on how other people could look at their own perspective on selecting friends.
People are a compilation of every experience they have had in life. These experiences form their opinions, preferences, and beliefs. Often, we only see these things as small actions, blurbs on a screen or a sharp comment in passing. People like to take these things for face value, dubbing a whole person off of a fraction of a moment. Social media and brief encounters only allow for us to see a small fraction of a person in a very static portion of their journey.
I have been on a very interesting and difficult six year arc that started off with abuse and continues now with a fight for life bigger than my own. Along this journey, I acted like a person you wouldn’t have recognized, a person I didn’t even recognize. It is not as if I had become a “bad person” out of the blue, I simply wasn’t acting myself. I had gone through things that made me bitter, negative, depressed, anxious, filled with grief, and lost. People around me didn’t even really know just how bad it was until I told them. That is because they only saw little bits of the turmoil I was dealing with; an obsession with an injustice, a random breakdown about not being able to go somewhere alone, or a simple “I hate people” multiple times a day. And these were people that knew me well and loved me deeply. I only let them see what I wanted them to see and sometimes I slipped up and they peaked under the veil I was hiding behind.
When picking who is worthy of my friendship, I think of the seasons I have endure; the way I lost myself in struggle, still leaning on God, but broken in every way. I have no authority to choose whom becomes my friend. All people go through different seasons of life and many handle things differently than another would. So, I go through life knowing that God is going to put people in my path and that through me, His goodness will be done or through them, He will make good from the bad or enlighten me with a blessing. My horses were the gems in the ruff that no one wanted because, from the outside, they weren’t worthy. They have given me endless free benefits that come with authentic friendship and love. They strengthened my belief that what we see, is only part of the story. Their individual merit, is all of it.
What if that person, their opinions, or lifestyle is different than yours?
I don’t avoid people to avoid their differences. Instead I recall the stories of Jesus blessing and befriending those society threw away because they didn’t live up to what they had expected of them. Then, I think of my recuses, left to die, abused, or given up on and recognize their value and what they have taught me. A person so drastically different than me in faith, habit, values, etc. is not unworthy, instead I see that they most likely have something incredibly valuable to teach me. Without challenging and expanding our own outlooks on life, we cannot grow stronger or outwardly in our pursuits. Sometimes that means adding new things to our vocabulary of life, other times, it means standing stronger in what we already believe. People that lead different lives aren’t to be avoided, they are to be embraced.
What if they are a BAD person?
As most of you know, I am a very private person. I don’t really ever share where I am from, but after the fires and mass shooting over took my community in November 2018, I was very public about my love for the community that raised me and my heartbreak for friends and family that lost family members, friends, and homes. On Monday, a hate group (WBBC) came to our town to protest at Thousand Oaks High School in order to call our “sinful community” to retribution by saying “God sent the shooter” and that the arsine/power line fires were forms of “punishment” for our “Godless” community. The instant reaction for many was to get angry and to not understand where these people were coming from. Are they wrong? 100% their approach and unfounded, hateful beliefs are horrifying and disheartening. But, what most people don’t understand is the fact that they are preaching their faith and its probably all they have ever known. They are extremest and broken, but their hearts aren’t in the wrong place, though it hurts. They have been taught, usually from birth, that their method of protesting is the best possible way to communicate God’s will and save people’s lives. Also, that anyone whom says they are wrong, are working for the devil and are lost themselves. The sad reality is, the people apart of groups like this, just haven’t learned that their beliefs are not sound. On the other side of it, most people don’t understand that change takes time. It is rare that we as people have revelations one day and change their whole foundational beliefs the next. So, when there is spite and hate, we only have one option: to be a pillar of strength, love, and hope and a beacon of truth, kindness, and understanding. This means, not pushing our own beliefs on someone, but rather starting a conversation and getting to know that person. Not just in hopes that God might plant a seed, but just in case you can be there for a human in times of need.
And let us get one thing straight: there are no bad people. People are born good, some experience things in life that make them less so. And the kind of people I am talking about are not bad, but their beliefs and actions surely can be harmful. But, this still does not make them unworthy of friendship or love. Often, people that are extreme in their beliefs aren’t after ill will. They truly and firmly believe in what they are fighting for just as much as any other passionate person does. These people need friendship the most. And people that seem “lost” in life, also need heart filled companionship too. By starting conversation, learning about beliefs or that person’s history, and aiding in freeing people from their brokenness, we become more of an asset as an empathetic human rather than a spiteful comment on a social media thread. Sometimes, empathy is just the thing that people need to change or at least start to. And even if they don’t, isn’t it better to show some kindness and understanding. Being honest, we usually don’t encounter people this extreme. Usually we just see people over social media with different opinions and methods of living. But, across the board, they same openness applies.
What if they are a different race, sexuality, economical class, etc.?
This will be a blunt conversation: I don’t care. Race and sexuality are out of our control. And this will not turn into a debate of whats right or wrong in terms of biblical “truth” when it comes to sexuality. My belief is that I am made to love all people, regardless of sexuality, race, or anything that makes them “different” than me. My opinion is that people have no authority to say that God made a person incorrectly, because we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139:14. I love the variety of people I have in my life because of their cultures, beautiful stories, and diverse beliefs. I was born a cisgender, mixed race person, fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. That is me. My friends, some the complete opposite of my born self, too are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. As for economical class, that too is often a human made category we are born into and then maintain, rise above, or sometimes, drop down out of. The reality is, it should not matter. Economic status is hard to overcome and easy to lose. And our job as society is to uplift people making changes for themselves and their families for the better and to aid those unable to make advances. Often I reflect on Mary Magdalene and her friendship with Jesus. Mary was a essentially a serial adulterer and. hold the phone, a female. Women were considered second class citizens, not to be addressed without a husband or common party to introduce them. She was also living in sin, such it would have been immediately condemned by death during that time period. All of this would have made her very much “off limits” to engage, especially not by the Son of God. Yet, Jesus strikes up a conversion with her and she ends up becoming not only a devoted disciple and friend of Jesus’s, but also a woman so deeply rooted in spiritual truth, her interpretations and understandings of His teachings were said to be some of the most profound by historians. A simple moment of being human made all the different in two people’s lives.
Also, please keep in mind: Jesus was a man of jewish decent, so poor that the virgin minor He was born of had to give birth in a barn amongst animals, manure, dirt, etc. Before you judge a human, recognize that God was purposefully born ethnically different than most Americans and in poorer conditions than most Americans could even fathom, to a child and, essentially, an adoptive father.
What if someone isn’t healthy for you?
Remember that you are in charge of your happiness. If a friend is bringing you down, making it harder to be a more successful you, leave that relationship; they aren’t a true friend. There is a fine line between constructive criticism/meaningful discussion and someone pushing it too far. It is up to you to make the choice to cut loose the people doing you harm. You don’t have to be friends with everyone. The only way people can fully love and support others in a healthy way is if we love ourselves first. Otherwise, we run the risk of causing serious damage to people and animals more sensitive than ourselves.
At the end of the day, people are products of the choices they, other people, and outside entities make. Over social media, we only see a brief, complex moment in an entire life time of joy and sorrow, triumph and defeat, love and loss. By being open to any person, especially those others put down or alienate, we are better able to be compassionate, intentional friends to all people in our lives. Living becomes richer when we open our hearts to the endless wealth friendship gives for free. So, don’t ask if they are worthy, ask if you’re ready!