Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cheap Peace

Image from here
So my Thanksgiving holiday sucked, another Epic Fail for the whole Trusting People and Giving Them A Second Chance thing. A man who dropped me like a hot potato with almost no explanation back in June phoned me up and asked for another chance a few weeks ago. I went up to his city to visit him, and after two seemingly lovely days, he did it AGAIN, with no explanation at all except some lame made-up excuses, when I was completely dependent upon him for transportation. I will say this, though... Classy Cab of Pittsburgh really is as classy as the name says, and did a fantastic job of helping me out on short notice on a busy Friday night. I highly recommend them.

Unfortunately, this is hardly the first time that someone has utterly flaked on me when I was giving them another chance. This has had me confused. It's perfectly normal for someone to spend time with me or with anyone else and decide that this person is not for them. What's not normal is for them to ask for a second round, or for me (or anyone else) to be so utterly crap at sensing whether a person is a Douchebag Royale, as this young man has proved himself to be. Twice.

I think the problem is that I, like many people, have a hard time telling at first whether a person is an open-minded peacemaker who seeks to love people as Christ did or simply a shallow, selfish person who doesn't like any form of conflict. I know a lot of Christians who are quick to assume the latter upon meeting someone who seems to be "open-minded", and it does tend to protect them, although it also blocks them from getting to know some pretty amazing people. I tend to assume the former, and I do know a lot of amazing people as a result, but I have also been pretty thoroughly emotionally beaten up when I was wrong.

The thing is, peace is never ever EVER cheap or easy. I want to believe the best about people, but that doesn't mean I don't still believe that human nature is fallen and tends towards selfishness. Even if you don't believe as I do, you have to acknowledge that people have different needs and competing interests. If you want to get along in this world and have meaningful relationships with anyone other than your pets, you HAVE to be willing to fight for peace... to get down in the dirt with your friends, co-workers, and family members, name where your conflicts lie, and decide --together-- how it's going to play out. Sometimes, you have to stalk around angrily for days and hash things out in your own head, then go ask for forgiveness. Or for an apology. I know that folks have different conflict styles, but regardless of how you approach conflict, you still have to APPROACH it, engage it, wrestle with it, rather than simply backing away. People are messy. Relationships are hard. But that's just how it is and it's totally, totally worth it.

It may be willful ignorance/innocence on my part to be routinely blown away by the fact that many people just sleepwalk through their relationships, cut off ties anytime things get rough or someone tries to get deeper, and blame every single failing on someone other than themselves. I know that I do this sometimes, too, but I also get my butt kicked by God when I do. The best friendships that I have are ones that went silent or ugly at some point, and where we've eventually thrown down and been honest about things or at least clumsily navigated through the choppy waters. I guess the important point is that it is God kicking my butt in these situations, refusing to let me be completely dishonest with myself, and that people not living with the Holy Spirit in their lives don't have that impetus towards painful honesty about their own failings and those of others. The Holy Spirit pushes us towards life as God would have us live it. I always have so far to go and mess up a lot, but I can honestly say that I'm grateful that God forces me to be real about things, and that He pushes me into conflict when that's what's necessary to save a relationship that's important to me.

Don't get me wrong... if you know me, you know straight up that I am not constantly challenging people. I generally keep it pretty light and try to enjoy being with folk... but because I really, truly care about my friends, I will also be blunt if I feel it's necessary, and if you're my friend, I will respect you if you're blunt with me when necessary, too... even though I may go off and sulk a few days before I thank you for it.

The bottom line: I believe that peace is never cheap, not on any level, but definitely not on a relational one. Being shallow and refusing to engage deeply with people isn't peace. It's just being a bit dead and selfish. God help all of us who have problems with this to be better at discerning who is shallow and who is truly a peacemaker so we don't keep getting the crap knocked out of us when we have our trust violated.

That is all.


Mike Stavlund said...

ugh. dude. that sucks.

Craig said...

I hear you sister. Most people want to talk about ways to beat traffic or the deal they got on new kitchen cabinets. This kind of guarded existence is safe but not exactly world shaping. I admire your honesty, bluntness and all. I'm always interested to hear what you have to say. That's why I've been reading your blog. I've got enough people to talk about the weather with.

carlos luna said...

gosh I wish I could express myself as well as you do

Anonymous said...

Oh Amy... I remember your disarming charm and your disarming bluntness. As much as it may have ticked me off at the time, I was always thankful that you were there.

I agree with what you said. I tend to have a wide stratus of friends, and it amazes me how I get by with it as much as I hate conflict... but I do.

I have worried about my seemingly stubborn belief in the potential goodness in everyone. Yes, it has really screwed me over before, but as you pointed out, I also have some great friends because of it.