This morning, I awoke to a text from a friend. She told me that she appreciated our friendship and that we were able to have conversations about many things. It was sweet.
Upon receiving the message, I smiled. But I also hesitated. It’s messages like those that make me nervous at times.
I hadn’t fully realized it before, but I’m seeing now that I’ve been somewhat resistant to close personal relationships. I touched on this in a post from December. There’s some part of me that wants to hold back, for fear of repeating past mistakes.
My fear isn’t completely unfounded. I was noting the other day that the friend who sent the early morning text reminds me a bit of a close friend and college roommate. My college buddy was/is a good friend but… I don’t know, there’s something inside of me that resists replicating that friendship with someone else. And yet there’s something else that draws me in deeper.
I know this isn’t a life or death issue (fortunately, none of the issues on my blog are) but I can’t help but think of these topics when I consider the last week of my life. It’s been unexpectedly confusing and I’ve often been led to rethink conversations, text messages, and basic interactions.
The balance I’ve tried to reach in my relationships is something of an Aristotelian mean. With each person, I try to figure out how best to operate. At times, I’m trying to balance my desire for interaction with my perception of their desire for it. Other times, I’m trying to gauge my level of vulnerability and compare that to their desire for my vulnerability. But most of all, I’m trying to keep my head above water. I never want to act purely out of my own desire, disregarding the feelings of others.
This was especially true this weekend when I wanted to engage with an old friend but also felt like I may have done too much damage to the relationship to warrant any kind of future engagement. This gets to the idea of toxic relationships. I’m always acutely aware of toxic relationships and I try to stay away (hence my reluctance regarding the morning text. But that’s another story) but it’s interesting to think about all the toxic environments I’ve personally created. For instance, when I went back and talked to my ex, I was kind of aware that he may not want to see me because of how badly I ended things. And it probably would’ve been better for him not to see me.
When we create toxicity, it’s easy to remind ourselves that we’re just good-intentioned people who were put in bad situations. But we don’t react the same way to other people. I expect immediate mercy and forgiveness for my emotionally distressing decisions but I only reluctantly grant those things to others.
This leaves me in an awkward place with an odd decision. On the one hand, I understand reaching out. I get why you do it. I know why I did it and I know why my friend did it to me. But on the other hand, I get holding back. I’ve done it before and I may do it again today. And I know the only reason this is so hard for me to process and the only reason I’m writing so many words about it is because I understand fear, resistance, and uncertainty and I don’t know whether to continue on in what may end up being an emotionally draining relationship or give up on what could be an awesome display of redemption and growth.
I was listening to a sermon a few years back (when I was on the other side of this situation) and the preacher said something I’ll never forget: “When you have the chance to choose between justice and mercy, choose mercy.”
It’s true, mercy looks different for different people. But for me, mercy has always meant engagement as opposed to distance. Right now, engagement is a little scary, but that doesn’t make it wrong. It may just be that my approach up until now has been a little off.