Use Words

2:30 AM

My friend once told me, "You hurt the people you're closest to." This made little sense to me at the time. Of course he was right -- my family, the people I love most, grate on my nerves all the time. The hurts from my family weal up infinitely more than the wounds of a new friend. I knew this to be true, but I didn't know why, because I loved my family and close friends to death. I would do anything for them.

Bethany and I lay awake late one night discussing this. (We do this too often now that I'm home.) And I think her musings rung the bell: "I think we hurt those closest to us because we know them so well -- so well that we think we can predict how they will act, we think they ought to know exactly how to make us happy, and when they fail, we get upset with them."

College provided an interesting challenge for me in this regard. Being incredibly needy, I wanted to depend on my friends to be the family eight hours away from me. Just talking late at night like I did with my sister or venting like I did with my mother or curling up next to someone and laughing our heads off like I did with my siblings. I wanted to know these people to the smallest particle of their personality. I wanted them to know me -- just like my family did. Chiefly, I wanted that bond of family where you feel a slight motivating sense of obligation to look out for each other because you share the same last name. 

God blessed my socks off with the most incredible college friends on this planet. Still, I felt embarrassed to just spill my soul or mention that my day was careening off a cliff or ask for a hug when I badly, badly needed one. Fact is, these people weren't my family. They didn't know when I was worn out or hurt or on edge just by looking at me. Sometimes I would not-so-subtly hint that I needed something and the conversation would turn to their needs. 

Then I would get upset and withdraw into myself and pout in a corner -- until I realized that maybe it was just an honest mistake on their part and a failure to communicate on mine.

Whether I admit it or not, I deeply crave human interaction -- hugs, face to face time, theological talks, running around the quad together like crazy. That desire doesn't go away when I retreat into myself to fume. In fact, it gets worse, and then it gets mixed up with bitterness. I begin vowing silly things like, "I'll never share anything with that person again" or "Nobody loves me" or "Everyone's so obtuse and can't even see when I'm most in need of love." Silly things (not to mention incredibly selfish ones).

That just builds walls. That shoves close people away further. That's just immature.

Remember when your two-year-old sister used to throw tantrums when big brother was playing with the Lightning McQueen set and she wanted a turn? What did your mom say? "Use words," she would tell the screaming child. "Ask for a turn. If he says yes, well, there you go. And if he says, 'No, I'd rather not share right now,' you say, 'Ok!'" (After eighteen years of life, I'm finding my mom's practical advice to toddlers more and more essential.)

Use words. Not withdrawal or facial expressions or double-meanings to coax people to pay attention to you. Not running away so that someone will come after you and ask what's wrong (that never works, anyway). Not hurtful things you don't actually mean to hint that you really do care about a friendship and are confused about why it's not working right now. Not the "you nevers" or the "you don't's" -- You never listen to me! or You don't pay attention! 

Use words. When your friend doesn't notice that you're about to break down, say, "Could you please give me a hug? I'm really upset." When your other friend is teasing you when you relay your problems and you'd really rather him take them seriously, say, "Actually, could we talk about this seriously? I really need your advice and encouragement right now." When your sister's banging on the piano while you're trying to write a monumental blog post, don't snap, "WOULD YOU QUIT THE GARAGE BAND ALREADY?" Instead say, "Can I finish up this post before you play piano?"

This may seem really forward, to make needs known instead of waiting for someone to want to help you. I think that's why we hold back and use passive-aggression: we want people to care, we want people to notice, and we're not sure if they really do care or if they're "caring" out of obligation. But really, this boils down to a trust issue: chances are, your friends do really, really want to help you, love you, look out for you, talk with you. They're your friends, aren't they? 

What wears people out is not the occasional need to sit down and talk about a problem or steal a hug or have a good cry over something. It's the grudges, undefined looks, cryptic insults, aloofness or all-out drama queen display that shoves friends away. As long as you're willing to drop everything for a friend to be there for them, there's no reason why you cannot use words to express your needs. Because every human is oblivious at some point in time -- even the people we love most.

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2 impressions

  1. Oh, wow, this hit home. Boy, did it! Thanks bunches, Bailey.

  2. Definitely needed this today.


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