God has been working on this idea in my head for a while, and I'm not sure that my thoughts on it are quite fluid enough to articulate it well, but I'm going to give it a shot. This may be a delete and re-write next week, but feel free to comment and tell me if I make no sense or definately tell me if I am way off base!
So it started by thinking about the things we do when we want someone to like us, be pleased with us, or even be impressed by us. When we learn what attracts attention and admiration, we sometimes "sub-consciously" try to capitalize on that.
Now it's not quite as manipulative as I'm making it sound...I'll give you a couple of examples. Let's say that my husband just came home from work and he had a rough day. He is tired and achy. So I tell him, hey how about after dinner I'll give you a shoulder rub. I fully intend to give him a shoulder rub, and he is happy with me saying that I will later. When I say it then I get to "cash-in" so to speak on his thankfulness at my thoughfulness. But lets say after dinner I am tired and totally forget about my promise earlier. Well, Scott won't forget of course, but he doesn't want to seem rude and ask me, but he's a little hurt that I didn't keep my word (this is more likely the other way around because my husband is not a girl - lol). It's like a wrote a bad check. I got to get the instant gratification of his thankfulness but then when he went to cash the check there were insufficient funds.
Or, lets say, like most girls do, you meet a new friend and you get so excited while talking to them you say, "Let's hang out sometime!!!" But then they contact you and you are busy, or maybe you like them, but don't really want to spend all that much time with them, but you keep seeming overly enthusiastic each time you see them and then say it again. Girls do this all the time, and I think for the most part they mean well and think this is a nice thing to say when you have had a positive conversation with someone else. However, I've seen enough hurt from other friends on the receiving end and frankly, I've been on both ends here, and it hurts when you feel like someone created a scenario where you felt like you had a deeper friendship or more meaningful friendship than was really there. Again, you wrote a check, got to cash in on the excitement from the friend, and then they took it to the bank and got nothing in return.
Now here's where it gets a little messy in my head. I don't want to say that you should never be nice to people you aren't deep friends with or that you should never say you are going to do something for someone. What I do want to say is that sometimes the reason we say and do these things is to draw positive attention to ourselves, but we really don't have the resources to back up that attention.
What we should be doing instead is, first of all, making our goal to point others to Jesus, not us, and everything we do for others should be an outpouring of His love and guidance, not an attempt to get a positive response. Second, with the first point in mind, we should be more careful not to make plans or promises that we can't really fulfill. There are definately times to say, "Hey, I'm sorry, I know we made plans, but this other thing came up"...life stuff, it happens. What I'm talking about is how carelessly we often say, "Let's hang out" or "I'll throw you a shower" or "You can come over anytime" or whatever it may be. And men and women are prone to it alike, but it looks different for us. Women are more likely to promise social things like I listed above and men seem more likely to promise things on our "honey-do" list.
Consider that when we choose to write a check without knowing what our checking account balance is (so to speak), that we lesson the weight of our words and we may be unintentionally toying with the emotions of others.
Ok - I know this is still a little messy of an idea, so please feel free to share your thoughts - even if it is, "um...what?"
AN ADDITIONAL THOUGHT, ADDED LATER:
My dear friend reminded me of another factor in this equation and that is that we often fear disappointing or letting down others, especially when we know how much they want "more" from us. This is a particularly tough area for me, and it seems like women of all ages really struggle here (I haven't seen guys seem to battle with it as much, but maybe they do too).
Some things that God has really spoken to my heart in that department are :
- Joyce Meyer reminds us that if we are only living to please God and not people we will never be overwhelmed. Anything God gives us to do He also allows us the grace to complete it (as long as we stay in Him), but when we try to take on things that are not ours to take on, we have to depend only on ourselves.
- I often think that it is my job to save the world, and even though it mind sound noble, it actually has its root in pride and/or misconception of where my worth and value lies. It is God's job to save the world...He sent Jesus to do that, and He is the only one who can. It is my job, all our jobs, to seek God, to obey what He tells us, and to walk out the plans that He has for our lives. It is really challenging for me when I see someone who is obviously hurting not to jump right on in and think that I can encourage them and counsel them and be their real friend and make their life all better -or- if I hear about a great ministry not to want to dive in head first, but God is showing me that sometimes my emotions get excited and I forget to seek what He really has asked me to do. I am responsible to whom and what that God has called me specifically, and if I neglect those tasks for something else that might seem good, I'll be held accountable for that, and usually I end up getting burnt out and feeling like I let someone down somewhere.
- It is ok for others to be disappointed in/with us sometimes. It is so so hard to swallow, but if we find our worth and value in Christ, we are living to please Him and follow what He speaks to our heart. And oddly enough, I have learned from personal experience, that sometimes it is good for me to be disappointed with other people because then I turn to Jesus, and it is good for people to be disappointed with me because then they can turn to Jesus too. If I am always swooping in to save the day, then sometimes we don't allow others to grow and build the relationship that will sustain their life. We will inevitably fail others, but Jesus won't.
When we stop, get quiet, be still, and listen to what the Lord is saying to our heart, as well as purposefully seek Him, He will show us how relationships are supposed to flow in and out of our lives. Every positive conversation is not meant to turn into draining the life out of each other; we have to let God guide our relationships and interactions so that we can walk in freedom and honestly, so others can too. Friendships have different levels and seasons (ie: like your friend for Bio-chem class that you do all your projects together and sit together in class or your friend who lives far away that you get to talk to maybe 6 times a year and see once if you are lucky but you have the most intimate and deep conversations), and that is ok.