Over the years, I’ve been disappointed in people more times than I can count. I’ve spent countless hours trying to connect with new friends, host parties, or do anything I can to build meaningful relationships. The large majority of the time, my efforts were met with apathy or evasiveness.
A) Either people won’t answer the phone and avoid my attempts to connect or….
B) They are “too busy” to bother with creating new friendships & give me a vague answer as to why they can’t show up.
On the Enneagram personality test, I am a 2. That means I thrive in situations where I can help and serve people. Nothing brings me more joy than being there for someone in a time of need or making extravagant gestures to show people I love them.
So, you can imagine, my heart is doubly broken when people respond to my caregiving with anything other than joy and gratitude. To me, its not only a rejection of the effort. It is a rejection of who I am.
For several years, I thought, maybe I just have the wrong type of friends. Maybe… I need more Christians in my life. Surely they will respond to my attempts at friendship with acceptance and love. People are always talking about how lonely they are. Surely someone will appreciate my attempts to bring people together through hosting parties, lunches, or girls nights.
But sadly, no. Outside and even inside The Church, I was met with the same resistance.
“I’m too busy.”
“I’m not sure if I can make it. I’ll let you know later.”
Or, my favorite, no response at all.
After all these failed attempts at achieving friendship, I began to question my sanity. Why do I keep trying? Why do I keep doing the same things and expecting different results? Why. Don’t. I. Just. Stop!!
So, I did. I set a mental stone wall around my heart and vowed never to be the person who reaches out first again. I swore I would never let my heart be pummeled by people who didn’t care for it. I believed the jaded life, was the best life. Don’t care for people, because they won’t care for you.
That lasted all of 30 seconds.
Every time I tried to give up on people, I couldn’t do it. Eventually I would come up with another “brilliant” idea to connect with a new group of friends. Though, every time I would end up with the same old results.
No one has time to talk.
No one cares about meeting in person for authentic conversation.
Everyone would rather sit, alone, in their bed, fulfilling surface-level friendships with virtual friends. If nothing else, these experiences have taught me, people like to keep a perceived sense of safety. Trying new things, with new people is scary. Opening yourself up to someone is a risk.
Whether you’ve known them your whole life or a whole hour, coming out from behind your phone for face to face connection can be a challenge, because, like me, every time you do it you risk being hurt.
You risk being vulnerable, disappointed and embarrassed. Sadly, our culture values reputation far more than it does genuine connection.
Many people refuse to be the first one to reach out because they don’t want to appear desperate.
Other people use social media to curate a vision of the life they wished they had instead of sharing truth about they life they live every day.
Nearly all women apologize when they cry because our culture has taught us to feel ashamed of honest emotions.
These trends break my heart. With mental ill-health and suicide on the rise, we need each other more than ever. We need to connect, heart to heart, eyeball to eyeball.
That is why I refuse to give up on people. Even if I get avoided and ditched a million times, I know we all need friendship. I know we all want friendship. Even if we pretend we don’t.
Most importantly, I know I am doing what Jesus called me to do. Even if it seems like no one notices my efforts, Jesus does. And He called us to love without limits. He called us to love regardless of reciprocation.
He called us to love like Him!
Nowhere in The Bible does it say Jesus only loves us when we love Him back equally. No, its says “We love BECAUSE He first loved us.” Because of His overly generous, all-consuming love, this earth has hope it could never fathom. Jesus set the standard for self-sacrifice. He showed us real love is not dependent on the object of your affection loving you back.
Real love is a gift, given without strings or expectations. It is patient. It is kind. It isn’t self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
You see, Jesus went to the cross desiring that none should perish, but also knowing many would reject His offer of salvation. This was so much deeper than an ignored phone call or dismissed party invite. This was a rejection of an entire eternal relationship. What loss He had to feel, painfully suffering on the cross, while names of those who would ignore His call scrolled across His mind.
So, while each rejected invitation may shoot pains of grief through my overly sensitive heart, the thing I cling to is I can never be more like Jesus when I love people who don’t love me back.
I can never be more like Jesus when I love without expectation.
I most clearly display my Father’s heart when my love is given to people as a gift regardless of their behavior or their understanding of the gift I have given them.
Friend, if you find yourself in a lonely, isolating place like I have many times, hold on to this sweet truth today.
You are seen by The Father. He sees and honors all your good work, whether or not anyone else appreciates it. Trust Him with your life. Don’t give up on doing good, for at the proper time, you will reap a harvest if you don’t quit.