2.20.2012

have you made yourself vulnerable?


Have you ever been afraid to say something?  Have you ever avoided speaking your mind because of what might happen?
It can be scary to voice your opinion, to confess how you feel.  There are things I keep to myself simply because I'm too quiet and bashful to say them.
Sensitive and emotional things, I don't like saying them because odds are I'll end up crying.  I'm not a big fan of crying in front of people.  It makes me feel stupid and awkward.
What are the things we're afraid to admit?  There's a logic that if you can't say something out loud, then you shouldn't say it in writing either.  But what if the reason you can't say it out loud is because it's too overwhelming?
One thing in particular pops into my head when thinking of things that are overwhelming to say:  I love you.  Whether you say them to a friend, family member, or your significant other, those three small words encompass so many things.  Your regard, your thoughts, your feelings for that person are expressed freely and openly through those three small words.
To love is to make yourself vulnerable.  And I'm not talking about being vulnerable to rejection from the other person.  I'm talking about being vulnerable to loss.  I read a blog post recently that really put this into perspective.  The author talks about how her mother continued to love even after her first and second husbands passed away.  When we experience loss, it's so easy to shut ourselves away and say "I will never love again" like Buttercup does in The Princess Bride when her beloved Westley is believed to be dead.
When we love someone, we make ourselves vulnerable to loss.  No matter how much we pray for the safety of our loved ones, it's a fact that everyone dies.  Does that mean we just shouldn't love at all?  Certainly not.  If anything, the knowledge that life is so short should encourage us to love all the more and make the most of the time we have together.  You never know what tomorrow will bring.
Even though those words can be overwhelming and hard to say, we should say them anyways.  We might not get a chance to say them tomorrow if we choose to not say them today.
And what happens when we do experience loss?  Should we close ourselves up and refuse to love again?  Certainly not.  Loss is inevitable, but so is love.  We cannot let bitterness and sadness rule our lives.  God made us for more than that.  He told us to love each other.  We should not let the fear or pain of loss keep us from loving each other.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.  1 John 3:16-18

"Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained."
— C.S. Lewis

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
— A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)


2.13.2012

the friends

How many friends do you have on Facebook?  My list is up to 450.  How many of those people do I talk to on a regular basis?  How many of them do I really know?
Generally, I do not add someone on Facebook unless I have met them in person.  But even then, if I met someone once a couple years ago and we haven't kept in touch beyond adding each other on Facebook, they're usually cut from the list.
Between Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, there are so many numbers we can see regarding who's "following" us and reading the random thoughts that spill from our minds.  How many likes and comments do you get on your posts?  How many subscribers does your blog have?  How many fans "like" your Facebook page?
It's easy to think of it as a popularity contest.  The more friends, "followers", and "likes" we have, the better we feel.  But what's the real reason behind the constant clicking?  Does someone "like" your status because it's a personal thought, because it has to do with you?  Or do they "like" it because it was a quote or a reference to something they are interested in?  So in all honesty, their "like" could be meant for the subject of the status, not for you personally.  We want to think of it the other way around though, don't we?
Is the number of friends on your list more important than who is actually on that list?  Are you going for quantity over quality?  The kid in your class that you never talk to in person, is he on your list?  That one person you met a few years ago but haven't heard from in ages, is she on your list?  Friends of friends you haven't met in person, are they on your list?
I have my friend list pretty well split up into categories.  Family, friends back in Texas, friends from here in Illinois, and people who go to my church.
But the category that makes up the majority of my friend list is OAFC.  When I do a "friend cleanse", deciding whether or not to keep people in this category is hard.  Not everyone in OAFC is consistently involved, so you never really know when you'll see them again.  But if we don't keep in touch between the sporadic times of seeing each other, and don't really connect when we do see each other, then that person will most likely not make the cut.
Let's suppose you have over 400 friends on Facebook.  Now imagine you're dealing with a really difficult situation, that something terrible has happened.  A broken relationship, a death in the family, academic struggles, something that causes extreme emotional and mental stress.  You need someone to talk to.  Who of your 400+ Facebook friends do you turn to?  Who are you closest to?  Who do you know will give you sound, unbiased advice?  Who will gladly be a shoulder for you to cry on?  Surely there is at least one person out of the 400 you can go to.
I do not confide in a lot of people.  There are maybe only two people I feel like I can share sensitive and private matters with.  If I confide in such a small number of people, then what am I doing with over 400 Facebook friends?  There are friends we confide in and friends we have because of shared interests and activities.  You don't have to limit your friend list to just those you trust as "secret keepers", but do you regularly and personally interact with everyone on your friend list?  Do you want to have a lot of friends you don't really know, or a few friends you're so close to that you can't imagine life without them?
I had 450 friends on Facebook when I started writing this.  That number could be getting smaller soon...