If youâ€™ve been reading my blog for any amount of time at all youâ€™ve probably noticed I donâ€™t get very personal very often. Iâ€™ve taken an â€œeditorialâ€ approach here, using observances to make a point or to make a joke â€“ what I like to call the â€œDave Barry Approach.â€ While I think you can piece together an accurate picture of me from what I post, it is by no means a complete one. If you were to meet me, I donâ€™t think youâ€™d be surprised. I pretty much am in real life what I am here, all quirks and smart aleck comments.
But thereâ€™s plenty you donâ€™t know about me, plenty I keep to myself.
Thatâ€™s a function of two different forces, I think. First, I grew up in Wisconsin. Thereâ€™s something about Wisconsin â€“ and, really, the whole Midwest â€“ that doesnâ€™t encourage sharing. If youâ€™ve ever heard Garrison Keillor talk about his fictional town of Lake Wobegon you know what I mean. Thereâ€™s an encouragement to â€œsoldier onâ€ and be nice to each other without letting on about whatever turmoil rages beneath the surface. Itâ€™s fine to have strong feelings, just keep them to yourself.
The second force is good old-fashioned fear. I am all about honesty, but honesty is a double-edged sword. In the one direction, it cuts through all the nonsense and gives a solid base for any relationship. In the other direction, though, it lays a person bare, open to ridicule, attack, and disgust.
I want people to like me, as a general rule â€“ even people Iâ€™ll never see again, like waiters or people at the register. I want them to look at me, assess me as nice, and continue thinking that after Iâ€™ve said something.
But as much as I want people to like me, I also want to be safe. Safety, in fact, can outweigh a hundred other things. While I might not worry that someone else is going to stab me (though I sometimes actually do worry this), I certainly worry that they wonâ€™t accept me for who I am. Think back to high school and that crush you had. Why didnâ€™t you tell them? You were afraid they wouldnâ€™t feel the same way about you and when they didnâ€™t, it was going to hurt. Carry that to its logical conclusion, though: the only way to really feel safe is to not reach out at all. If you never reach out, youâ€™ll never get hurt. I think the editorial voice Iâ€™ve adopted here is a safety zone of sorts. You might not like my cats, you might not like trips I take, you might not like a bunch of things, but if I havenâ€™t revealed my inner self completely, thereâ€™s still a chance you could like me.
See, what I want is for you to think Iâ€™m worth the effort, worth getting past all the quirks and the failures. I want you to think Iâ€™m worthwhile, but I have no way to prove I am. (And, in fact, I have a whole pile of evidence that Iâ€™m not. I feel like anyone I think is really great and Iâ€™m interested in being friends with deserves to have better friends than me.) I think there should be some sort of â€œFriend RÃ©sumÃ©â€ we could hand out: â€œExcuse me, hi. I think youâ€™re really neat and I want to be friends with you. Hereâ€™s a list of my faults and failures, but this other list is of friends Iâ€™ve had who found the experience to be worth the effort. Youâ€™ll see Iâ€™ve included a few phone numbers â€“ those are people who are willing to be references, so feel free to call them. Thank you for your time and I hope to hear back from you soon.â€
Nobody wants to invest time in a bad friendship. How frustrating to keep working and working at something that ultimately comes to nothing. So often, though, itâ€™s our faults that make the relationship stronger. Whatâ€™s the best way to show love, by liking someoneâ€™s qualities that are likable? Nope, itâ€™s by liking them in spite of their failings. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says love â€œdoes not seek its own.â€ 1 Peter 4:8 says â€œlove covers a multitude of sins.â€ Think about the best friend youâ€™ve ever had. Were things always perfect? Of course not. Howâ€™d you get past those times and remain friends? â€œLove covers a multitude of sins,â€ is how. One of the best friends I have right now Iâ€™ve known for over twenty years. Our Junior year in high school we were sitting at a lunch table and he was making fun of me for something and I threw an orange at him, hit him right below the eye. We got past that and a hundred other rough patches and here we are, still friends â€“ in fact, Iâ€™d say we were better friends for it.
In the beginning stages of friendship, though, itâ€™s difficult to know what to do. A series of faults right at the outset can strangle off what might have been a fantastic friendship given time, but isnâ€™t it important to be honest from the get-go? How honest is too honest?
I think that as I get older, Iâ€™m coming to the conclusion that I want people to like me for who I am, not who I can present myself as. I still feel the same way I did in high school, not wanting to be hurt, but I think itâ€™s more important that the other person not be hurt. â€œI think youâ€™re really great and I want to be friends with you, but I want to let you know up front what youâ€™re dealing with so you have the chance to back out now before you get stuck with it all down the road.â€
I want to be worthwhile, but I guess thatâ€™s really up to you. All I can do is be who I am. And, just like Dave Barryâ€™s writing, youâ€™ll either like that or you wonâ€™t.