Tag Archive: relationship


Haters Gonna Hate

On my birthday, I did something a little different than the typical celebrations. I logged onto World of Warcraft, rounded up a couple of friends to throw rotten fruit, and headed off to WoW’s Brawler’s Guild to pick up an achievement, Haters Gonna Hate. I had to win a fight with at least 10 stacks of the *debuff “You Stink!” on me. It wasn’t terribly difficult to achieve, since I’ve not bothered much with Brawler’s Guild and am still on very easy fights. The basic idea of the Guild is fun: kill tough monsters by yourself, solo. Considering I’ve killed loads of old raid monsters solo, you’d think I’d love the Guild, but no. It’s a huge time sink (you have to stand in line to fight, and you can’t leave to do anything else) and intended by Blizz for vanity and bragging rights. Yaaaawwn – like I wanna stand around wasting a bunch of time waiting for fights just so I can brag about how awesome I am at playing WoW. I’d rather do daily quests. At least I get gold and stuff for those!

But, yeah, Haters Gonna Hate – something about picking up that achievement with my birthdate stamped on it tickled my fancy. It wasn’t a WoW fancy. WoW just offered an opportunity, and I took it. I’m not sure it’s a particularly positive fancy, either. May not have been particularly negative, though. I’m not sure. I’m thinking about it.

You know, there are people out there who don’t like me. I suppose that’s somewhat inevitable. With all the people and their varying interests out there, not everybody will like each other. It’s also understandable if I’ve been a jerk to somebody else. People don’t usually think highly of those who have been nasty. But there are some people out there who don’t really fit those categories, and they don’t like me. We don’t get along well at all together, and I really don’t understand why.

One notably broken relationship is with a sister. I’ve already written about it some, and if you want, you can read about here, in this post. Even though in the past I’ve made considerable effort, I don’t have a good relationship with her. Something about me is apparently so odoriferous that she can’t peaceably be around me. Guess I’ve got lots of stacks of “You Stink!” and it’s stuff that I can’t help. I can’t. I can’t change that I’m smart, that I’m honest, that I have talent, or that I’m competent, and I don’t really understand why good characteristics like those would be a source of grief and pain for myself or others.

I don’t get it.

And I don’t think I gonna.

And I’m pretty sure I’ll never change her’s or anybody else’s minds.

And that leads me to Haters Gonna Hate. I’m not saying that she or anybody else actually hates me (I hope not!), but there’s definitely some unresolvable conflict and animosity. Unresolvable… It is going to happen, and I can’t change it. But you know how you get the WoW achievement? It’s not by letting your character die and lose the fight. It’s not even by winning the fight. You have to win the fight after having been hit at least 10 times with rotten fruit. You have to win while you are “covered in rotten fruit and shame.” You can’t quit just because somebody doesn’t like you. You can’t quit because those folk are throwing rotten fruit at you. You can’t quit just because they’re trying to shame you. You have to keep going. You have to win the fight, even with all of that crap coating you.

Sometimes I need those reminders, even from silly things like WoW achievements, because the loss of relationship can make me sad and even melancholy. The truth is, though, that even when I’m down, I don’t have to be out.

Happy birthday to me!

* In Wow, a character can be buffed or debuffed. Buffs make a character stronger while debuffs weaken it.

 

P.S. Know what the best part is? All that rotten fruit shows as a character debuff, but it doesn’t seem to do a thing to actually weaken your character. It’s just cosmetic. There’s probably a lesson in that, too.

Will You Forgive Me, Please?

I’m going to tell you a story. This story involves one of my sisters, but it’s not about her. It’s really about me. Because I’m the one telling it, and she’s not here to share her side of the story (which undoubtedly differs from mine), please remember that I’m talking from my perspective and how things affected me. I’d leave her out altogether if I could, but I haven’t been able to come up with a clever way to do that while still communicating effectively about what became a profound experience in my life.

I am a pretty competent person. It’s not that I know everything or have some super power that makes me capable of succeeding at whatever I try. It’s has more to do with my dislike of turning out work of poor quality. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try,” and I’d add that if I’m going to do it, I might as well bother to do it well. I don’t even have to like whatever it is to do a good job of it, and I don’t have to know how to do it. I’ll learn, teaching myself if necessary. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember.

I tend to be right. Some of that is merely accuracy combined with a habit of choosing my words with care. Some of that is conscience. I need to be morally right and try to keep from wrongdoing.  I care about justice in general. Been like that all of my life, too.

I’m not always the most humble or self-effacing person you’ll ever meet, either.  I’d like to think that I’m less arrogant than I used to be, but the truth is that I wasn’t particularly aware of how my pride was affecting me then, and it’s entirely possible I have blind spots aplenty still.

Throw all of that together – competency, conscience, a strong sense of justice coupled with outrage over injustice, and pride – in me, and you get a driven, stubborn, very pigheaded person who would rather drown than give up the ball to the other team. Playing water basketball as a freshman at summer camp did nearly get me drowned. One of the other team felt sorry for me and opted to try picking me up and shaking me. She didn’t get the ball, either. Anyway, get me to the point where I’m convinced I’m right, and I can become intransigent.  I won’t bend, buckle, or back down.

And proud of it.

I suppose you can imagine that this habit of mine occasionally caused problems. My relationship with my sister, who I’ll call P in this post, is a good illustration. P is a little younger than me, so the poor kid got to “enjoy” the same sort of home life I did. It was tough. It was really tough. We all dealt with it differently. I was quite the prig. My dad once called me something like the Pious with all the dark and twisted religious shades to it, and the comment was not completely wrong. P dealt with it in other ways. We butted heads a lot, starting young and continuing into adulthood. My dad leaving the family didn’t magically make everything better. We had all learned bad habits and lessons, and we had to learn new things and norms after he left. Learning, the process of it, is rife with mistakes, yes?

P and I had many, many differences of opinion. There was a lot of conflict, and it frustrated and hurt me. I felt like she was being very unfair to me. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I tried – it was not enough. I couldn’t make her happy with me or what I was doing no matter how nice, tactful, fillintheblank I tried to be. It didn’t improve my attitude or hurt feelings that I thought some of what she did was wrong and/or unlikely to help her get what she’d told me she wanted. I felt as though she twisted my words to use them against me and heard poison where I’d meant only and striven mightily to infuse kindness. I didn’t feel like I could trust her to look out for me. Things were getting pretty sour, and I was getting very tired of what I perceived to be me doing a lot of bending over backwards to avoid giving further offense. I was angry about that.

I had done everything I knew. I had tried to the best of my ability to work things out and improve the relationship. I had failed. It sucked. It was miserable. We were kinda, sorta not really speaking to each other, and I felt grief. She’s my sister. I love her. My guts were twisting into a knot to be on such bad terms with her.

So, in the middle of this confusion of feeling and attitude, I hear something from God that I don’t like . He tells me to show up at her house, ask her for her side of the story, listen humbly, receive, and then ask for her forgiveness. That was actually frightening. It was vulnerable. P hadn’t exactly been the safest person in my life. Her words weren’t safe. I didn’t want to go.

I did, though. I showed up, she was home, and I listened to what she had to say for maybe a couple of hours. I can’t remember for sure. It was a lengthy conversation, though. Somewhere in there, I gave her a simple apology. “I’m sorry. Would you forgive me, please?” No defensiveness, no excuses, no guardedness hidden in justifications, no feedback from me toward her – nothing self-protective. I simply and unreservedly owned the truth that I had hurt her (even if I didn’t mean to do it, even if only through ignorance, I had still caused her pain) and asked her to forgive me.

We parted ways on somewhat better terms, having expressed a desire to have a better relationship with each other. It hasn’t happened yet. Within a year, things had broken down completely, and at her request, I have not spoken to her since.

What was the point? Why did I have to go through all of that? Every once in a while, I roll it over again, and now seems to be the latest once in a while.

Why? What good did that do? I can’t answer that for her. I have no idea if that conversation and my request for forgiveness did anything for her.

I guess the why has a lot to do with why I went. I didn’t go for me. I didn’t go thinking it would make any difference in how my sister and I related. I didn’t even do it for her to “help” her or anything. I went because I believed that was what God was asking me to do. I obeyed and trusted Him with everything I had invested and everything I feared. It may not have helped my relationship with my sister, but it did change some things in how I related to God. It changed me. I might talk about that more in another post, but for now – have a good night.

99%

Don’t be looking for any of Occupy Wall Street’s mantras here. Occupy Portland reportedly cost the city $130,000 in park damages and another $1.29 million for police overtime. To be fair, the movement claims that these figures are inflated. The truth is probably somewhere in between. Nonetheless, even a reduced amount seems like stealing from the taxpayers, as I very much doubt Occupy Portland consulted with those taxpayers and gained their consent before causing damage and expenditure. Not really a fan, am I.

No, the 99% to which I refer came from a conversation with a friend. After a long term relationship, this person and their spouse separated. My friend told me that the spouse has trouble with anger, and that most of the time it’s not a problem, but when it is, things are bad. The spouse can’t understand why it’s such a problem for my friend. The conversation we had went something like this: “99% of the time, life is fine for my spouse,” my friend said. “It’s only 1% of the time that the rage causes problems for my spouse. But for me? I never know when it’s going to show up. Years of marriage and observation, and I still can’t predict what will trigger an episode. It only affects my spouse’s life during that 1% of the time, but for me? It’s 100%. I live with the burden of uncertainty and trying to be right, perfect, and inoffensive all of the time.”

That has certainly given me plenty to ponder.

For one thing, while I knew what my friend meant and could identify the feeling, I’d never put it so clearly or been able to isolate and express it so well. That’s been one of those things I’ve never really been able to explain to somebody who has not experienced it.

Besides that, it’s been a long time since my dad left, and sometimes my memory gets a little fuzzy. I can’t always remember what made it so miserable. Dramatic moments (like having to pull things off the table so that Dad wouldn’t throw them at my brother) stand out, but not the everyday happenings. The drama is what I tend to tell people, probably because it was incontrovertibly bad. People, in my experience, are a lot less likely to argue that bruises and holes in the wall and other concrete proofs of violence are acceptable and seem to have more trouble accepting that the less physically scarring aspects of abuse are also unacceptable. Those parts, invisible like the wind, are just harder to pinpoint and explain.

My friend did a good job of it. See, maybe the aggressive/unpredictable person really is okay most of the time. Something happens – who knows what? – their internal switch flips, and suddenly they’re irrational, menacing, and dangerous to those around them. The storm passes, their steam is released, they feel better, and everything is all right again.

For them.

Until the next time whatever it is causing the aggressor’s internal, personal pressure to build demands release.

For those around them, it may not be okay. If dangerous can’t be predicted, if there is a disconnect between what happens in the aggressor’s environment and their reactions, okay can’t be trusted. Threat of danger still exists, and the people around the aggressor start demonstrating wariness and fear of that threat. The aggressor’s behavior effectively teaches the victims that they should not trust the aggressor. How the heck do you trust somebody who is sometimes just fine and sometimes, with no warning, not?

It makes for a real mess. My friend’s 99% fine spouse can’t understand why that’s not good enough. I don’t think my dad ever understood how much his unpredictable, unreasonable rages affected any of us, how we rewrote ourselves trying to survive.

I suspect, too, that poorly managed, inappropriately expressed, out of control anger isn’t the only unpredictable behavior that causes serious troubles for others. I bet lying would invoke some of the same problems. So might an inability to make and keep schedules and one’s word. It’s also a decent example of how sin in general ruins things for us. So what if I’m awesome 99% of the time? What harm could that 1% of degenerate behavior do?

What harm indeed? Ask my friend. One person’s 1% changed 100% of my friend’s life.

On the flip side, maybe there is also the potential for what is good, pure, and noble in us to have a similar effect, for our moments of good to shine out and touch another.

It’s certainly something to consider and use to evaluate my own life. How am I living? How is it affecting those closest to me? What’s having a greater effect on them – my flaws or my virtues?

May God bless your day.

It’s Not About You

My sister Shelah likes to say this. Most of the time I hear her pronouncing these words, it’s been an attempt to remind another sister that there are other people also living here. For a while there, Shelah said it so frequently that it became background noise! Really, though, I think she’s making a good point. In fact, I think there’s actually more than one good point to be made from it.

One is the context in which Shelah used it. It was an admonishment not to be selfish and a reminder that the world does not revolve around you. It was a (sometimes much needed!) reminder to behave better and remember others nearby.

That’s all good, but I think there’s another, more subtle benefit to this admonishment. It doesn’t have to be all about you. It’s not required, demanded, forced, which means that sometimes it can be easier to let things go, because they are not about you. Relationships inevitably produce friction between the people involved. Sometimes that friction occurs because those people have some problems with each other. Other times, though, friction occurs because one or both of those people is having a bad day and become unusually sensitive to little things. Things that are normally fine are somehow so completely irritating or upsetting or otherwise emotionally charged. Molehills ARE mountains!! And sometimes the person-having-bad-day is easily offended, and some of sort of conflict breaks out.

If it’s your turn to be the unfortunate offender of a person who is having a hard time thanks to life in general instead of with you in particular, you might try offering a simple apology that deals specifically with whatever the (minor) offense was, such as, “I’m sorry that what I said was upsetting. It didn’t come out quite right, and I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” Sometimes that’s enough, and sometimes they’re still grumpy butts who are still having a bad day and still feel snarly. At times like that, minor conflicts are easily escalated into mountains, and this is a fantastic time to remember that it’s not about you.

Don’t get sucked in. Don’t take it personally. Don’t accept blame for their bad day. Don’t get huffy about their snarling. Don’t make an effigy of them and burn it, or turn their picture into a dart board. Don’t worry about their audition for a part on Sesame Street as Oscar the Grouch.  Give them some grace. Be a good friend or neighbor. Remember, instead, that God loves ’em – bless their grumpy, little hearts -and that they’re having a hard time that is not about you. It’s much easier, I think, to then forgive the conflict and let it go. Makes for lighter living and better sleeping if I remember that often enough, it’s not all about me.

What do you think?

Relationships are funny (as in funny = peculiar, not as in funny, haha!) things. They come in a huge variety. Marriage, family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances all generate relationships. So do enemies. A relationship doesn’t have to be good in order to qualify as a relationship. 😛 It just requires some commonality, which conflict can provide. Relationships can also be extremely casual or brief, like people sharing public transportation or a checkout line in a supermarket. We aren’t limited to relationships with other people, either. We have relationships with things like political parties, churches, governments, and even food. To be clear, for the purposes of this post, I’m thinking about people.

Not only do relationships have a huge diversity in their external structure, they present us with all kinds of diversity in the effects they have on our lives. A single relationship can, throughout its course, be enough to send a person on a trip through every emotion possessed by humanity! They can have a very powerful effect on us, affecting how we feel, what we think, our expectations, and even what we believe about ourselves and those around us.

It makes me think about the purpose or maybe the consequences of relationships. I suspect that much of the time, people are so accustomed to relationships that they’re more or less invisible, kind of like oxygen or gravity. Relationships help form part of the, oh, foundation of human experience. Why on earth would God do that to us? I’ve certainly wondered that. Often enough, it’s been followed by, “Didn’t He think about the kind of vulnerability that would give us? Or the power?” I’ve certainly had some… er… negative encounters that caused me damage, and I’ve doubted my own trustworthiness with any sort of power. I’m not exactly a saint, hey?

I don’t s’pose damage and pain was really His idea, though. What did Jesus say? “I am the Vine. You are the branches.” Sounds like a relationship to me, so I’d guess it’s safe to say that the original Idea was for us to have a relationship with God, and that the painful bits are a consequence of humanity’s own, not-so-bright ideas and subsequent fall.

As for why God would give us relationships with each other, I think part of the answer can be found in Hebrews 10:24 – 25. Hebrews 10:25 is a verse often used when a pastor wants to remind people that they ought to be showing up at church on Sundays, but I’m quite sure it has broader applications. I first learned it in the good, ol’ King James (classic Awana), so I think that’s how I’ll share it.

Hebrews 10:23-25

23Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

I forgot. Verse 23 is also great, so I had to add it. Let’s see what we have here.

Bekah’s perspective on Hebrews 10:23-25

23) God is trustworthy, so let’s trust Him. Duh!

24) Be deliberate and considerate. Look for opportunities to promote love and good works in the people around you.

25) Don’t shun community. Don’t be a chicken livered coward who flees redemptive relationship or one who is foolish enough to underestimate its value. Time is short. We are to be here for each other to, if nothing else, earnestly remind and even goad one another into living like we believe that God is trustworthy.

Verse 23 makes me laugh, I do have to say. Writing all that out like that was pretty fun, and it seems pretty clear, too. I think one good reason to be in relationships with other Christians who are also determined to love God is because we are intended to help each other along the way.

One last thought occurred to me. I said that we’re intended to help each other out. It’s not just be helped. Nobody is so pathetic, so broken, so useless that they’ve nothing to offer, not even me. I am not saying that I’m worthless, but I have certainly gone round and round with it at times. We have something to offer to each other. We’re told to “consider…how to provoke unto love and good works.” God doesn’t break legs and then tell us to walk. He doesn’t demand the impossible without making a way, so if He’s telling us to do something, we can do it. I find that so encouraging. It’s not merely a command, a responsibility, a duty to discharge. It’s a privilege. What’s more, it’s often an opportunity for God to strengthen my own faith and trust as I see Him make yet another way for me to “exhort” another. Makes sense, though. Branches don’t stand up well by themselves. They need the support of the Vine.