Tag Archives: friendship

On Controversy

It’s inevitable.

I tick people off.

I reluctantly waded back into the rather terrifying waters of Facebook recently as part of my return to the world of freelance copywriting. I was trying to keep my posts to things related to business, books, and grammar, but inevitably, I found other things of interest to post. Mostly, I’ve attempted to keep it all fairly innocuous. I post things about art. I post interesting quotes. I post TED Talks that, hopefully, won’t raise too many hackles. I’m trying to be informative, but not combative.

But then, an article came through my feed that I thought was important to share. It was about a controversial topic. The specific topic isn’t important, but suffice to say that I knew in sharing it that I would alienate a lot of people and stir up a lot of simmering coals.

I shared it anyway.

And then I immediately regretted it.

A few hours after I posted it, I went back and saw some of the responses. I considered deleting the whole thing then, but decided to wait till morning. After going back and forth with a few of my friends on the subject matter, I couldn’t take it. I finally deleted the post.

I am just not good at being confrontational on Facebook.

The experience of the last day has me thinking about the nature of controversy, though, and how I respond to it. My husband thrives on vigorous debate. It doesn’t bother him in the slightest. He can mix it up over any number of topics.

Me? I shrink into a quivering mass of heart palpitations and knotted stomach.

It’s probably not a secret to anyone who reads this blog that I’m a fairly right-wing sort of person. And yes, my politics are informed by my Evangelical faith in Jesus Christ, but they are not dictated by it. In fact, what may not be obvious from reading some of my tweets and posts here is that I diverge from a lot of my brothers and sisters in Christ in MANY areas, not just those concerning art. I am probably more libertarian in my views, and that does make me a bit of an odd-man-out in a lot of conversations.

My libertarian politics tend to bleed into how I practice my faith, I think. I think there’s a huge, gaping prairie of liberty between what the Bible actually says about how we should live and how a lot of Evangelicals interpret what the Bible says. Drinking, for instance. We aren’t teetotalers. We go to a Southern Baptist church. This can cause some issues at times.

(Side note: A Free Methodist friend joked a couple of weeks ago, “know what the difference is between Southern Baptists and Free Methodists?” Pause. “We drink our beer on the front porch.”)

I don’t mind being more open about my beliefs on Twitter or here on my blog. But on Facebook, I’m posting under another name, and I have a lot of real-world connections there, and I guess . . . I guess I want them to still like me.

But maybe the question is, do I want them to like me, or do I want them to respect me? How can they respect me if they don’t know me because I’m hiding who I really am for fear of offending or angering or hurting people?

This is why I hate Facebook.

I guess it seems like the last few years, we just have to always be angry about something. I wake up every day and go to Twitter wondering what the daily rage will be. Is it the government? Culture? Entertainment? Doctrine? There’s always something I’m supposed to be angry about. And I find myself siding against–or at least being irritated by–my Evangelical friends and family almost as often as I agree with them. (I can’t say the same of the political progressives. I pretty much always disagree with them.)

To be perfectly candid, Internet, I don’t have the energy to be constantly angry.

I can’t maintain that kind of constant passion for the offense du jour. Half the time, once more information is revealed, I alter my perspective a bit, or I discover that it’s not as big a thing as I thought, or I just decide it’s not a hill I want to die on.

So I guess it comes down to a question of balancing a need to be liked and a desire to be respected. How much controversy can I endure in order to be respected? Turns out, not much–at least not on Facebook. And it also turns out that a lot of things I think might be innocuous are probably going to stir up some kind of rage from somewhere. That article on how literary fiction improves brain function is probably going to piss off the writers and readers of genre fiction. That doctrinal analysis of Noah or Son of God is probably going to ignite a firestorm from both sides.

Facebook does not invite respect, I’m discovering. In general, social media does not invite respect. And I will confess that I have lost respect for a lot of people I know in real life once I’ve seen their Facebook posts.

So, I guess it’s back to posting pictures of grammar snark and the occasional cat video. Facebook seems a lot safer that way.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

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Rules of Yarn Crawl

I’m convinced there are few places on earth as craft-oriented as Portland. “Handmade” is kind of a big thing in these parts. In fact, you may have heard about our acquisition by Etsy a few years ago (check the date on that article before you take it too seriously).

The city goes a little goofy for yarn one weekend every year. This year, eighteen yarn shops in the Portland/Metro area participated in the Rose City Yarn Crawl. This is yarnie heaven. My best friend and I try to get out to visit at least a few of our favorites. The first year we went on the crawl, we visited ten shops in one day. We were exhausted. Last year, I got sick in the middle of the day, so we cut things short. This year, we learned from past mistakes and took it easy on ourselves, just taking in four of our favorite shops with a leisurely break for lunch and an early return home.

As we traveled today, I thought of some Rules for future Yarn Crawl endeavors:

First Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt be adequately fueled with appropriate caffeination from a local purveyor of the bean.

Second Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt read all yarn warning labels:

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Third Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt avoid fibers that must be treated as if they are made from cotton candy and fairy wings, even though said fibers are often quite shiny, sparkly, or soft.

Fourth Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt not be lured by the 45% off sign on the silk laceweight yarns.

Fifth Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt always read the yardage on every skein, hank, or ball of fiber before falling madly in love.

Sixth Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt repeat Rules Three, Four, and Five as many times as necessary.

Seventh Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt buy something new:

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Eighth Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt buy something useful and reliable:

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Ninth Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt laugh often.

Me, looking at little boy sleeping in a stroller: Don’t you wish you could just sleep in a chair and other people would push you around all over town?

Best friend, without missing a beat: Don’t worry. We’ll get there someday.

Tenth Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt take pictures of all the projects you want to do eventually:

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Eleventh Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt also take pictures of the stash thou hast acquired throughout the day:

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Twelfth Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt go home when thou hast spent all thy allotment of currency which hast been dedicated aforehand to the acquisition of said stash.

Thirteenth Rule of Yarn Crawl: Thou shalt determine to shun all requests of husbands, children, schools, volunteer organizations, workplaces, and churches for one day the following year that one might return to Yarn Crawl when it doth descend upon thy fair city.

It would appear that I have some hanks to wind.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

The Friendship Challenge

“What kind of self-talk goes on in our minds? What lies of Satan do we entertain? . . . . Are we consumed by self-loathing because we don’t seem to fit in anywhere the way others seem to do so easily? Do we believe we are not making a distinct contribution to society?”

“If we pattern our lives after the Trinity, we come to a startling conclusion: We are individuals who exist for and flourish best in community with others. . . . But for those of us shaped by the values of contemporary Western culture, unhealthy independence is a serious threat to our ability to find and cultivate such close friendships.”

— The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life, by J. P. Moreland and Klaus Issler

I just finished reading The Lost Virtue of Happiness yesterday. This one has been on my TBR pile for a very long time. I have long acknowledged that I have “joy issues”–that is, I struggle with the concept and experience of joy as a follower of Christ. I tend toward pessimism and often have a difficult time separating temporary trials and challenges from the ultimate security, peace, and joy of salvation. I was hoping that a more philosophical treatment of the concept of happiness would help me sort some of these issues out.

I made a comment in my Goodreads review that I didn’t really care for some of the exercises in the book. In general, I think this is a failing of the way Christian ideas are “sold” these days. You can’t just read theology, philosophy, doctrine, and the like–authors seem to have to put practical exercises with everything in an attempt to guide us in application. This is probably just me, but these kinds of exercise so often just end up feeling like another legalistic “to do” list, and they sometimes rob the joy right out of the book. I feel guilty about not doing them, about just reading for the sake of the ideas, or about ruminating on my own practical application of the concepts.

My usual approach to a book like this one is to read the chapters fairly thoroughly, but to skim or skip the end of chapter questions. If there are exercises within the chapters, I will read them, but I rarely do them. I might sometimes answer a few questions in my head, but I pretty much never write anything down.

So it was that I came first to the chapter on the hiddenness of God and next to the chapter on friendships. And here . . . I think that here I found a very big part of why I have so many joy issues.

I have never, ever been entirely confident that I have anything to contribute to anything in regard to personal relationships. I have been known to say with complete honesty, “I’m really bad at friendship.” And I am–I know this. I cultivate friendships like I cultivate houseplants–poorly. My black thumb knows no bounds.

But I think that Moreland and Issler’s book has helped me clarify what, exactly, my problem is when it comes to friendship. First, as they point out, we use the term friend to encompass too many things. Moreland and Issler categorize our different relationships and clarify that most of them are “happenstance arrangements that fit under the biblical term neighbor.” In that category, they include people we come in contact with at work, school, church, and even extended family. They further categorize people even within our closer friends–those with whom we share common interests, values, or pleasures, those with whom there are mutual benefits or advantages in remaining connected, and those with whom we have a “friendship of character.”

It was the concept of having friendships of character that really convicted me, and it was in this chapter that I paid a lot more attention to the exercises and lists. And I was forced to confront a rather disturbing fact: I have exactly two friends I can count in this category.

Two.

And I’m married to one of them.

This is not to say that I don’t have ANY friends, or that I don’t have friends I enjoy doing things with or chatting with. Indeed, even though I’m an introvert, I can be quite chatty at times, especially when I feel comfortable with people. My fellow leaders at American Heritage Girls can attest to my chattiness! I have a couple of online friends with whom I am able to carry on long, in-depth e-mail exchanges. And while I may complain, I actually do enjoy people in a general sense–largely, perhaps, because I see them all as potential characters in a story (are we not all, after all, the protagonists of our own stories?).

But close, intimate, spiritual friendships? I have two.

I think I need more than that.

I wrote a while back about being in search of friends, but that post was more about looking for a community to replace the one I lost when I quit writing publicly. This post is more about consciously developing a couple more deep, abiding, spiritual connections.

But here’s the problem, and this is what the book helped me figure out: I have no confidence at all in my own ability to be a friend. When I think of people I might like to get to know better or cultivate a friendship with, I automatically assume that they must have enough friends, that they won’t have time for someone like me, that I have nothing I can really contribute to a friendship with those people. I’m not sure where this comes from, because people don’t seem to avoid me . . . But I’m absolutely terrified of intruding on someone’s life or being too needy or dependent. When I look at me, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to cultivate a friendship with me as I don’t see anything particularly unique about myself that would be even remotely enticing to another person.

In general, I wake up most mornings in awe and wonder that my husband is still married to me.

I have no idea where this all comes from. I really don’t. I would not say that I’ve had brutally bad friendship break-ups before. I do acknowledge some trust issues from a childhood trauma, but I’ve (mostly) dealt with those, and I am constantly on the lookout for those issues to crop up so that I can face them and nip them in the bud. But it’s not like people have shamed, shunned, embarrassed, or publicly humiliated me and scared me away from being friends with anyone.

So I don’t know–is this just the way I’m wired? Is it a product of my introverted nature? Is it related to my more solitary pursuits in writing?

The authors make the distinction between living the good life and getting “good at life.” I think I have had happiness and joy confused with living the good life. Happiness and joy come from the practices that one develops as one gets “good at life.” And for me, developing some closer, more spiritually satisfying friendships is probably a good step in the direction of getting better at life.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

In Search of Friends

Well, hello, Internet.

As you may have surmised (if, indeed, you are paying attention to my presence or absence), I’ve been busy these last couple of weeks. Also as you may have surmised, most of my busy-ness has been due to various Scouting-related activities. Mr. P has been traveling a bit as well, which leaves me to be the All-Around Scout Mom Extraordinaire. Don’t misunderstand–I’m not complaining, exactly. Mr. P’s job is a huge blessing to us, and he actually doesn’t travel much. It’s just that busy seasons like this often leave me with a niggling feeling that I’ve probably forgotten something, missed an obligation or two, or unintentionally offended someone in my haste to perform some other necessary and required bit of . . . something related to Scouting, most likely.

In any event, I’ve been busy.

I wanted to come back to an idea I alluded to a couple of weeks ago when I enumerated my personal health goals in my post “Unplugged“:

Improve my emotional health by evaluating relationships, improving them where I can and eliminating those that are no longer beneficial to either party.

I’ve been doing some soul-searching about friendships–past, current, and future. I have long had the suspicion that some of my entrenched friendships may no longer be beneficial to me. I don’t want it to sound like I am only friends with people who provide me with something, but sometimes, friendships come to a point where they are no longer beneficial to either party and someone needs to drop back or out. I think it’s fair to say I’ve found two main groups of people in my life who no longer build me up:

The friends I had in my old work life. While I do keep in touch with a few people from that life, most of them were gone when I left that world. That was a painful loss, I have to admit. I went from having a fairly intimate circle of acquaintances who all had much in common to having a huge hole in my world with no one to fill it. But for the most part, those people belong to a life I am no longer a part of and will never be part of again. They belong in my past as fond memories, but to attempt real, lasting friendships with most of them would likely bring only frustration, confusion, and perhaps even pain. Sometimes, it’s best to just say goodbye.

The “girlfriends” I formerly called my closest friends. I think the final moment for me was during our annual weekend gathering last autumn. I realized that not only are we rehashing the same old stories and falling into all of the same old patterns every time we all get together, but that those stories and patterns are simply no longer beneficial to me–or more likely to any of us. While I’m in a position of weakness–which I am, and that’s hard for me to admit–being with a group of weak people who shore each other up with that unique brand of “girlfriend” self-esteem wherein none of us can do any wrong is not a healthy place to be. At least for the moment, it’s best to let those relationships lie fallow. Perhaps the soil just needs a season or two to rest.

This leaves me with a rather slender friend file, I have to admit.

This is not really a problem for me, usually. I do not make friends easily. I am not a good social initiator. I chalk most of these social failings up to my generally introverted nature. I am simply programmed to be a hermit and would be perfectly happy living in a cave on Mt. Everest with nary a visitor except the occasional sherpa.

But the reality is that I live in a world where I’m not only expected to be social, but I am probably doing myself a disservice by resisting socialization.

Another hard thing to admit.

The reality is that when I count my friends–real friends, people who don’t have to associate with me because of blood or marriage or volunteer obligations or school circumstances–I can probably only count about five true friends. Mr. P is obviously at the top of the list, and there is my long-time best girlfriend who will probably remain at the top of the list until we are both very old and very covered in cat hair and wool from our knitting projects. I also have about three or four Internet acquaintances who know a lot of things about my life and whom I would count as friends should we ever meet in real life. Beyond that?

The pickin’s, as they say, are slim.

So the quandary becomes . . . Do I need more friends? I think that, yes, perhaps, I just may.

I find myself pining for conversation lately–conversation that doesn’t revisit all of the same old territory, that doesn’t devolve into a litany of complaint, that isn’t centered around children and home. I find myself wishing for the kind of intellectual stimulation that only comes from a well-earned and shared trust, a give-and-take of information and wisdom and experience. And I don’t want to sound like Mr. P and my other few friends are falling down on the job–they aren’t. But I think I would enjoy broadening the circle a bit.

So where does one go to find new friends? The first thoughts immediately jump to items of common ground–church, literature, knitting, and the like. I am hesitant to look for new friends at church for a variety of reasons–some of which I have shared here, some of which are, for the moment, private. That leaves books and knitting, for the moment, anyway. And since knitting often includes my best friend already . . .

It is, perhaps, time to find a book club. Or a literature class, or some other place where a person with some fair amount of bookish intellect can enjoy pursuing a too-long-neglected passion.

Now, as to when I might fit said pursuit into my schedule . . . That’s another issue entirely.

More investigation is needed.

Till next we meet . . .

J M