“It matters not if the world has heard or approves or understands . . .
the only applause we’re meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands” B.J. Hoff
Balance. Yet again, it eludes me.
But this time, the difficulty is not only establishing balance. It is also finding answers to seemingly simple questions. But answers that invoke controversy among even the most compatible Followers.
For some, it is simple – I serve an audience of One. It matters only what He sees in me. I don’t worry one bit about what others think, because His is the only opinion that matters. I am who He made me to be and, if there are those who don’t see that I’m just different from them – not wrong – well, I have to be true to myself.
But, for others, we are not only beloved children of the most high God – we see ourselves as His ambassadors. We are Jesus with skin on for those who aren’t quite sure about faith, religion, belief, mercy and grace. And, what others think of our actions does matter. Because what they learn about Him because of us matters.
* * * * * * *
I had, for several weeks, been pondering and considering and, frankly, agonizing over a dilemma. I had known her for over 8 years. Not long after we met, she invited me into a circle of her friends that proved to be both uplifting and fun. We shared a common faith. We had common interests. And, the affirmation that not only my faith but my personality were welcome – well, it was great.
But lately, it seemed like my friend and I were more than just drifting apart. Yes, the original group was breaking up for real-life reasons. Some members of the circle had moved away. And the environment in which we had met and spent time together had changed dramatically – and not for the better. But, even though the circumstances between just the two of us were pretty much the same, I sensed that something wasn’t quite right. I honestly couldn’t put my finger on it. But I became more and more convinced that our friendship had become so bruised or broken that it felt like even casual conversations were difficult. Strained. Uncomfortable. And, I avoided them.
I know, I know. Not everyone is going to like me. And, when I am at my best, when my hair turns out just fine and I like the outfit I’m wearing and I don’t feel like a complete idiot in front of my 5th graders, I’m really close to being OK with that. Really close.
But this felt different.
A friend with whom I share great trust has long known that I over-analyze almost everything and especially when it comes to interactions with others in any situation…
“Did I hurt that check-out guy’s feelings when I smiled but didn’t say something like ‘have a good weekend,’ or ‘thank you ever so much for your help,’ or ‘you are, without a doubt, the most talented and gifted check-out person I’ve ever had the privilege to give my money to.’
Should I go back?
Next time I’ll be sure to do better. In fact, I’m sure I can think of a reason to return to the tire store in the next couple of days.”
Oh, for the love…
So, it came as no surprise to my confidante that I was anxious about this relationship. And she answered in the way she usually does. “If you believe you have done something, of course, go to her. But, honestly, Nancy, if your conscience is clear, and you continue to be kind, you know you are doing the right thing. And probably haven’t don’t the wrong thing.” And that was true.
But then she said, “And, besides, what difference does it make what she thinks of you?”
And that, my friends, is when my sense of balance got knocked sideways. Yes, there will be times when my behavior and ideas are not approved of or appreciated by the masses. In fact sometimes, being approved of or appreciated by everyone may mean that I am not living the life I truly want to live. Even people with whom I do share faith will not always think that I’m the bee’s knees. So be it and move on.
But, this felt different. We were not colleagues or acquaintances. We were friends. She had selected me as a friend. On purpose. And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what I had done wrong. She wasn’t being mean in any way. There were no snide remarks. She was not going out of her way to avoid me. So, maybe it was just a new day for her. Maybe she was making deliberate and thoughtful changes to a life that found her completely wrung out trying to “be” for others, just like me. Maybe she was making really hard choices and just figuring things out.
I tried to be regular around her. You know, including her in meeting conversations without being obvious. Making sure unavoidable eye contact was kind and welcoming. But it seemed bland and flat and a little fake on my part.
So. Do I quietly walk away because it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks? Or do I follow my heart and believe that it does matter what she thinks? Cliché or not – “WWJD?”
It took many days, many mental drafts, many prayers, many mental redrafts. But, finally, I did it. On pretty paper, with a matching envelope. A few simple sentences. No accusations. No “You.” An authentic apology. A request for forgiveness. A prayer for healing.
And the very next day, she made a “bee-line” (as my dad would say) right over to me. Our conversation revealed that the busy-ness and anxiety of things in her life kept her feeling distant and disconnected from even her closest friends. We spoke openly about our misunderstandings. And then, she said, “I’m so glad you brought it up. Absolutely nothing is wrong.”
And I knew right then that, for once, I got it right. I weighed the situation. I searched my soul for insight into what I needed to own in our friendship. And I didn’t give up. I didn’t retreat to “It doesn’t matter.” And I found the sweet spot.
I know that I serve an Audience of One. At the same time, I have been commissioned to let my “…light shine before men in such a way that they may see [my] good works, and glorify [my] Father.” (Matthew 5:16).
It’s a delicate balance. And, when I get it right? Wow.