Here’s a post I wrote recently for a Christian blogging website about something I’m learning recently. It’s worth sharing here too.
I’ve always had confidence that I’m a pretty good friend. Not to toot my own horn, but I give amazing Christmas gifts, I’m a great listener, and I have no qualms about sharing my food with you. I’ve also managed to be friends with some pretty incredible people, so they must hang around me for some reason, right? I must have something to offer them.
I returned to college after a semester abroad, overflowing with joy and love for friends I hadn’t seen in six months. We all hugged for ages, had two-hour long lunches catching up on our lives, and they all said how glad they were to have me back. I felt so appreciated and loved. I thanked God for them. I assumed they were thanking God for me.
Then one day, a little nasty thought crept in along with all the nice ones. My inner independent diva rolled her eyes when my roommate just had to know where I was when I was out of the room for a couple hours. Another friend didn’t seem to have matured very much while I was away. I would notice these things, thank God for how much growth and character he’d supplied me in my time abroad, and move on. Then one day, one terrible thought after another piled up and the realization hit me at once:
I could say something to every person I love that would make them hate me.
Suddenly, my perception of myself shattered. I’m not a good friend after all. I’m a nice friend. I can say all the right things to make the people in my life feel loved and valued, but when you get all the way down to my heart, I’m not loving or humble or kind. I’m judgmental. I’m proud. I make assumptions and harbor bitterness. At any given moment, I have several resentments, biting remarks, or thoughtless comments floating around in my head that, were I to give voice to them all, could drive my friends and family in every direction, hurt and angry at my selflessness.
This revelation caused me to spiral for a few minutes as I panicked, lamenting at the idea that I was secretly the worst friend in the world. I’m not kidding. I started to question all my friendships. At any moment, I have the potential to hurt them. If they knew what I really thought half the time, they’d hate me. Wouldn’t they? Am I just lying to them all the time? Now I would have to keep up the ‘good friend’ charade in spite of this knowledge, replacing my horrible inner monologue with kind and supportive words, which would mean on top of all my other shortcomings, I was now deceiving my loved ones by pretending to be someone I wasn’t. The image of myself as a real life Dr. Jekyll was hurtling to the forefront of my imagination when the calm reassurance of the Holy Spirit filtered in.
I’m not the first person to think or feel negatively toward the people I love. Everyone has moments of resentment, judgment, or selfishness. Did that mean everyone else was also walking around thinking horrible things about me all the time? Maybe. That’s a bit frightening. But at least we’re all equally terrible? It wasn’t much, but at least it leveled the playing field. As I continued to mull over this and the frantic voices of my fears ran out of steam, I could more clearly hear the Lord’s voice, and eventually the truth rang through.
His grace was covering me. All my nasty, selfish, fleshly human thoughts. My sinful, prideful heart. It was shrouded by His grace, and all condemnation vanished. I wasn’t terrible. What a relief.
I’m a sinner, but my interactions with people don’t have to be defined by that inward sin. All my broken, earthly relationships still have the potential for complete love and truth because of God’s grace for me. It hit me that it must take something to keep all of us from drowning each other in unkindness and discord every day, and that something is grace. God has supplied us with His grace not only to cover our own sins, but to give to each other. It keeps us from heaping our judgments and accusations on everyone around us. It knits us together and makes His love, not our sin, the center of our relationships. What a gift!
If you’re a secret terrible friend like me, it’s okay. You don’t have to be. That’s the great thing about grace. It’s active, and its redemptive power is contagious. When we start to accept Christ’s gift of grace and let it redeem us, the dirty sludge of pride and judgment that’s rotting at the bottom of our hearts starts to be washed away. When I see myself as redeemed, I start to see others that way as well. I’m a sinner. So are they. I’m covered and renewed by grace. They are too.
Suddenly, I’m not seeing their mess. I’m seeing their Maker. The same one who made me and is supplying me with new grace and mercies every morning, to cover me and propel me into His will.
And you know what? I’m pretty lucky to have Him as my friend.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:2