I have been guilty of caring about people, who do not care about me, entirely too much. I have also been guilty of not caring enough about people who do care about me. I’m no Elsa but I am about to “Let it go”. And I hope my raw revelations help you too.
Being hurt by people we love is the hardest disappointment of all.
I believe I have found the meaning and purpose of life. It is love. Oh not to sound cliche - but it is true. To love others. To have friends and meaningful relationships, that is most definitely the point. And I can prove it.
In our high tech social-driven world, we understand and crave relationships. That is why social media is so successful. We long to feel connected and a sense of belonging. And yet in this easy access era, people are more disconnected and unreliable than ever. *(Not everyone, not all. This is a generalization, and one that can be noticed by anyone.)
I recently had a friend who was planning a wedding and the lack of RSVPs she received was frustrating. Especially from people she knew were planning to attend. She even had a few extras show up the day of the wedding who had never RSVPd! This was a catered event. They needed a headcount weeks ago. I have no idea how they handled it. This is just illustrating my point. Responding to the event online was easy. Simpler than mailing a return reply, which was once upon a time the standard, but even with the simplification communication and commitment have become more lax.
Need more proof? Our ability to make connections is under attack. And that is how you know it is valuable.
I dropped my son off at college the other day. (He’s taking some classes there as part of a high school dual enrollment program.) I noticed all the kids walking in were looking down at the phones in their hands. All of them. One girl almost walked into my car. None of them looked at one another. None of them said hello to each other. My son held the door open for the girl walking up behind him. I wasn’t close enough to know if she said anything but I did observe that she never looked up.
I thought of two painful things. First I was so sad. These kids need one another. To connect over their commonplace in life. To meet new interesting people. To make real connections and build relationships.
The second thought was “who are they even talking to right now?” Are they following influencers? Texting with friends? Do they have friends already in their life so they don’t feel they need to meet new people?
I don’t know the answers - maybe all of these things. But it hurts my heart. Because the ability to meet and connect with new people is growing increasingly hard and we need people. We need friendships. We need one another. Work to make a connection. And though it can be hard, teach your kids to reach out too.
I believe loving others to be the purpose of life. Jesus even answered, "love God, and love others…” as the most important commandment. That’s why it is under attack. That is why it can be so hard. Because it is valuable. And I am telling you this for a reason. NEVER FORGET. It is hard because it is worth it. Because it matters.
It is easy to drop people from your life who have hurt or disappointed you. Sure you can find friends (for lack of a better word) online. People with common interests and like-minded points of view. But that can’t replace physical, real-life friendships. It is easy to let people go - but easy doesn’t mean right.
Don’t get me wrong. There are people who are seasonal friends. There are people who are poisonous friends. There are people who bring out the best of us and those who bring out the worse. I am not saying everyone is a forever friend. But I am saying the ones that are, we need to fight for.
Now on to these poisonous friends. I have had them and I know you have too. These are the people who make us feel bad about ourselves. Who encourages us to act or think in a way we wouldn’t normally and it is harmful. These are those who always let you down but never stop expecting you to show up. These are the ones whom we have loved and lost. And holding on to that hurt can make creating new connections hard too.
So how to we let go? I mean really let go of the hurt… So we can fully embrace the new.
Train your thoughts.
You have to pick out your thoughts like you pick out your clothes. Make a decision about what you are going to wear - what looks good on you and what doesn’t.
I had a friend whom I loved too much. She was not a good friend but she was an old friend and I believe in hanging onto relationships that were important to me. I held on longer than I should have to that one. The way it ended hurt me. And I will share:
Our last phone conversation was me calling her out for not showing up as promised and letting me down again. I don’t remember everything that was said. But I do remember the last thing. “You’re too hard to be friends with. I have wasted enough of my time with this.” She said before hanging up on me. That was the last time I ever heard from her.
I wear that last statement like a tattoo on my face. Sure it was my choice to accept the tattoo. And it is painful and ugly. But tattoo removal is hard. (You guys get that I am speaking metaphorically, right? You know I don't actually have a tattoo on my face that says "I am too hard to be friends with", right?)
She had been a big part of my life for some key moments. And just like that, it was over. I reached out a few times. I sent a couple of texts. I went old school and mailed a couple cards over the years. But I never got a response. On dark days those words still ring in my head. And for a long time, I have believed it to be true. I am hard to be friends with, I have high expectations. Like caring about each other, showing up for one another. Actually being a good friend. You know hard stuff like that.
The truth is I needed her to be someone she wasn’t. I had to learn to accept that. She was not the person I hoped her to be. I wanted someone in my life who knew and loved my children. I wanted someone who had been there for the big moments, high school, marriage, the birth of my kids. I wanted someone who I could count on and who counted on me. I wanted her to be that person. I just couldn’t admit I was wrong, she was never that person. I had to let it go.
That phone call was ten years ago. That’s right! A decade has passed. And it still hurts, if I let it. So I had to learn to stop letting it hurt.
It is hard to forgive people who have never asked for it. But we have to. So here are some things I practice, I hope it helps you too.
When past people hurts come to mind I try to find a good memory or a few. It can be hard at first, they get buried by the painful ones. But there are good memories, fun times. If there weren’t you wouldn’t have been friends for so long and it wouldn’t hurt so bad. Remember the things you liked about them? Why were you friends in the first place?
I think about those things. I think about those times. I remember them and I smile.
Then I say a prayer for her. (This used to be hard but it isn’t anymore.) I pray for her to know who she in Jesus. I pray that she is using her talents for God. I pray that her husband and children (who I have never met) are healthy and happy and know Jesus.
- And I feel better.
I know people like to say “do it for you, not for them”. Come on! Do it for them and for you. That is how forgiveness works. If you are having a really hard time with this, as I did. You may want to search your memory for a time when you were not such a good friend. The truth is I made mistakes too. There are people who were in my life who I didn’t always show up for. And when God showed that to me - I was humbled. It was only then that I really could forgive as I want to be forgiven.
It still sneaks up on me some days. A memory hits me like cold water in the face. I know when her birthday rolls around and sometimes I drive past the high school when I visit my hometown. But I practice what I preach. I remember the good, I wish her well and I fix my thoughts on something else. And I feel better.
I hope this helps you to let go of old hurts so you can move on and make meaningful connections with the people God has placed in your life.