The final week of this chapter (and the final week of the whole book) was about relationships and authenticity. There was a part about how we like to be liked, how we sometimes use friendships to ‘get on’ (networking for our own ends) and how we might avoid friendships so we do not get hurt. Jo draws up a list to simplify our relationships . She talks about the positive and negative ones, are we spreading ourselves too thinly, do we need spend more time on a particular relationship and are there some we should distance ourselves from?
Jo speaks of how she felt she let people down, said insensitive things and put on a persona with people she did not feel comfortable with. I recognise some of these things. Jo says that we should learn from Jesus and how we relate to each other is important to God.
I grew up in a small household, we didn’t mix a great deal, my parents were not into great social occasions. I found it hard to make friends as a child and when I did it was always one special friend. At 14 that friend moved with her family and I struggled after that. I have never been someone who has masses of friends and a huge social circle, maybe it’s due to my background (but I’m beginning to think that isn’t the case, though I blamed it for years) or my personality (more likely!). I am comfortable in small group situations. Large groups make me anxious. In the last ten years I have overcome some of my fears and can handle larger groups at times (especially if I know them) but real friendships have never grown beyond two or three. I hope that I am a good friend but like us all I know I fall short sometimes and when stressed I put up the barriers and stomp around having a go at people (my family, I guess because I am closer to them so they get it!). However, I hate atmospheres and I cannot carry on arguments for long and I will always apologise when I have said something or been in a mood/unreasonable.
How to handle difficult people is always a struggle. Someone I work with in the charity shop said that I get on with everyone and that I am the only one who will work with all the volunteers (some do actually refuse to work with some people). I guess I am easy going and I like to see the good in everyone but there are people I come across who I find it difficult to talk to to – people I just don’t click with and are hard work. Maybe I hide it better but I think perhaps I don’t have the hang ups some do about silly things that I feel are not relevant, but I think that I try to put my feelings aside and make an effort even if I do find it uncomfortable because I’m only with that person a short time.
My parents used to say that when I was in a bad mood it was written all over my face and I know that’s true. Whether others notice it I don ‘t know but I am aware of it and try to put on a happy face. At times like that (when I am really down or am struggling with a situation out of my control) I would rather be on my own. I cut people off, put up those barriers and escape at the earliest opportunity.
What people think of us does make a difference even though it shouldn’t. I am struggling with a situation at present with someone who is not a Christian and has views far different from mine. We have been friends (penpals) for three or four years perhaps and I always knew his views where a lot different in some areas but we also had other things in common (mainly a love of football). Recently though these differences have started to get to me. While not a Christian he uses Christianity when it suits him to slag off other religions and cultures living here. I have often ignored his comments but recently I felt I had to stand up for my beliefs and I said I would not apologise for my faith. I have worried about my response, perhaps I said too much (though he never holds back) but now I’ve been prompted to pray for him. That is all I can do. Sometimes that is all any of us can do. I doubt our friendship will ever be the same and some might say ‘ditch him’ but for now we are hanging on in there. He hasn’t replied to my letter but he hasn’t ‘unfriended’ me on Facebook either! If he hadn’t already got to know him he probably wouldn’t be in my circle, but I have and I am not ready to give up just yet.