Last week I ran into a girl who I went to school with awhile back. She only noticed me because she’s friends with a friend and awkwardly gave me a secondary invite to something I never really cared to go to. She smiled, the biggest smile, and with vacant eyes asked me about details of my life in mock-interest, working off of assumptions, pretending that we were friends and that we actually knew each other. I thought, “Maybe she isn’t so bad.” Then the kicker: “You’re name is Greg, right?”
No. No my name is not Greg. My name has never been Greg.
No big deal, everyone forgets names. The fact that I knew her name didn’t matter. What mattered was that she pretended like we are friends. We’ve never been friends; we’re probably not ever going to be friends. So why did she ask shallow questions about my life when I know she didn’t really care?
Now, before you accuse me of being cynical, let me tell you what I firmly believe is the base of all strong friendships: transparency, vulnerability, authenticity.
Whether you hate me or not, I still expect a smile and general politeness. If you’re having a miserable day, don’t take it out on your barista or a random you run into — that just makes you a jerk.
But please don’t go to the other extreme.
The girl I ran into the other day is an example of the many Ned Flanders I encounter in my involvement with church folk. Some Christians have this idea that they have to be all smiles and faux-caring, treating everyone like they just might be Jesus.
But the thing is, they’re not treating me like Jesus, they’re treating me like a puppy.
And it comes off very condescending, making me and everyone else feel small.
If that’s how you would treat Jesus, I think He’d get a bit upset. Jesus didn’t die for your phony shadow and oversized forced smile. He died for the real you — the one He created — the one who is broken and tired and not happy every waking moment of everyday.
I see you. I care about you, the way I care about all people who are lost and broken like me. I see that you have people in your life that you lean on, and I’m glad because I cherish my people and recognize how badly I need them.
So we might not be best friends.
And that’s OK.
But let’s continue to smile at each other and be kind. Maybe someday we really will be friends, having real conversations and actually getting to know each other. But that’s going to require time and a few cups of coffee. For now, let’s not pretend we’re something we’re not. I want to be real with you, and I want you to know that it’s OK to be real with me.
Photo by Gabriel GM, Flickr CC