When I think about my life and the people in it, I am reminded of the value of good and honest friendships. The people who are dearest to me all seem to have one thing in common—they call me out on my crap.
Truth is a real thing. I try to talk to my 5-year-old about the difference between a fact and a belief. But teaching her about truth involves more than that—it’s also about being humble enough to see when she’s wrong, and having the courage to be open and admit it. This is hard for most adults, so how do I teach that humility to my daughter? But I try. We want our children to be able to accept when they’re wrong.
At what point is that no longer a requirement for adults?
We all say we want to know the truth—what really happened, what’s really going on—but I’m not so sure. When we’re shown a fact that may go against our beliefs, we say “well, that just doesn’t FEEL right to me.” Since when does how you feel about a thing make it any less so? If I feel comfortable in my pants, that doesn’t change the fact that I should lay off the ice cream.
When I was younger, one encounter with an honest friend changed me. I realized the humility of hearing the truth about myself was harder than I thought. The lesson I learned about friendship has colored all of my interactions since.
In this particular instance, I was being a massive jerk to a group I was part of. We were all working together on a project and I was dropping the ball—no, ignoring the ball altogether. Because I was socially at the top of the food chain, I felt safe to blatantly neglect my responsibilities and leave everyone hanging. Out of all the people I knew, only one friend did something. I’ll never forget it—he took me aside privately one day and said “You know I love you. I think you’re amazing. That’s why I had to say something to you. I’m not sure you’re even aware of it right now, but you’re being a huge asshole.”
<insert here the gut punch of emotions>
There was more to the conversation, he gave some details of the evidence of his claim, and I have to admit I was upset. Livid. Hurt. Offended. Indignant. I went home that day in a fury. After a while (and once my steam of outrage diminished) it came to me in the silence of my room that he was right. I was being a jerk. All of his points were true and I realized that he only said this to me because he wanted me to be better. To live up to the potential he saw in me. I knew then—THIS was friendship…someone willing to bear my anger (and risk losing my love) by humbling me with honesty. The gratitude and thankfulness I felt for his bravery was overwhelming. He had no guarantee I would hear him, but he trusted me enough, and BELIEVED in me enough to try. He changed my life.
This moment was a turning point in how I dealt with others. Anyone I am socially involved with will know that I am pretty much an open book. If you want to hear my opinion, just ask. I don’t always OFFER the opinion (especially if you won’t like it) but if you ask I’ll always give it to you…though I’ll try to give it with as much grace as I can.
I have learned the hard way that people need an “out.” They need to be willing to hear what you have to say. So now I’ll ask: “Do you REALLY want to know?” My friends are aware that if they hear this they need to tread lightly—and there’s no judgement if they decide to back out at this point. But they also know that they can come to me to hear the hard stuff. With love. The velvet hammer of friendships. Yes, those pants are not the most flattering option for your thighs.
It’s still hard to hear when I’m wrong. I get defensive and the buzz of anger starts ringing in my ears so I can’t hear anymore. The hard part about “constructive criticism” and “feedback” is being self-aware enough to own my faults, and humble enough to be thankful for the opportunity to improve.
All this is to show how much I value and am thankful for those I can turn to for growth. There aren’t as many as I’d like…people are so afraid of offending. But I have some very special people that I rely on to keep me grounded. To cut through my crap and ensure that I am staying focused in my goal of being the best person I can be. Who trust that I won’t blow up when they call me out and are willing to hold me accountable.
I cherish them as treasures in my life. They are the rudders that guide my ship, who dare to challenge what I see or think or feel. I need them. I strive to be worthy of them. Thankful doesn’t really even begin to cover it.
Where did our culture turn awry? Why is it that we value those that make us FEEL good more than those who help us grow? Why is “different opinion” the same as “wrong?” And why are we so angry about it? Being challenged isn’t a bad thing, just a hard thing. Thank you, Jeremy, for showing this to me. I only hope that I can pay it forward enough to be worthy of the lesson.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on being humble from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.