For many years, I have taken the following approach to my relationships:
- Be friendly and polite whenever possible.
- Avoid making enemies.
With extensive practice, I’ve become moderately competent at both of these skills. So, while there may be only a few people who view me as a close friend, no one (that I know of) actively views me as an enemy. And, up until recently, I’ve avoided putting anyone I know on the “terrible person” list. Even the people who like me the very least would likely not be averse to a quick chat if I saw them on the street and said hello.
The more I think about it, I think this is probably not a good thing. I don’t want to be remembered for being “nice.” I want to be remembered for being genuine. At the end of my life, I don’t want to look back and recall all the times when people liked or tolerated me because I treated them politely. I want to remember the times when others reached out to love me unconditionally. I guess what I’m saying is I need to start drawing on the kindness of others instead of only dishing it out. If I don’t take this chance, I’m going to end up feeling cheated by life and miss out on the potential to be blessed. So, I’m stepping out of the peaceful, safe, and ultimately crippling bubble of being content with relationships built solely on my “being nice” all the time. If I’m lucky, maybe there will still be a couple of people who will stick around even if they have to put some effort into the relationship.
Moreover, I’m removing my “no enemies” policy. Of course, I’m still going to treat people with respect and common decency, but I’m no longer going to make a mockery of friendship by maintaining a facade of goodwill toward people who continue to hurt me and those I care about. For those of you worrying about the implications of Matthew 5, I ask you to take a look at Psalm 11. God asks us to love as He loved — giving our enemies chance after chance after chance even when they don’t deserve it. But, love doesn’t mean being too unfeeling or stupid to know when “one more chance” isn’t going to make any difference.