Sunday, March 27, 2011

Used

You know, I've been involved in this online community of struggling folks for about five years, and in that time I've developed some very close bonds. They are, in essence, the closest bonds that I have with anyone outside of my immediate family. This was especially true after joining an accountability group on Facebook, where I was able to "meet" several people I had known on my blog for years, and attach names and faces to situations and personalities that I already knew about in writing. These online friendships led to real-life ones, and I visited several of these people while on a road trip this past summer. In fact, I don't think I would be in Baltimore at all if it wasn't for the fact that the closest of these friends was a student here, and encouraged me to apply to the school I now attend. In short, these have been some very important friendships to me, but I'll also admit that these friendships have been extremely challenging in the past. I don't think it's unfair to say that I go out of my way to please people, and like I've said on this blog, I've had a lifelong obsession with finding a place to belong.

Well, when I first found this online community, and especially when I joined the Facebook group two years ago, I felt I had finally found my place to belong. Unfortunately, my views at the time were rather liberal and unorthodox, and the fact that I have a pretty polemic, abrasive personality meant I was in conflict with folks quite a lot. As tough as I tried to appear, this was pretty much torture to me. Here was my place to belong, and yet I felt like a constant outsider because I didn't go to Exodus conferences, I didn't really buy into a lot of the theories about orientation causation or change and my political views were more libertarian than the standard religious conservative's. So I argued a lot, and if anyone reading this ever got into an argument with me back then, they know that I could get extremely passionate. I still can, really. Why, just the other day I was talking to a friend online, who got tired with the argument and signed off quickly. I kept calling him and calling him after that, until he eventually blocked my number. We've since reconciled and I definitely know that my behavior was out of line, but it's just an example that serves to illustrate this point: I totally realize I can be a lot to handle sometimes.

I am still human, though, and I do think that I have put in a lot of time and effort into these relationships. Frankly, I've put in more time and effort into online relationships and my own introspective, reflective writing than I have to bonds in the real world. Of course, I still have a lot of friends and acquaintances in "real life." I think I can be fairly affable in person, although I'm a little eccentric and not above being awkward. But like I said a few posts ago, I'm a writer. I see myself and think of myself as a writer, and even if I'm not a good writer, even if I'm never published or successful in that particular field, the fact remains that I express myself best through the words that I write, not the ones that I say. Therefore, the people who know me best are those who know my writing. Short of reading all the short stories, unfinished novels, journal entries and other notes I've compiled over the years, the best way to get to know who I am as a person is to simply read both my old blog and this current one, and also to talk to me through e-mails, Facebook messages and chats. You'll get to know me better than you would if you knew me in person, where I think I can be very polite and presentable, but not much else.

The odd thing is that, over the course of the past few years, I changed a lot about myself. Oh, sure, I'm still a lot to handle, but my views on issues really did change. I'm not going to say I'm totally a fan of Exodus, but my position has moderated extremely from where it once was, mainly because I've come to know people who are actually involved in Exodus. In essence, I've become a lot more conservative than I once was. I don't know why, exactly. Examining motivations like this is pretty difficult, if not totally impossible, but I know that I used to share a lot of anxieties with people, telling them that I felt like an outsider in the group because of my more liberal views. I do think that, although I think conservatism is pretty logically consistent anyway, I wouldn't have sought to change myself if I wasn't seeking after approval and acceptance from friends.

That's why the recent situations with several friends who have gotten boyfriends have been so difficult. I felt like I made myself a conservative just to win their friendship, and I went through so many arguments, tantrums, anxieties, etc. Just when I felt like everything was going swell, I feel like I've been rejected again. I'm back to square one, because they're all liberal and I'm the one holding onto conservatism. That's just really hard. I usually try to write a little more clearly, but what else is there to say? It's hard. I changed a lot about myself for other people, even moving to another city for other people, and now I'm left without them. Oh, sure, many may say we're still friends, although others have made it clear that we're not, but the fact remains that the personal renovations I did to myself have now, well, seemed to have been for absolutely nothing. I don't think anyone consciously asked me to change myself, nor do I think anyone consciously used me, but that's how I feel: Spent and used. And I'm very tired. I know I'll get up tomorrow, and things will keep going, and writing this out tonight has helped a little. But, man, I'm just really, really tired. And I'm trying to figure out why I'm still fighting like I do.

7 comments:

  1. Hey Jay,
    Its been a while and to be honest, lengths of time pass from when I get a chance to read your thoughtful words. Although I am a people-pleaser to some extent, I've never walked in your shoes so can't really say anything that would be helpful, other than God bless you. I hope that in time, you'll be able to look back on your words and think how awesome it was that God brought you through these times of difficulty, to His glory.
    Take care, bro
    In Christ,
    G.Houtchens

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  2. Thank you, Glenn. It certainly has been awhile. Feel free to e-mail me if you want to catch up. I'm pretty busy these days, and writing these past few blog posts has probably taken up more time than it should have, but I'll make sure to reply as soon as I can. Thank you for the encouragement.

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  3. I understand how you feel. The last few years I've gone from being extremely conservative, living in an extremely conservative environment, to being much more of a moderate in more liberal environments.

    People change whether they want to or not. When we grow as individuals and try to find our place in the world, a lot of our earlier beliefs and practices can be altered somewhat. As an example, I used to really believe in the death penalty. After deliberating on the subject quite a lot and having read a very strong pro-life argument from a friend of mine I realized my earlier beliefs were all wrong. I am now not in favor of the death penalty. Does that make me more liberal? Maybe. But that change is one I am comfortable with. I believe fully in it. Now, if that friend who convinced me in this belief suddenly decided the death penalty is okay, it wouldn't bother me (though I might be purplexed some). Nor does it bother me that people who live around me strongly disagree with me on the subject. That is because I am who I am and believe what I choose, and they are who they are and believe what they choose. People are all different and it is okay to accept our differences.

    Be yourself, Jay. Don't ever change yourself just to fit in. Be who you want to be. Don't worry about others. If you like who you are and are comfortable with who you are you will fit in wherever you go and with whatever group you are with. Others may not like you, but at least at the end of the day you can say you like yourself and know who you are. If you're only what everybody else wants you to be, then you really are lost. You wouldn't be Jay anymore.

    It does suck feeling alone though, or feeling as though you are the odd man out. I've felt like that a lot in my life. You just have to keep working on finding out who you are though and getting the determination to like who you are despite what others think. I know at times I can be very effiminate, and I used to pretend I was different or use that as an excuse not to be around some people. But I realized a few years back that I was tired of pretending I was something different. I started just being myself and not caring if others thought that about me. In fact, at times, people have said they thought I was effeminate. But I haven't let it bother me, and it honestly hasn't kept people from wanting to be friends with me.

    Just be yourself. Figure out what works best for you. Don't go along just to get along. You don't try to be something different with God do you? As he knows you, allow others to know you. And from that you'll find true friends.

    Bless ya much, brother! :)

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  4. Brandon, thank you for your gracious and generous replies. I don't ever have anything to add because they're so wise. You're a great friend and you always point me in the right direction, even if I am very stubborn about not walking down that road sometimes! Thanks for commenting. I always appreciate it. Truly.

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  5. "I felt like I made myself a conservative just to win their friendship."

    That doesn't sound like friendship to me.

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  6. Coming in a tad tardy ...

    1. It's expected that any Christian who continues in the way is going to change. It's called sanctification, it's as expected of a Christian as wetness is of water.

    2. Ah, but ... change in what direction? Away from those around me? Toward those around me? You can see both directions occurring among Christians and non-Christians alike. Anyone growing is going to change. But, again, growing into what?

    3. Our goal is to grow into an image of Christ. And, if you wish to get some idea of where you're supposed to be headed, look to those who are ahead of you one the road. In particular, look into the ranks of Christians who have finished their trek to Mother Jerusalem for the past 20 centuries. The ones with sufficient renown to have left a record for you to examine are legion! And, those are just the ones who, for whatever reasons, get remembered today.

    The New Testament will give you a good framework inside of which to interpret the data you examine from the lives of godly saints (not just the canonical ones, too). The fruits of the Spirit, the virtues St. Peter enumerates in 2 Peter 1:5-11. Flesh out this framework by seeing it incarnated in the lives of godly Christians and let THAT be the standard by which you evaluate the changes in your own life.

    4. Finally, expect that as you change as you ought, you shall find yourself more and more unlike the world. It cannot be otherwise, if what our Lord said about the world (and we within it) is true.

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  7. Before a fall, comes pride. Love is the answer.

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