Recently I’ve started to build my first solid community in and around San Jose. It’s exciting to make new friends, to find people who believe in you, and who will walk through life with you while pushing you to be a better person. However, recently I’ve realized that, in the excitement of establishing new relationships with others, I can get caught up in wanting their companionship instead of loving them and their company.
It’s a small difference, but when looking at the long-term health of my relationships, it’s the most crucial. The more I want people in my life, the more my mindset can turn inward and self-centered. The more I want these people to think I’m cool and worth being around, the more I want them to give me their time and attention, the more I want them to find value in me as I find value in them.
And although none of those things are inherently bad, for me it can be a slippery slope. People are my weakness. For so many years of my life, I found my self-worth in what other people thought of me and how much of themselves others would give to me. I don’t need anyone to tell me that it’s exhausting to be around that type of person, because I saw in my own life, how it ruined relationships. I completely destroyed one of my closest friendships in college because I continually demanded more and more of her time and her self than she was ready to offer. Instead of realizing I was wearing her out and taking it as a warning sign, I just demanded more until everything crumbled into pieces around me at the end of the year and we were left in the rubble. I had been trying to steal pieces of her foundation without taking into consideration that she needed them to stand.
Through that experience and several others, I finally learned that I wanted people in my life more for what they could offer me than for the simple enjoyment of their presence. I had to learn to love people instead of wanting them or what I thought they could give me.
And now, about two years removed, I’m realizing the difference and I’m recognizing it before it’s gone too far in the wrong direction. There are people I’ve met here who I’m really beginning to treasure, people who are impacting my life in major ways, and although I’m not nearly as bad as I used to be, I understand that I need to be careful.
Any relationship that starts to stress me out or that I start to think about too much, I have to step back from and ask myself what my motives are. Usually, if I’m stressing, it’s because I’ve forgotten to love first. It’s because I’ve forgotten to be present and people-first and have gotten in the way of the organic growth of relationships that are nurtured with selfless love. Instead of being the gardener who sees where her plants are growing and prunes accordingly, I can become a gardener who is trying too hard to direct growth and can prune when it’s harmful or forget to water because I’m so consumed with other, less important steps.
So in the stillness of this early morning, I am remembering to love. To love for no other reason than people are meant to be loved because they were created in and by love. To cherish those in my life because of their inherent worth as individuals and walk beside them because I’m excited to see where they go but never forcefully drag them along. To ask for help when needed but to never take or demand and to truly see those before me so that I can understand where they’re at and know how to love them best. To rest in the freedom of this mindset and be able to fully live into who I am and what I was made to do.
I am called to love first and trust that in the outpouring, I will be filled. To remember that when I love others well, most often, I am loved well in return and even if I am not, that I am still called to love. To know that my value is not in what others think of me but in my identity as a child, a beloved daughter of a great, kind father. To give freely of myself because I have been freely given to, given much more than I could ever know or repay.
Most importantly I am to hold people lightly in my hands but give them a firm foundation to stand upon within my life so that they know even if they’re by my side physically for only a season, they’re in my heart for a lifetime.
For I am called to love.