Thursday, April 18, 2013

"She doesn't like me."

The two of us were having another afternoon chat.  This time it involved painting our toenails, all the while trying to fend off the curious interest of the toddler-baby.  It was a delicate dance, but we managed with no great catastrophes.  And we talked.

My 3-year-old daughter saw a snapshot of a friend of hers from church.  A moment after I confirmed the little girl's name, my own sweetheart said something that stopped me in my tracks.

"She doesn't like me."

"What?" I asked.  "You think she doesn't like you?"

She shrugged her small shoulders.  "She doesn't like me.  She doesn't say hi back to me."  We talked about her her friend was quite a bit younger than herself, how it may not even occur to this little one to return a greeting.

But it got me thinking.  How often do we assume that the way people respond to our social advances is about us?  I do it too, all the time.  If someone always fails to return my smile in the church hallway, I wonder if she doesn't like me.  If we spend time socializing with another family and they never reciprocate, we think maybe they didn't enjoy the time as much as we did.

When I extend an invitation, maybe several invitations, and they are all declined, I am tempted to decide the person probably doesn't want to spend time with me.  Why?  I wonder.  What is it about me that makes her not want to spend time with me? Am I boring?  Awkward?  Unapproachable?  

What I've come to understand is that it isn't always about me.  In fact I suspect that it rarely is.    I don't meant to imply that I am a fascinating companion, a dazzling conversationalist, a social butterfly; let's face it, I am not.  There may be people who come into my daughter's life who honestly don't like her.  And our family?  I suspect the idea of inviting our family over is fairly intimidating.

Still, I think we need to stop making assumptions.  Or rather, stop making assumptions about how others see us.

People are busy.  Stressed.  Trying (like me!) to strike that delicate balance between getting everything done, spending time with their families and friends, and having time to play and relax.   Household chores, homework.  Taking time to cuddle, read, and just be.  Making sure responsibilities are taken care of as well as seizing the opportunity to take the kids to the park on a sunny day.

And people have their own concerns.  Worries.  They have their own insecurities, their own needs.  Sometimes, people are so preoccupied that it might not even occur to them to return a smile or an invitation.   It's not that they think much of anything about us; they've got other things on their minds.

So from now on, I'm resolving to assume that if someone doesn't return my efforts toward friendship, it isn't about me.  I'm going to assume they're busy, or preoccupied, or simply that their dance card is full already.  I'm going to straighten my shoulders and turn my gaze elsewhere.  There may be times when it is about me.  But most of the time that's simply not the case.

This weekend I will be gathering with a group of friends.  We've been planning this dinner for awhile now, and I'm looking forward to it.   All of us are busy.  We have families to raise, husbands to whom we're devoted, and households to run.  Most of us are homeschooling too.  Still, we have made the decision to take time for friendship as well.

That makes me smile.  Because it's a good thing to have a support group...and because it isn't all about me.


dtalley said...

I so needed to hear this! I really mt whole life have had a hard time with this very issue. I'm learning though. Just nice to hear I'm not alone. I tjink you and your famiky are amazing, kind, truly a blessing. Thank you for a sweet little girls honesty of her feelings to help us adults!

Ol' Dad said...

I remember I time years ago when I was working on the annual budget for the business I managed. Later I learned that as I walked down the halls several times, preoccupied, that others thought I looked mad. NOT! I was thinking.

It doesn't feel good when someone does not reciprocate a greeting or an invitation, but it feels good to others when you take an interest in them and how they are doing.

Traci K. said...

Great insight Mindy!