“We’d been hanging out. It had been fun. I liked the time we spent together, he came over when I called, and to be honest I liked the attention. And then it started to fade and I wondered why.
“’Whoa there!’ He exclaimed when we talked about it. ‘All I did was pay you a bit of attention, and you, well, you started offering me your heart, no questions asked.’
“But really he’d already let me know without saying a word that he was not interested in a future with me. I was seeking something meaningful but instead I was left holding my heart out to no-one with the embarrassing realisation that I had settled for scraps.”
It is the dilemma of a friend who asked me why she was content with this guy’s vague and inconsistent gestures, and didn’t question her own standards of what she deserved. She also asked me why friends didn’t give better advice. They knew this guy wasn’t the greatest catch but saw her infatuation with him. Instead of asking the critical questions or considering her motives, they said ‘do whatever makes you happy.’
There’s a moment when something fun and casual could become something more. There’s a moment when you realise that perhaps the person sat opposite you is thinking the same as you. Maybe they like the fact you turn up, maybe they enjoy your company. Maybe it is the beginning of something meaningful and long-lasting.
But there’s also the cliff edge that you might go hurtling over. When the road lurches to the left and you keep on going. How do you know whether it’s the yellow brick road ahead or a vast ocean of humiliation as you bare your soul and they respond with “whoa there”?
It’s part of the chaos and absurdity and fun and anxiety of a dance between two people trying to figure something out. Sometimes it is spoken and sometimes it is not. At times it is unbalanced or one-sided, other times it is a match, either way it is an exploration.
There is being blind and being blindly in love, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. You can throw everything you have at a situation, forgetting to take into account your standards, values, worth and get it completely wrong, feeling like you have nothing left to offer.
Or you might guard your heart and never risk a thing. And also never gain anything.
I don’t know where we ever got the idea that relationships should be simple or without mess. Maybe from a culture that presents fairy tale endings and a church that reinforces them. Maybe from unspoken brokenness and paraded happiness from those who seem to have got it right. Maybe from a theology that has lost sight of the rupture that exists between us all.
Where we look for affirmation from anyone who will give us attention and accept the bare minimum. When we want to feel wanted, risking it all, but end up on our own. Like that moment when you see the last piece of Turkish Delight slip out of the box toward the floor, to be covered in dust and dirt, and your hand flies to catch it as though it is a Fabergé egg. Are you settling for scraps or catching a rare gem before it passes by?
Back to the ‘whoa there!’ chap. He’s an idiot. And he is sometimes me. He said that he would have made more effort if he had known she was interested in him, but instead, he dismissed her with silent awkwardness, leaving her to feel that she was not good enough.
How are we treating people? Are we encouraging them to seek more than scraps or letting them walk blindly into something fruitless? Are we just stringing them along with scraps of attention or making sure that they know our intentions? What does that do to their self-esteem, and come to think of it, what does it do to your own self-worth?
What we say, what we do and how we act needs to create a safe environment for those we encounter. Offering grace to each other to step up to the plate without fearing humiliation if we take a swing and it’s the bat that ends up rocketing toward third base. Because in the end, we should never leave anyone feeling that they are settling for scraps or that they only have scraps left to offer.
Image by Constantin Jurcut, via stock.xchng images.