Before you judge my post by my title, these books do not read like typical self-help books. And they are really really good. So Tally-ho, let’s go! Let’s talk relationships.
As one of our new year resolutions, my husband and I decided we needed to re-evaluate our life and what was truly important to us. What we discovered is that our top 5 were:
- Deep relationships
So to improve our life, we’ve been making a lot of changes. We started saying “No” to things we don’t actually want to do but may have felt guilty about saying no to in the past. We’ve cleaned up what we take in. The TV is on a lot less, our TV shows are picked more carefully than ever, we monitor our music and we’ve started adding non fiction as a reading genre for ourselves. We have started eating all meals at our table as a family, and making sure to have worthwhile conversations there rather than eating and running to the couch. We’ve cut back on a lot of sugar, most breads, almost all soda (except for occasional fun days), and snacking for the sake of snacking. We’ve started training for a half marathon and trying to sleep more at night. We also have planned road trips and international trips for our future to give ourselves an idea of a timeline for our travels. We’ve bought into the minimalism hype and decided to adopt the idea of “comfy minimalism”-we only keep what’s useful or brings us joy. We’re working on being less wasteful and having a paper free kitchen.
But the largest area we’ve worked on this year is our relationships. I’m introverted and he’s anti-social and neither of us are actually good at friendships. I get flaky and distant without realizing it (and without knowing how to reverse it) and he just gets distant when life stresses him out. He’s in school full-time, working full time, running, and dedicating time to his family so he has definitely been in busy mode. Since we’ve simplified a lot, he’s less stressed but before it would have overwhelmed him and he would have shut down.
My small group at church decided to read Scary Close :Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller as a group study and it opened my eyes!
After decades of failed relationships and painful drama, Donald Miller decided he’d had enough. Impressing people wasn’t helping him connect with anyone. He’d built a life of public isolation, yet he dreamed of meaningful relationships. So at forty years old he made a scary decision: to be himself no matter what it cost.
Scary Close is a book about the risk involved in choosing to impress fewer people and connect with more, about the freedom that comes when we stop acting and start loving. It is a story about knocking down old walls to create a healthy mind, a strong family, and a satisfying career. And it all feels like a conversation with the best kind of friend: smart, funny, true, important. (Goodreads)
I’ve always bought into the idea that you have to be exactly like someone else in order to be friends with them. Sure, you can have minor differences here and there, but all the “big stuff” has to be the same. After reading this, I realized that as long as your differences aren’t unhealthy ones (illegal, abusive, health threatening), you can have healthy relationships with people who aren’t like you and that it’s hard but necessary to ditch the manipulative relationships that you inevitably find yourself in when you’re not careful. (Sometimes you’re the manipulator and it talks about that as well)
Then I had Uninvited :Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst recommended by a close friend. Yes, a close friend. I know I just said I suck at relationships but luckily, there are people out there who recognize that in me and love me through it! It’s a blessing! This book covers the pain of rejection, as well as rejections ability to poison relationships from the inside out, including our relationship with God. This one was also amazing, but it was a hard read for me because every new page had me saying “oh goodness, it’s like she wrote this for me specifically!” I wasn’t well liked in a previous middle school. I understand that middle school was 15 plus years ago, but I was singled out, picked on, and left out, and this was just added confirmation, on top of a previous abandonment by my biological father, that I just wasn’t worth people’s love or attention. During the ages in which your self-confidence is built or broken, mine was shattered. My parents recognized that and we relocated before eighth grade but the damage was done. I did so much better in my new school and made a lot of friendships that have stood the test of time but there’s always been a tiny sliver of me that whispers “You just have to agree and go along with everything your friends want otherwise they won’t love you.” That’s really damaging to relationships because then they aren’t built on a solid foundation of truth. So I’ve been letting more of myself out into the light and I’ve noticed that I definitely have relationships that seem to have shriveled under the light of who I truly am and my newfound determination to stick to my guns. I’d like to say I’m okay with that, but I’m not really. It makes me sad because I did cherish those friendships and I hope that they will strengthen again over time, but this time not at the sacrifice of either of our priorities. I’ve also formed some new friendships and strengthened other older ones based on my new presentation of myself. Apparently it’s an attractive quality for healthy relationships to love yourself, flaws and all!
There were a lot of quotes from each book that stood out to me so I will start with Scary Close and then continue on to Uninvited. I will also include some of my own personal notes so you can see my train of thought as I read.
“The reality is people are impressed with all kinds of things: intelligence, power, money, charm, talent, and so on. But the ones we tend to stay in love with are, in the long run, the ones who do a decent job loving us back.”
“Love can’t be earned, it can only be given. And it can only be exchanged by people who are completely true with each other.”
“Remarkably, the most common regret of the dying was this: they wish they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves and not the life others expected of them.”
“God is going to reveal me as a flawed human being as fast as he can and he’s going to enjoy it because it will force me to grapple with real intimacy.”
“I am willing to sound dumb. I am willing to be wrong. I am willing to be passionate about something that isn’t perceived as cool. I am willing to express a theory. I am willing to admit I’m afraid. I’m willing to contradict something I’ve said before. I’m willing to have a knee-jerk reaction, even a wrong one. I’m willing to apologize. I’m perfectly willing to be perfectly human.”
“The harshest people I’ve met over the years have had two things in common: they don’t fully trust anybody, and they view relationships as a means to an end.”
“If love is conditional, it’s just some sort of manipulation masquerading as love.”
*There are givers and takers in the world and it’s healthier to let go of the takers until they learn to be givers. Make sure to be intentional about being a giver as well
*The 5 closest people to us tells us all about who we are, more so than exercise, diet, or media consumption.
*Healthy relationships aren’t as dramatic as unhealthy ones because you lose the drama and get the connection instead.
*I want to be around people who are humble and hungry for Jesus, have healthy relationships, and work to create better realities in the world.
“Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what’s been said to me.”
“I’m not who that guy says I am. I’m not who that girl says I am. I’m not who social media likes and comments say I am. I’m not who the grades, to-do lists, messes, and mess ups say I am. I’m not who the scale says I am or the sum total of what my flaws say I am. I’m going to stop flirting with the unstable things of this world so I can fall completely in love with You. I am loved. I am held. I am Yours. I am forever Yours. The more intimacy like this that I have with God, the more secure my true identity is.”
“The mind feasts on what it focuses on. What consumes my thinking will be the making or the breaking of my identity.”
“People who care more about being right than ending right prove just how wrong they were all along.”
“Jesus doesn’t participate in the rat race. He’s into the slower rhythms of life, like abiding, delighting, and dwelling—all words that require us to trust Him with our place and our pace. Words used to describe us being with Him.”
“It’s impossible to hold up the banners of victim and victory at the same time.”
“I was created by God who formed me because He so much loved the very thought of me. When I was nothing, He saw something and declared it good. Very good. And very loved.
“I fight for her simply because I want to stay right in step with honoring God. The same way God made me and delighted, he made her and delighted as well and that is no light thing. She is just as precious to God as I am.”
“There is an abundant need in this world for my exact brand of beautiful.”
What am I paying attention to first thing in the morning and what am I paying attention to last thing at night?
If we’ve been exposed to a teaching that we know we need to implement in our own lives and hearts, and we don’t make any changes, that’s a clue that the hardening of that part of our heart is in process.
It will feel better to blame others for making me feel left out and lonely. It’s definitely hard to say “I’m probably a part of the issue here” but if I want things to be better for me and my heart, I need to take a hard look at me.
We are only going to be frustrated if we feel our lives can only improve by someone else putting forth the necessary effort to make our lives easier. That’s problematic because we can’t control other people. A more productive way to change is to look at ways to change ourselves and our expectations of others.
I need to post less boasting on social media to fill the craving inside of me for acceptance. I should turn instead to God and how he can fill me.
I need to worry less about making my point and being right and more on progress and grace in relationships.
So yeah, I realize that this was a long post, but it felt good to get it all out there. I’m a work in progress, clearly! Hopefully you stuck with me until the end.