Monday, November 2, 2020

The Unfriending

If you're like me, you've lost at least one friend this political season. (And I know that many of you are like me because I'm seeing your social media posts about it.) And we're not just talking about on-again, off-again acquaintances or someone you haven't talked to in ten years; we're talking about persons who are intimately involved in your life, who you have shared your darkest moments with. 

All of a sudden, they want nothing to do with you because of which political candidate you support (or are against). This friend, who you have celebrated birthdays with, grieved losses with, laughed late into the night with, cried in the basement with, gone out to dinner with, swapped Christmas cards with, worshipped with, sends you a message that says, "I can't believe who you really are" when they find out who you voted for and then, poof, they're gone. You're blocked. 

And somehow, both of you are left feeling betrayed.

Of course, you feel betrayed because you can't believe that your friend has forgotten ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years of memories that you have made together and all of the thousands of ways that you've invested love in one another. You can't believe that your friend thinks so little of you that who you voted for is the only thing that is important about you. 

Your friend feels betrayed because they can't believe that as much as you have loved them, you apparently never really loved them because you voted against their interest. They feel like you must have been faking it this whole time, must have been pretending to be something that you weren't. To them, those ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years all feel like a lie. 

What's amazing, and what I think is more true this year than in any year in our past, is how unwilling we are any more to consider that we might be wrong, that this world may not be as black and white as they tell us it is. What I mean is this: four years ago and eight years ago and twelve years ago, I discovered that many of my friends, even close friends, even respected mentors, were on the other side of the political spectrum from me. I discovered they were passionately on the other side of the political spectrum from me. And I also saw that they were full of love being there. What I knew about my friends changed the way that I thought about those across the political aisle. My relationships with them helped me to develop a new frame for politics. 

Today, politics seems to call into question everything we think we know about our friends. Today, we're more likely to think that our friends are not who they seemed to be and instead of letting a whole lifetime of memories of love temper the way we think about politics, we let politics sever some of the relationships that we hold nearest and dearest. 

And we think our friends, not our politics, have betrayed us! 

I say that to say this, to remind us all of this (and I'm speaking not just to those who are doing the unfriending, but to those who are being unfriended) - you are who your lifetime of love says that you are. You are every little moment you've poured out into your relationships. You are more than who you voted for, and the truth is that we all have our reasons for voting the way that we've voted. Anyone who truly knows your story ought to appreciate that. But the politicization of our entire culture has rendered that nearly impossible these days. 

When your friend says they can't believe who you 'really are,' know this: you 'really are' birthday cakes and dinners out and Christmas cards and dark nights of the soul and shoulders to cry on and a partner in crime. You really are everything you've ever invested in someone else out of the depth of your love and your own belovedness. You really are a child created in the image of God with something to teach us all about Him. You really are the kind of life you live day-in and day-out, and you really are a person with the experiences and perspective to vote the way that you did. 

And if we could all, right now, remember the kind of love that we've shared with one another, maybe we'd learn a little something about why that is. But we're too busy being 'right' to be 'real' about anything any more, and that's why we're losing one another. It all just feels, particularly this year, so personal. 

And it is. 

But it's not just your person that gets to feel that way. It is also the persons you love and who have loved you. It gets to be personal for them, too. Remember their love, and you will remember this, too. 

If you are my friend, I treasure that. If you vote across the political aisle from me, that might sometimes surprise me (and sometimes not). But you're never going to lose me over it, unless you choose to walk away. Because I know who you are. I know who you've been. I know what you do with your love on every Tuesday of the whole year, and I trust that you are doing that with your love on this Tuesday, too. 

Be kind to one another, friends. You know who your friends really are; today doesn't change that. Today doesn't change them. Don't let today change you.  

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