One of my favorite writers is Ralph Waldo Emerson (he was a poet, essayist, and lecturer). He was brilliant. If you search through his works he is most often quoted for, you will know that he was chalk full of wisdom and I'd be willing to bet a lot like each of us.
My favorite of his quotes is this:
To laugh often and love much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
I could blog a day or two for each line of this quote. Perhaps I have and will continue to steal inspiration from these words. But today as I bid farewell to 2012 the line I borrowed for my title seems to weigh heaviest on my heart.
2012 was a hard year for me in many ways. The hardest perhaps has been in the realm of relationships. I ended this year feeling as though 90% of my relationships either greatly increased or greatly decreased in 2012. I feel indebted for those that have been strengthened this year and especially for new friendships that have sprung up in the midst of trial. But as I close out 2012 I'm reminded that I have to be grateful for those that have changed in a negative way this year as well.
Emerson says that part of success is to endure the betrayal of false friends. I have had some of that this year. One example would be that I received a text message written by a friend, about myself, that was intended for someone else this year. The content was gossipy but not altogether hurtful. It was however a glaring reminder to be careful of false friendships. Not everyone has your best interest at heart and those who will talk to you, will frequently talk about you. This seems to be made worse if you're a woman.
Perhaps my greatest friendship trials of this year were those that were on my heart when I wrote this untitled post. I didn't realize how perfectly I worded it then when I said 'I will bare the scars of my choice and theirs'. That rings true as I close this year - 2012 has left it's mark in the form of scars. They seem to be glaring at me as I close a tough year and look forward to 2013 with purpose and clear perspective. This year was a defining year for me. This was a year of being the person I've claimed to be and striven to be.
I went on to write in that same post that when we are faced with the end of relationships or when we end a season in them we have to reflect on who we are and who we desire to be. On that note I wrote this:
I desire to be the kind of friend who's love protects. I desire to be trustworthy and reliable. I desire to be honest even when it hurts. I desire to be real. I desire to be gracious and loving. I desire to be like Christ in that I want my love to cover a multitude of sin. I desire to treat others to the gift of grace I have been given. I desire to be a person of character who's walk lines up with their talk. I desire to be uncompromising in my convictions. And I hope to earn respect where I cannot earn approval.
Emerson might have had similar thoughts as he wrote that another aspect of succeeding is to win the respect of honest critics. We all have to endure criticism and we all have to learn to guard ourselves against those who aren't honest in their critiques as well. But to earn respect where you cannot earn approval, well, that looks like success to me.
I want to pause to say that whether or not Emerson knew this, we sometimes endure betrayals from real friends as well. I appreciate more than ever that we're all human and as such we make mistakes. Mine are many. And so, I don't believe that every betrayal signals a false friendship, but I do believe that those require the most grace in responding.
I find that I'm ending 2012 with a lot of unresolved feelings. I'm glad to see it go and I'm ready to welcome 2013 in so many ways. With that though I realize that you can't run away from the scars of a hard year and that in tough relational years you learn the most about forgiveness, about restoration, and you learn hard lessons about yourself.
I am a grudge holder, which I've confessed more than a time or two. But perhaps worse still, I am a rescuer. I desperately want to help people and with the start of 2013 I recognize that while there's a place for the people you desire to help and be there for, the majority of your relationship energy and time should be invested in those relationships in which there is a healthy ebb and flow. And so, I sat and thought hard about the people in my life who challenge me first and foremost in my faith and secondly in other aspects of life. I thought about the people who encourage me, grow me, push me, and tell me hard truths. I thought about the fact that we become the company we keep and I took a hard look at which of my friendships I wouldn't mind that being true in. I am refocusing my relationship time and energy this year and looking forward to how the Lord will grow me.
I hope that for each of us, 2013 is a year of successes.