relational pessimism

In most of life, I tend towards optimism. I dream big dreams. I see how bad circumstances can have a good outcome. I believe I can get 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5 pound bag. There is one area, though, where my outlook tends to be negative: friendships.

I have relational pessimism.

When I get together with moms I don’t know for a play date, I assume it won’t go anywhere after that. When I don’t hear from a friend for awhile, I assume it’s because they don’t value my friendship. When I go into a social setting with lots of people, I assume people don’t want to talk to me.

My pessimism is a wall. I have set it up over the years as a way to protect my hopes from being shattered. But the wall I’ve created blocks my view. My relational pessimism keeps me from seeing potential in my fellow human beings.

Believe it or not, the person who is making me realize this about myself, and making me want to change, is my son. Since we moved, we are all trying to make new friends. We are in that boat together. And while I am being pessimistic, he is being optimistic. The other day, when we were on our way home from preschool, he said some of the most powerful words about friendship that I have ever heard. When talking about another boy in his class, Cameron said,

“He’s my friend. He just doesn’t know it yet.”

What a beautiful picture of childhood faith and optimism. He is seeing this other boy not in light of the possible hurt, but in light of the possible relationship. He is viewing his current reality through the eyes of potential future that is worth pursuing. And, he is basing a care for someone not based on what they have done for him, but simply based on who that other person is.

Friendships are tricky. They can lead to hurt feelings. But they can also lead to beauty and grace. God created us to be in community with others. When we stifle that, we are hindered from being the person God made us to be, and we are hindered from loving the way God made us to love.

God loved us before we did anything to deserve it. God has always related to us in light of our potential, not our current state. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God also says that when we live in community, and love in the same way, that is what draws us closer to him. Friendships are worth the risk.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. – 1 John 4:10-12