I was on the phone with an almost flame.
We had tried dating but I realized before he did that we could barely be friends, much less a couple. So I had told him I needed space. He didn’t agree with my decision, and even though he was trying his best to give me space, he couldn’t help telling me things that he really had no business telling me as a friend.
As we spoke, I realized this would be another one of those conversations where I would have to set him straight. I’m not the type to lead a man on. I waited patiently for him to finish telling me the intricate details of his latest business plan.
“… So when anything new comes up I’ll update you.” He concluded.
“You don’t have to update me.” I said quickly. “Just do what you have to do. But there’s no need to update me.”
There was a pause. He was silent for a heartbeat. “Oh.” He said. “Okay.” He was managing to sound like something had been taken away from him.
“I just wanted to discuss with someone. You know, have someone to talk to about these things.”
I resisted an automatic eye roll and tried to control the bubble of frustration rising up in my belly. Anyone listening in would have thought I hadn’t said the equivalent of those words to him at least 15 other times.
“Please give me some space.” “We can’t break up and still be the way we were.” “There have to be boundaries.” “How many of your friends do you tell these things?”
I wondered vaguely if he genuinely did not remember all the other times I had carefully explained the details of what I meant when I said I needed space. I was wary of giving him the wrong impression, and he is the type to take a leg when you give him a toe. How can we no longer be a couple but pretend we’re best friends when we were never really friends in the first place? How can we even transition from being in love to being friends without an interlude in the time frame? These are personal questions. A diversion. Let me get back to what I was saying.
He was sounding like a lost puppy, and I was slightly irritated at having to deal with that guilt trip again. Not for the first time, I nursed the idea of cutting him off completely.
After we hung up, I spent some time thinking. What was incredibly disturbing to me was that he was insisting on what he wanted without considering how that would affect me. He didn’t seem to be thinking about if his actions had any bearing on what I had specifically told him I didn’t want. He was lonely and he wanted to still have me available emotionally, the way I had been emotionally available while we were dating. Was he simply ignoring the fact that I no longer wanted to be available that way?
I was uncomfortable because he didn’t seem concerned about how uncomfortable I was. Does that make any sense?
One Mile If You Please Sir, Not Two.
I’ve noticed that there are people who insist on your time, attention, and space without any thought to how their questions/body contact/statements/requests might make you feel. From the fellow on the bus who sits a little too close to you for no reason even though he has plenty of room on his side, to the woman who sits beside you on a bus and won’t stop asking questions about your personal life. It could even be a situation as simple as a person you just met who desperately wants to be friends and won’t stop trying to rope you into a conversation.
I don’t know if things like this make me uncomfortable because I’m extremely introverted, or because things like this are just generally not okay. It makes me think of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5:38-42 and especially Matthew 5:41 where He says:
“When they force you to go one mile, go with them two.”
I can’t help feeling attacked by the implication of that bible verse. I’m incredibly alarmed at the thought of having to go two miles with certain kinds of people. In some cases that would mean bearing things that I’m not even sure I can take.
Whenever I read that verse, I instinctively start to ransack my brain for an easier interpretation. It can’t mean actually giving myself up to suffering, can it? I mean, I don’t mind suffering for my faith but some things are just not okay! This is where I usually come to an awkward pause in sorting my thoughts… Because in an almost comical moment of self-discovery, I suddenly realize that I’m more than willing to be tortured for refusing to disown my faith but not remotely ready to even entertain the thought of someone invading my personal space. How odd.
I attempt to move on from that uncomfortable thought.
So then… what does that verse mean? Isn’t there a difference between letting yourself suffer and letting people who should know better take advantage of you? Shouldn’t I keep those kinds of people from hurting me? Then I think “What if I’m not supposed to keep them from hurting me?” And at this point, I pause not just in discomfort but also in alarm.
Uh Uh. No way.
I mean sure, Jesus begins that section of his teaching by saying “You must not oppose those who want to hurt you…” But surely wanting to hurt is a completely different thing from hurting ignorantly. I mean there’s levels to discomfort and I can only take the evil villian/tyrant/bully kind. The reasonable kind. Not the ‘I should know better and I probably do but I’m going to act like I don’t because I feel like it kind’. Not the annoying neighbor kind. Right? I should at LEAST be able to set my neighbor straight… Right??
I mean, these little things are just not acceptable are they?
I push these thoughts away and shelf them for another day. There is only one thing I’m sure of as I shut the door on a closet full of thoughts: It feels a lot like there’s a limit to the things I will allow myself take. And it seems I don’t fully understand those limits myself.
It’s 11pm. I start to prepare for bed. The notification tone on my phone goes off. It’s a message from one of the younger men I know.
“Hello.” His message says.
I switch off my smartphone and climb into bed mumbling to myself. Before I fall asleep, a thought sneaks into my head.
What if Jesus’ point was that sometimes we have to let ourselves be overwhelmed?