Given that I have thinking on hard times as we enter Holy Week, with many funerals to plan and reaching out to families, and with a sermon on Palm Sunday that focused on the attraction of a Savior who offered less power and prestige and more accessibility and healing I have been focused on support. What is support and where do we find it, how do we nurture it and celebrate it.
In my many, many conversations with people on how they find and name support “loyalty” and “unconditional” are two words I hear frequently cited. I must say neither word has much resonance for me. I have been in hard times and like many I remember well the quality and quantity of support I received. On those occasions it was neither loyalty nor unconditional support that I valued. In hindsight what I needed then was honesty, humility and hope. From those who said, “you did nothing wrong, you are not at fault here, it is all them” I could tell they were disappointed I did not express more gratitude. Frankly these words sounded more like “taking sides”, people were lining up and those who told me they were with me said less about how I was and what the issue was than which side they had chosen.
I never want people to take sides. I never take sides. I believe people should be consistent, see the truth, side with the truth, support the truth and tell our friends and family the truth. Obviously we love our family and friends and we want them to see hope. I tell people challenged by issues and situations I am with them, here to support them no matter what. But when asked to share with them what I see I speak my truth, I tell them where I see the truth. But first I tell them a story of my own struggles, of my own shortcomings, of how I fall short and how I try to live into the truth. There are no lies or liars, only flawed people trying to live the truth as imperfectly as we are. I am 100% with the other but I also am with the truth, as least as I see it.
That’s what I want from my friends and family. Those people who spoke to me with love and truth in those hard times have my deep gratitude. I knew I was not perfect in those situations and I knew I was also being blamed for things that were not my fault. Those who offered me wisdom could affirm my mistakes and my virtues. They were no “yes people” or “mean people”, they neither told me what I wanted to hear, nor were they people who kicked me when I was down. There were plenty of them!
But the advice, counsel and support I valued the most came from a place of care, honesty and humility, people who had also screwed up (isn’t that all of us?), people who loved me and people who knew how to tell me what I might not have wanted to hear. I could hear them, in large part because I knew they cared about me, because of their humility and because they had some track record in my experience with being truthful about reality.
I also don’t think people who choose sides, whose loyalty colours their opinions, who tell the people they love what they want to hear, are doing their friend any favours. In the end there the patterns of behavior that get us in trouble will eventually take their toll unless those who love us get there first. The only thing that can save us from ourselves are those who love us when they are being honest with us.
I don’t use truthful as the opposite of lie, I use truthful as the opposite of speaking from and for one’s own. Loyalty is often a layer we use to speak something other than the truth, loyalty is often a way of shading the truth to make it come out as “we” over “them”. I don’t see the world as “we” and “them”, I see the world as one large collection of flawed people trying to stumble into the truth with the aid of wise mentors.
I honour and affirm support that has come to me in this fashion, I have learned from it and I am a better person/Christian because of it/them. Thank you.