Our Relationships Are Fractured Because We Love Imperfectly

Misty wrote a heartfelt entry about friendships and issues with them the other day, and I want to snip out a bit of it, because I was trying not to go all Bible-Ass Man in her comments:

Maybe it’s because I don’t share myself easily. I feel like I share with people I know but there is that conundrum of how do you get to know someone new without sharing first. I find that with new people I think that they don’t know me very well and so assume that they don’t want to or worse, assume they know me on the basis of a few casual encounters. (Of course, I guess by putting all this out here I’m allowing a few more people to know me better.) Maybe this is because I’ve had a couple of good friends for 15+ years and they have all the shorthand of my personality and history so there is so much about myself that I don’t have to explain or that they just “get” because of all of that history. They know me and maybe this is just what I’m missing with new people.

Maybe this problem is because I think everyone should be my best friend. And really, that’s just not possible. Sure you can have a lot of friends, an even wider circle of acquaintances but actual close friends? How many can one person realistically juggle? I think this is too much pressure on everyone involved. So then how do you catagorize the ones you have? I’ve not yet figured out how to be successful with this.

Now, if you go read the comments link from the first paragraph, you’ll see that I brought up Dunbar’s number, which is my pretty, shiny sociological concept of the moment. [Yes, I’m one of those “when all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail” kind of people with new ideas.] But I also said this to Misty in an email I sent her later:

I hold to the belief set that, while grace covers our sins, it certainly doesn’t mean that we’re fully righteous. We get imputed righteousness in God’s eyes, but we’re still broken, screwed-up people. Yeah, we should be getting better every day, no longer slaves to sin and the law but to grace, but that’s a life-long process.

The consequences of all that is that we love each other in our relationships imperfectly, because while we can understand perfect love in Christ’s example, none of us can follow it at all times.

It takes some people a lifetime to unpack all their screwed-up ways. Lord knows I’m still working on all sorts of mine!

If I’m honest with myself, I recognize how I fail all my friends in their relationships. The good friendships come when we recognize that we’re all going to screw up and will just try to work through it the best that we can.

I’ve been experiencing this in another arena with a discussion on the [rocksmyfaceoff.net] Forum [which I used to run, but no longer do], about how that group is really hard to crack into at times. And I think the fact that we love and relate imperfectly is wholly central to the issues there, too. If you sit and read through that thread, you’ll see a lot of pain and hurt feelings, as well as some unfortunate pridefulness and blindness to others’ feelings. [And I count myself amongst the latter, so don’t feel like I’m attacking people here.] Here’s what I said there:

We’re the Borg. Eventually, we assimiliate you and add your uniqueness to our own. But you have to accept that.

Hive mind sucks, but groups of people have hive mentalities. It’s really hard to break that, and I think it’s probably unrealistic to expect that we’re not going to act with a hive mind. Should we strive not to do it? Absolutely. But the old saw about a person being smart but people being collectively dumb certainly applies to us as well as it does any assemblage.

I have used the statement “A Community of Communities” before, and I do think that it’s appropriate. As much as I hate it, this place can be a lot like high school—most notably the Random Board. You do have a group of posters that, whether they fully realize it or not, are sitting at the popular table in the cafeteria. It’s somewhat conscious, but somewhat unconscious, too.

Lastly, let me be my normally geeky self and point you to Wikipedia’s page on Dunbar’s number, which is a neuropsychological precept that sociologists and anthropologists generally concur. On average, human social groups max out at about 150 people before breaking down, purely because of the recall limitations of the brain. Look at your church congregations [if you attend]: if you attend a small church, you certainly feel like you have an idea of who everyone is, but if your congregation is above 300 or so, chances are that there’s a number of folks whose names you’d have trouble recalling, much less know things about them [how many kids, whether their parents are still alive, what they do for a living, what football teams they root for, etc.].

Social groups are in a state of flux, too. Being a part of the “popular kids” takes a lot of time and energy, and it has to be a priority for you, I think. Of course, then you have to ask yourself if that’s really a priority. If not, well, there’s lots of other tables in the cafeteria where you can get to know some really cool folks. 🙂

Now, there was a time when that community was my primary social outlet. I found that to be unhealthy, so it’s no longer that, but it is still very much a social outlet for me, because I have met many wonderful friends from there. I think it makes a great example for all of my readers, though, that are not a part of the community about how we love imperfectly—because you’ll see it in everyone’s words.

Now, to get back to a response to Misty, she nails it:

Maybe it’s because so many of us are just broken. I know most of us are damaged in some way over something in our past. Sometimes we deal with it and go on and sometimes we just can’t get past it. And sometimes even when we are actively trying to get pass this stuff, we still run into it in our relationships. I still occasionally deal with fallout associated with my parents divorce (both in my own marriage and in my interactions with others) and I feel like I have pretty successfully dealt with their separation.

My only quibble is that “so many of us” should be “all of us”. We’re all horribly broken, horribly needy. Like Jill Phillips sings, “Nobody’s got it all together.”


  1. I actually did have “alll of us” and then considered there are a couple of people I’ve known over my lifetime who did seem to have their stuff all together. Rare, but occasionally the truely healthy individual makes an appearance.

  2. But I bet those truly healthy people have just accepted their faults, etc. They know what their weaknesses are.

    I had someone tell me [from reading GFMorris.com, which makes me laugh] that they thought that I had my life together. I laughed at that for a good, solid minute. I’m a wreck.

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