I play a game with my friends sometimes, but it is not a game anyone wins. It’s a “game” called, “Prove you love me,” and it is exhausting and defeating for anyone who chooses to engage.
I am thirty-eight but have the emotional maturity of a middle-schooler at times. A friend doesn’t text or call in nearly a week or two and I am certain I am off “the list,” that unwritten list of priority friendships. Scrolling through Instagram, I come upon a picture of some of my friends enjoying some outing to which I wasn’t invited and I think, “They didn’t want me there because I am the killer of fun, or worse, they just forgot about me altogether!”
My husband and I decide to initiate a last minute bon-fire and start firing off texts and phone calls to see who is available to come. One after another, friends tell us of plans they already have in place. I conclude, “Clearly, I am the uncool kid. Everyone has plans, and I was included in NONE of them.”
You see, I feel loved most when I am given time and words of affirmation. When those are withheld for a period of time, I begin to grow insecure. I doubt another’s care for me, and if I am not careful, dive head long into thoughts that leave me feeling unloved and at times even hated. It can spiral downward at the speed of lightning, and I become sullen, despondent, and tempted to isolate myself.
I have even been known to sing, “Nobody likes me; everybody hates me. I guess I’ll go eat worms.” Transport me straight back to middle school because in these dark moments, this is what it feels like.
For the purpose of this article, however, I want to share what I have found to be most helpful when I find myself caught playing this relational game because the Bible tells me that even though I fear I may be the only grown woman who struggles with this, I am not.
I know the ways in which I am tempted are ways in which others are tempted as well. (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.) So I offer three ways in which I seek to wrestle down my thoughts and affections to bring them in line with what is true and lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy.
[lead]Assume the Best[/lead]
One of the first things I try to do when ensnared in a web of unhelpful, unlovely thoughts, is to consider the situation from my friend’s perspective. Perhaps her phone died and she therefore hasn’t been able to text me back. Perhaps, she is beyond busy or burdened with something I know nothing about and just hasn’t had the time to be in contact. I shouldn’t be surprised that others’ calendars are full; mine is often the same way. I tell myself that another’s silence does not equate a lack of love just as my neglect to recognize her birthday or other special day with a gift, card, or phone call does not mean I love her any less. I am just really awful about recognizing these special days in such ways. As I want grace extended for my oversight, so I need to be willing to extend similar grace and understanding.
[lead]Get All the Love You Could Possibly Need or Want from God[/lead]
I must also remember a foundational truth: I was not made to be the center of anyone’s universe. I was made for the glory of another. I was created to worship God, to make Him the center of my universe. And as I was made for this, so was everyone else. My friends are not to make me the center of their worlds; they are to live according to the purposes of Christ. At times, that will include demonstrating love and care to me. But, in the times that it does not, I need not fear being unloved. I am loved by the One whose love is perfect, whose love never disappoints and knows no limits. His love casts out all fear. I can run to His love and be filled to overflowing by the One who always has time for me, Who always is enough, Who never tires of listening to me or reassuring me. (See 1 John 4:18, Romans 5:5, Isaiah 40: 28, Psalm 103, Romans 8:31.)
[lead]Look to Meet the Needs of Others[/lead]
When I am so consumed with myself, there is little to no room in my mind or heart to consider another’s feelings or needs. However, when I go to God to receive all that I need by way of my “love cup” being filled to overflowing, I then see others in a whole new light (i.e., not as the means to receiving what I need but as an opportunity to give what I have received).
What a difference this makes in relationships! My friend, who, according to my judgments was just moments ago ignoring or hating me, now becomes a person I want to bless, a person I want to pray for and love, no strings attached. Even more so, I am postured to see beyond the scope of my current relationships to people who may need me to reach out to them, to show interest in who they are, or to communicate value by simply recognizing their existence.
I have learned, painfully at times, that no one ever wins when I play the “prove you love me” game. There is only One who is able to bear the weight of this demand that my insecure, needy heart makes so often. His name is Jesus. He proved His love to me for all eternity when He willingly obeyed His Father unto death on a cross for the joy set before Him — the joy of seeing my face in Heaven with Him for all eternity. I am His joy. Always and forever. I need never fear. I need never doubt His love, nor do you.
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Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
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