“You know I didn’t like you too much at first.”

Maybe it’s the way I make a first impression, maybe it’s my air of arrogance, maybe it’s my aurora of awesomeness, but I am often the recipient of the phrase, “You know I didn’t like you too much at first.”

I once mentioned this to someone I trusted and they politely said, “Yeah I can see that.”
“Do people say that to you too?” I asked.
“Is it because all people instantly like you or is it that those who don’t like you continue not liking you?”
Silence accompanied by an eye roll that I think meant, “I don’t like you anymore.”

Now, when someone finally admits this to you, there’s a comical sense of validation. It’s like, “I finally won you over with my charm” or “I knew you’d come around. I told you I was awesome!” If that arrogance didn’t get them to realize they were right the first time, you may end up with a lifelong friendship.

But do you know what’s worse than this? It’s when you have to admit to someone, “You know I didn’t really like you too much at first.” Now it’s you admitting that you missed something and there is relief on your part that a true friendship was gained.

I may be exaggerating on the number of times this has been said to me but I remember the times where I have said it to someone. On one instance the person asked me, “Why is that?” It’s a fair question to which no matter what the real reasons were, the right answer is, “I guess I’m a jerk and was jealous of how awesome you are.” Later I started thinking about the why of the real answer of this.

Most somewhat self-aware people have a sense of the type of connection they are making with another. You also know that you are not ever going to like everyone and not everyone is going to like you. Not only that but regardless of how wonderful you are, one can only enjoy a certain number of close friendships. But we can all probably enjoy fewer dysfunctional ones. We can probably all enjoy living at peace with more people. We can all be more loving to those around us.

I know this is true for many other vocations, but friendships in ministry can also be complicated. It’s a tough road when you don’t feel you have many friendships, and it can also be tough when you suspect there is an underlying condition to the friendship. It’s always felt to me that it’s not a real friendship if I can’t say, “No” to you. And if you can’t say “No” to your friend or your pastor, well then, you don’t really have a quality relationship to either one.

We all learn painful lessons in friendship and for the sake of efficiency, we are prone to dismiss people quickly upon meeting people and focus on other friendships that show more promise. Thus we are so prone to objectifying and judging people and missing the beauty found often in forgiveness, awkward conversations and being around different types of people.

It’s hard to live at peace with everyone. And frankly, it’s hard to like everyone. I remember admitting this in a conversation with people I trusted and someone said, “Not me. I like everyone.”
To this person’s credit, it was fairly true. Everyone liked this person and she seemed to be generous with everyone. But we were good friends and I knew it wasn’t completely true.
“Everyone?” I asked. “What about (a name of a particular complicated person who finds it difficult to maintain friendships)?”
“Well, she’s tough so yeah, maybe not everyone but almost.”
I offered a few more names and enjoyed a good laugh.
Maybe it was true in her case. I used to think it was true in mine. But I find that most people have been discriminated against and most people have discriminated against another.

And here’s why I’m thinking about all this these days. Recently I enjoyed an experience brought about by a series of friendships and relationships that might not have happened had we gone with our early impressions. I think we would have missed out on quite a bit of sharing beautiful and tough moments of life together. Being on the other side of regret is not relief – instead it’s joy. And I’m finding myself joyful and thankful for this realization and hoping I can carry this forward.

So today, I’m celebrating the goodness of the awkward admission of, “You know I didn’t like you too much at first.”
I’m wondering who I can say it to next … and who is going to say it next to me.

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