give freely

Vulnerability, Expectations, and Being “Used”

I've been thinking about vulnerability

Recently I watched a TED Talk by Brené Brown from a few years ago. She talked about connection, and mostly she talked about vulnerability. You can watch the short talk here:


As I was pondering the things Brené said in her talk, I checked Facebook, and this image was in my news feed:


Users or friends?


I thought a lot about what, to me, seems like a conflict between the truths in the TED Talk and the truths in this quote.

Where I landed was this: There are people whose motives in “befriending” you may not be transparent. So what? Will you let that define the type of person you will be?

I think of this in the context of the teaching I've heard on Brooke Castillo‘s excellent and thought-provoking Life Coach School Podcast. (Well worth listening to.) At the risk of doing her profound teachings an injustice, I'll paraphrase the key lesson I've taken from her:

Whatever is happening in your life, or whatever happens to you, your problem is never (never) your circumstances. It's what you think about your circumstances. So if you're feeling badly about a situation in your life, don't look at the situation, but examine what thoughts you're having about the situation, because those thoughts (not the situation) are what are causing the bad feelings you're experiencing.

This is good news. Really. Because while you can't always change your situation–and you almost never can change another person–you always, always, always have the ability to change your thoughts (and therefore your feelings).

This is very relevant to the issue of a friendships and whether a person is “using” you–and what to do about it.

To truly experience life means to be vulnerable to pain. To experience love (in all its forms, not just romantic love) means you have to open your heart to the possibility of hurt. Not a pleasant prospect.

But . . . no matter what another person's attitude or intentions might be, you can't be used or betrayed by another persogive freelyn if you give freely, out of an open heart, with no expectation of anything in return. The other person's motives are irrelevant to this issue, I believe.

I'm not saying we should have no boundaries, or that we should never say no to anyone. We still get to choose who has a place in our lives and in our hearts.

What I'm saying is that if we made that choice to have someone in our lives, and if we choose to give of ourselves to that person, the only thing that matters to us is our own motives. Not theirs.

If you feel you've been used or betrayed by someone in your life, pause for a moment and consider: Does it matter (really) what they've done, or what they intended? Those things are a problem for you only to the extent you expected something from that person that you did not receive. Dwelling on unfulfilled expectations can cause feelings of pain, sorrow, anger, and more. An unhappy way to live.

But the good news is that there's another way to look at it. You get to choose what you think about the person and the situation. You get to choose to open your hands and your heart and just give whatever you give–friendship, time, support, whatever–with no expectation of ever getting anything back from them.

Hard to do. Impossible? No. But really hard.

But the benefits are immeasurable. Peace of mind instead of turmoil and hurt feelings.

Every time I find myself aching over the loss of a friend, or angry or hurt by the “betrayal” of a person who I thought cared about me, I'm trying to stop, realize that those hurt feelings come from disappointed expectations–my own thoughts. I gave to this person, yes. But did I give freely, or did I give expecting something back?

If I can choose to let go of any expectations, I can choose to think differently about this person and about the situation. And in so choosing, my hurt feelings go away. I can simply be grateful for the opportunity to be the kind of generous, open-hearted, loving person I very much want to be.

What do you think? 

Thanks for stopping by.

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Greenville, Texas

I Was Just Thinking . . .

Podcast: The Productive Woman

Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog

Twitter: @LauraMcMom

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What Does It Mean to Forgive?

Forgiveness: the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.

When someone you care about hurts you, or you hurt them, the wounded person has a choice:

  1. forgive,
  2. stay and punish the offender, or
  3. walk away.

If the relationship is worth keeping, then forgiveness is the only choice.

But what does it mean to forgive?

forgiveness_2The dictionary tells us that to forgive means to “stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake” or to “cancel a debt.”

Wikipedia says that “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.”

Both of these definitions refer to a change in feelings–the giving up of anger and resentment. Not easy at all. Human emotions are powerful things.

It's a process.

It's a choice. Intentional and voluntary.

And once the heat of initial hurt and anger are past, the choice to forgive–which is the choice to preserve the relationship–is relatively easy. (That is, the choice to begin the process of forgiving is easy. Certainly it takes time, intention, and effort.)

The harder question, though, is whether the memory of the “forgiven” offense will change the nature of the relationship going forward.

How often have you heard someone say, “I've forgiven, but I haven't forgotten”? How often have you said it yourself? I know I have. Usually what we mean is we “forgive” the person who's hurt us, but we won't let ourselves forget, because we must protect ourselves against future hurt. We're not going to demand justice and we're going to stay in the relationship, but we'll make darned sure that person doesn't hurt us again. By definition, we are putting up walls intended to protect ourself against this person we care about enough to keep him or her in our life.

But what does that act of self-preservation do to the relationship? Is the relationship forever changed? Are we keeping that person at a distance in order to protect ourselves against pain?

When we say “I forgive, but I don’t forget,” are we really forgiving?

Does truly forgiving an offense really mean we don’t take it into account at all in our interactions with the “forgiven” person?

That’s how God forgives—when his holy nature is offended by my sin, he chooses to forgive and to forget.

Heb. 8:12: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”


Psalm 103:11-12: “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

When God forgives, the offense no longer has any effect on the relationship between the forgiver (God) and the forgiven (us).

In Isaiah 43:25, God tells his people this: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sin no more.” He says he does this for his own sake (maybe because he values the relationship and wants to sustain it?)–he chooses to not just forgive, but to blot out the offenses and remember them no more.

Is there a difference between forgetting and “remembering no more”? Is it that forgetting is something that happens to you, an almost involuntary event that occurs as time passes, but to “remember no more” is a voluntary act, just like the act of forgiving? God chooses to remember no more. He chooses to put the memory of the offense away and never look at it again. That's so different from the way we act–we allow the memory to return, and we rehearse it, turn it over in our minds, actually relive it.

If our standard of behavior is God (rather than each other), it's reasonable to assume that his approach is how we should respond when someone wrongs us: forgive and forget. But are we humans even capable of this? Certainly we can make the choice to forgive, to do the hard, hard work of purposely surrendering our anger and resentment, to welcome the offender into our lives and to actually stop thinking of him/her as an offender. These things are an act of the will, and we can control our will. We can choose. It's a process, certainly. Because we are human, the wounds continue to hurt, and we must choose, over and over again, to forgive, to let the feelings of hurt go.

But even if we've done that, can we follow God's example and forgive to the extent that we no longer take the (forgiven) offense into account in our interactions with that person, that it no longer colors our perceptions of who this person is and where this person fits in our life and in our heart?

I don't know.

But what’s the alternative? If we can’t truly forgive, can the relationship survive? Or does it become something else, something less than it was before the offense occurred?

And if so, are we okay with that?

What do you think? How do you deal with the process of forgiving (and forgetting?) the offenses of the people you love? What happens to a relationship if we choose to forgive but not forget?

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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . .
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom

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Is Friendship Harder Than It Used to Be?

“If you have one true friend you have more than your share.” Thomas Fuller

When our youngest child was in elementary school, we moved cross country to a new town where we didn't know anybody. Sam came bouncing through the door after his very first day at his new school with a boy we'd never seen before and introduced him as “my friend. We sat on the bus together.”

Mike and I laughed at the fact that for a ten-year-old, that's all it took to be friends: just sitting next to each other on the school bus. Sam and this new friend spent many happy hours together in the three years we lived in that neighborhood.

© Marcelmooij |

© Marcelmooij |

As you get older, it's a little harder to make friends. Maybe we become a little more wary, a little less open. Maybe we're too busy to spend the time it takes to really get to know someone well enough to call them friend.

“It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” John Leonard

Whatever the reason, it seems that these days I have many acquaintances (people I know and whose company I enjoy) and fewer friends, which makes me treasure even more those true friends–the people who know everything about me and like me anyway. Most of those friends live far from Texas, where I live now, so we rarely get to spend time together, but knowing they're there makes my life better. When we do have those rare opportunities to get together, it seems like time falls away and we just pick up where we left off the last time. These are the people I know I can count on to understand and support me, to be there for me in a time of need. I hope, I believe, they feel the same about me.

What I've been thinking about a lot lately is that most of those people are folks I've known for many years. It seems like it's been a long time since I've found a new friend to add to that category. And I wonder whether the reason is that I've changed. You know the old saying: to have a friend, you must be one. Am I less friendly, less open, less dependable than I was when I was younger? I hope not.

What do you think? Do you stay in touch with friends from your school days, or have you found new friends as you've grown older? How do you define a “true friend,” and has that definition changed?
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Greenville, Texas
I Was Just Thinking . . . 
Legal Blog: Real Estate Law Blog
Twitter: @LauraMcMom
Email me