As we were leaving a friends’ house recently, Jennifer said to me in the car, “Talking to her (referring to a new friend we’ve just recently met) makes me want to become a better version of myself.” What a great line! Which led us into a discussion about friends, friendships and the people who influence us.
Try this out. Think about someone in your life for just a minute. It can really be anyone. Got a picture of their face in your head? Good. Now finish this sentence:
“After spending time with ____________, I feel…”
Given my job, interacting with people a lot, I’ve been trying to be aware of how I answer this question over the past couple of years. Because, simply put, some interactions are draining and some are energizing. Even for an extrovert. Here are some of the ways that I answer this question:
- “put down.”
- “like the time just disappeared.”
Of course, out of love, I hang out with all kinds of people. And I’m sure there are people who are generous to me, even though they may only be able to tolerate me in small doses. But, in my inner circles these days, I’m trying to pay attention to how I answer that question, and I’m trying to create a space filled with people who help me become a better version of myself, just like Jennifer said.
And this isn’t just about trying to create the perfect “beer commercial” life, even though that happens once in awhile, But it’s really something bigger than that. I believe that this journey, of becoming a better version of myself is at the heart of spirituality, it’s all about fully realizing the unique ways that I’m created in the imago Dei.
This quotation from David Benner, in his book Soulful Spirituality, bounces around my head a lot these days:
Sometimes I encounter writers and speakers who describe us as human beings on a spiritual journey. I think this is true and have used the same language myself. But I think it is equally true that we are spiritual beings on a human journey. Both journeys are crucial, and each should complement the other. Any religion or spirituality that seeks to make us less than, more than, or other than human is dangerous. Spirituality can and should be in the service of becoming more deeply human.
That’s it for me. I want to be in intimate relationships with people who are helping me become more deeply human. (That needs more definition, but would be another 4 posts. Hmmmm… maybe that’s a series.)
So, anyway, who is it for you? Who is it that is inspiring you to become a better version of you? Who is it that you should be finding more time for, and who should you start parceling out small doses to? Sometimes, it’s the people we’ve always known. Sometimes we need to go looking for “our people.” Sometimes people pursue us and we’re suspicious because we wonder “what do they want from me?” but then realize that there’s just some spark that being with that person makes us – in the cheesy words of Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, – “want to be a better man.”
(Um, editors note: if it’s your kids, or your spouse that feed the darker versions of you, you’re can’t just cut them out. Sorry. But you can find other people who will walk with you in the journey.)
Anyway, all this to say. I’m thankful for my circles of friends, the people I lead with at the church, my parents and the many, many people in my life whom I get to interact with that energize me, inspire me, and challenge me in all the right ways. To be perfectly honest, I’m thankful that I’m surrounded by so many interesting people, that sometimes it’s really, really hard to get enough time with all the people whom I would want to spend more time with. Jennifer and I have a “must invite to dinner list,” that is probably 2 years long.
And I hope – especially at this time of the year – you tell them.