Conditions

Jan 24, 2011

If you’re my friend, you won’t play with Alicia anymore.” “If you don’t give me your bubble gum, I won’t invite you to my birthday party.” These were the conversations of my childhood. My little girlfriends and I put conditions on our friendships. These were early plays of power and loyalty and struggles for pack order. Even then, when I received those ultimatums or gave them, I felt nauseous. I knew there was something not quite right about manipulation in friendship.

Verbal manipulations are not just child’s play. I hear them all the time from adults. I’ve even said them on occasion. “If you really loved me you’d know what I want for Christmas.” “If you really love your father and me, you won’t date that boy anymore.” Statements like these make me cringe. It’s manipulation and shaming under the guise of love. Whenever I make a statement like that I know I need to get on my knees and repent. I’m trying to get love and run someone else’s life by fear and power.

The most recent version of this kind of manipulation is in some chain e-mail letters I’ve received. They’re full of gushy, greeting-card sentimentality about friendship and then end with statements like “If you don’t forward this to 10 women, you don’t deserve any friends and you’ll rot in hell.” There’s no way I’m going to pass such an e-mail along. But a little nudge of superstition and fear creeps in and makes me wonder if I’m worthy of friendship and where I’ll spend eternity.

One of the most troubling lines in the Bible for me is from John15:14 : “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” My mother warned me about guys who said that to girls. It doesn’t even sound like Jesus. I think John might have misheard or the translators mistranslated. I don’t think of Jesus as an “If, then” kind of a guy. The Jesus I know says, “You are my Friend.” Period. “I Love you.” Period. No shaming. And because Jesus loves me and calls me friend, I want to do what he commands.