With Whom Do You Keep Company – On Friendships
December 22, 2012
With Whom Do You Keep Company?
Have you ever been in someone’s company that just made you feel antsy and uncomfortable? Or have you ever had a friend with whom you were never able to let your guard down?
I postulate that there may be a subconscious barrier between you and that person that is influencing your physical body. What you may feel is underlying fear for the person. What your body may be experiencing is a fight or flight impulse, which produces adrenaline and cortisol, the hormones that protect us from harm.
Now, why would a friend or someone you barely know create such a negative response in your body? That is the big question.
(My dear friend Dr. Susan Sinclair and I were having a deep conversation, from which this blog was written. )
Susan started the conversation by telling me that she noticed that when she met gay people that they often had a sense of strong boundaries, almost fear, until she let them know that she was gay-friendly. After which, they were as congenial as they could be. This was the fodder for much of our conversation.
I shared a story… I remember a time when I had a student who studied voice with me for about three years. She would hug me and tell me she loved me. We talked and cut up like we were best friends. The fact is, I truly thought she was a good friend. One day, a couple years after she quit vocal lessons, I was at a restaurant with my partner waiting for a table with a group of friends. She, too, was waiting with her husband for a table. I introduced my partner to her, before he excused himself to go to the restroom.
As soon as my partner left me alone with her, the young woman told me that she “loved me,” but thought I was going to go to hell for being gay and that she thought it was her responsibility to tell me so—IN THE BAR OF THE RESTAURANT HOLDING A APPLETINI.
To tell you the truth, I can’t remember exactly how I responded, but incredulous was one of the many bad feelings. I simply couldn’t believe that someone would lay that on me in a restaurant, and that someone I knew and cut up with about men for three years would say that to a friend, even if she believed it to be true. But there I was left with a cut in my heart about four inches deep, bloodied and not so ready for dinner.
I noticed that, ever since that moment, every time a person makes a point of telling me that he or she is a Christian, I take two steps back and one to the right, even though I, too, am a Christian. It’s just that I don’t know what kind of Christian that person is or what kind of artillery he or she might be hiding in their arsenal of so-called prayerful deeds. So, I get that feeling of anxiety and stress that you get when you are uncomfortable with someone—anxious—until I know better. That experience that I shared had happened to me not once, but about ten times.
So, what kind of responsibility do we have as compassionate beings when we get around someone who is of a different ilk, color, political party, religion, or sexual preference than we, to let them know that we are okay with whomever they choose to be—without judgment?
Can we create a sign or a handshake that signifies we are cool and down with it when we meet? Can we wear a pin or a purple rubber band?
Or should we just politely work into the conversation that we are not the type of person that judges anything or anybody? That might help. I know it would make me feel more comfortable.
Think about it: I’m a gay man, Christian, spiritual, democratic, Italian, Yogi, I guess kind of “not so tough,” soft spoken, brittle to the bone and easily bruised… I could be targeted in so many ways. It’s a wonder I’m not walking around in a suit of armor. And there are plenty of people who are wearing their addiction, minority, political proclivity, and sexual preference on their head like a hat made of a cornucopia of fruit.
What of them? Can you imagine some of their fear?
In a day when we have the opportunity to be more compassionate than we have ever been before, let us take note that if we want people to be comfortable around us, it may be our responsibility to help them see we aren’t judging them in any way. If you notice that someone around you is feeling a little anxious, it might just be that they don’t know where you stand with who they are sexually, politically, ethnically, etc. This is your cue to let them know that you are a nonjudgmental human being ready to accept them for exactly who they choose to be or were created to be.
The conversation with my friend Susan turned out to be a great eye-opener for me. I realized that it might be my individual, as well, to discover what scares me about specific kinds of people, and not clump them all together. I should give each person a chance to be an individual with his or her own perspective without me judging them, as well.
I do know, however, that there are specific kinds of people and judgments that I do not want in my life ever again. And I will make laws against letting people in my life who choose to judge me or have the audacity to tell me or the world what God thinks of me—his own creation.
I believe we should all make these laws. And we should ban together against those who choose to take away our God-given rights to be individuals. We would all be more at peace and our hearts would be still and know that love conquers all negativity.