Monday, August 25, 2008

Wanted: A Mutual Admiration Society

The other day a lady on one of the several Orthodox fora I subscribe to made the comment that being Orthodox can be a very lonely thing. After thinking about this for a while, I was reminded of this song that was popular back in the mid 1950's when I was a little girl. I got to thinking about loneliness and friendship and all that stuff, and I wondered why a person feels lonely in a Church that preaches love, acceptance, and forgiveness? I mean, we're all in this together, aren't we? We're supposed to "bear one another's burdens" and encourage one another, aren't we? There doesn't seem to be much of that going around in any group of people, not just Orthodox. Oh, there are always the small groups of people who are "BFF" and who have known each other forever who form such tight cliques that no one else is really welcome into the "inner circle." People are, "of course," welcome, but they are usually and completely unintentionally relegated to the periphery and never truly accepted fully. This is natural, but it's sad.

Everyone, in my opinion (which is worth what you pay for it), is born with an innate hunger for acceptance. It's more than just "acceptance," it's a need to know that you are recognized as "special" and valued even in just a small way. There's an innate hunger for a true "Mutual Admiration Society." People vie with one another to give the prettiest, most thoughtful, most elegantly wrapped presents at birthdays, anniversaries, Namedays, Christmas, whatever; but all this competition is not exclusively aimed at pleasing the recipient, although that figures largely in it. There is a kernel of the thought that just maybe the giver will be recognized as "special." When friends, even very good and long-time friends, look at each other, there is always that tiny searching for a spark in the other's eyes that says that the friend recognizes you, the person, the special and unique person who has intrinsic value. Friends like this are rare and hard to find and beyond value. I wonder if that's because we are all searching for that spark in another's eyes and not trying to ignite that spark in our own eyes for our friends. What is it that we are afraid of? Is it that we fear that the other will not reflect our attempts at friendship? Do we fear an ultimate rejection? Whatever it is, it is pervasive and apparently incurable.

What do we think will happen if we do not see that spark of recognition and acceptance? What do we think will happen if we are ultimately rejected? Would anything change? Does our perception of our intrinsic worth depend on another person's recognition of it?

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