Monday, May 2, 2011

Pearls before swine

I was talking to a good friend a few days ago about how hurt she was by her brother. She and a few others threw a party for her brother on his birthday. It was a lovely event at a local restaurant. Everyone enjoyed the great meal. Everyone congratulated her brother on his birthday. The event was a great success, but…

But her brother never said thank you. After all my friend’s planning and effort, her brother seemed to only muster up a world weary attitude and a smug: “That’s nice,” that translated to: “I am not sure I can be bothered.” She was hurt and angry that her gift to this individual was dismissed in a moment. She did something kind and hospitable, and he could not even say thank you. He could not even recognize that someone did something for him in love and kindness.

Now you might say maybe he did not want a party, but that was not the case. He did. He knew about the party. He was asked where he wanted to go for his party. He was even asked who he wanted at his party. My friend and his friends heeded his requests. So it was not as if he did not get what he wanted, he did, but still there was no thanks.

I talked to my friend about her hurt. I wondered why his response to her gift was so important to her. The party was a gift after all. Or was it? Was she throwing this party to express happiness and joy for her brother’s special day? Or was she throwing this party for another reason?

She looked down at her hands and then quietly said: “I guess that I wanted him to affirm me.” A “thanks” certainly would have gone a long way to that affirmation, but her brother was never, ever going to give that affirmation. As we scratched the surface, she revealed that so much she had done in her life for this man had been an attempt to receive affirmation from him, but knowing this man I am not sure he was really capable of affirming her.

Over and over again, she was casting her pearls before swine. The question was: could she stop trying to receive affirmation from someone who was incapable of giving affirmation to anyone? The other question was: why does she need it from him?

I guess for that matter, why does anyone need affirmation from anyone? I do not know why, but we need it! We need affirmation that we are beautiful and loved. We need affirmation that we are wanted and worthy. The affirmation is out there, but why do we insist on wringing it from the cold dead grip of swine?

My friend’s brother acted terribly. He acted like an entitled jerk, but my sweet friend also needed to examine this need within her. Heck, we all need to examine this need within ourselves.

Are we chasing after swine, begging for their recognition? Are we trying to please others until the point of bleeding? How do we find the affirmation we truly need, that will fulfill us? What is the point that we come to when we stop casting our pearls before swine and start sharing those precious pearls with those who truly appreciate them and us?
I think it starts with recognizing the pearls being tossed before us. Do we even see the pearls in the mud being shared with us? Only when we can recognize them, only when we can say: “Thank you,” can we even begin to receive that life giving affirmation. Of course, this is a slow process in the mud and muck. It is a slow process to realize that everything is a gift.

We are not entitled to anything, except a swift kick in the rear sometimes, and yet, we are given everything. We act like pigs, and yet we are treated like royalty. God’s Kingdom is given to us, a beautiful, precious gift. Will we receive it with thanks or just keep rolling in the mud?

6 comments:

emb said...

"I guess for that matter, why does anyone need affirmation from anyone?"

I think that we all feel very vulnerable at times, particularly if we have opened ourselves up to another without much reserve. This may not be the case for your friend, but I think that it's the vulnerability we all feel at times that makes us seek affirmation, or validation from others. I do believe you're right, however, that before we seek it from anyone else, we need to seek it from ourselves. If we are self-affirming, then we are less likely to seek it from others. We won't need to. Unfortunately, being imperfect beings, we don't always realize this, even if it is a lesson we have learned (or been presented, at least) once or twice before.

Thanks for the thoughtful words. They are much appreciated.

Songbird said...

I had this kind of transforming experience, gradually, over the past year. It's like I'm living in a different world. I think one of the places we get hung up is in our idealized definitions of particular and primary relationships. A brother, or a mother, or a spouse/partner "ought" to love us. So we'll just keep trying to get it right and hope for the breakthrough. That's over for me now. Such a relief.

Len said...

A long time ago on my 30th birthday, my wife at the time bought me a very expensive diamond ring. She thought I would see the ring and be overjoyed but I was anything but excited. I remember looking at the ring and thinking how hard I work to feed my family not to mention I was not a jewelry wearing kind of person. She could see the disappointment in my face and she was very upset. I do remember thinking we had been together for 9 years and she did not even know me and I felt heart broken about that. I think for the most part it is not so much at times being affirmed as it is being seen for who you really are. I believe people want to be seen and accepted for who God has meant them to be and not what the world expects of them. Seeing is believing I am told and blessed are those who don't see and still believe.

LKT said...

Or maybe we need to just wear the pearls and let other people and say, "How lovely!" And then we can say, "Thank you. They were a gift."

Pastor Joelle said...

I had some parishioners who were always very generous in giving my children gifts. Once they gave my little boy a truck and he instantly began to play with it. I began to nag him "SAY THANK YOU SAY THANK YOU WHAT DO YOU SAY????" And she smiled and said "Enjoying the gift is thanks enough" I thought that was a great attitude for a giver and a good lesson about the gifts of God. Perhaps God wants us to spend more time USING God's gifts than saying thanks.

Jemifer said...

Wow. Beautifully revealed. Thank you for the challenging new perspective.