Thursday, May 3, 2012

I want to be wanted.

This blog has been no stranger to candor. Perhaps it's just easier for me to write my honest thoughts than it is to discuss them, forgetting that when I click the "publish" button, my honesty is released to the freedom of the interwebs. Or perhaps I just get so sick of the mundane, how's-the-weather chit-chat, I long for real communication - deep and bare naked. In this vein I share my deepest struggle: I want to be wanted.

Before you start humming Cheap Trick's "I want you to want me," allow me to elaborate. I want to be the friend who my friends can't wait to introduce to their family when they come to visit. I long to be the friend who people look forward to hanging out with on weekends. I dream of being the husband whose wife brags about him to her friends. When people give me genuine compliments, when I hear of people speaking fondly of me when I'm not around, when people tell me they miss me, it absolutely warms my soul.

For better or worse, this desire drives many of my decisions and ways of thinking. I put too much stock in the number of "Likes" I receive on Facebook and how many people have read my blog on any given day. I buy cars I believe others will want to ride in. I over analyze when an invitation is not extended to me. I give away copious amounts of free alcohol so that others will want to come to my house. I wish I could say all of my motives were completely selfless and benevolent, but the truth is many of them are driven by my desire to be wanted.

My friends and family do a superb job of making me feel desired, and I greatly appreciate them for it. Yet at my job, it's a completely different story. At a recent business dinner in Chile, a colleague told me (after a few drinks, of course, when honesty is at its peak) "You'll never get anywhere in this company because you don't have a technical background" (perhaps he forgot the past two CEOs of our largest competitor had very similar career paths to mine), while another said "Man, Jay, you sure are getting fat - if you keep gaining weight at this rate, you'll be 400 lbs. by the time you're 40!" After that dinner, I went back to my hotel room broken and disheartened. The Head and The Heart's song "Heaven Go Easy on Me" came up on my iPod, and as it played, I just prayed the lyrics aloud.

Cover of The Head and The Heart Album
There was a manager at my company who I admired and looked up to. Yet about a year ago, he gave me some career advice I decided not to take, and ever since, he's refused to speak to me. We happened to be at the same conference in Amsterdam recently, and when I approached him, saying "Hi, how are you?" he silently nodded his head, did an about-face, and walked away stoically. When I told one of the senior managers where I was going for vacation, he responded seriously: "You shouldn't be able to afford that, we must be paying you way too much." There's nothing like having upper management tell you you're not even good enough for the stuff you have - your possessions are worth more than you are. Heaven go easy on me, please - I beg of You.

I spoke with my friend, Javier, in Chile recently, and he encouraged me by telling me to read chapter 12 of Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth. You may recognize that reference because it directly precedes 1 Corinthians 13 - the "love chapter," which you've heard read at 96% of the weddings you've attended. I often wonder if couples would choose that passage for their nuptials if they read the rest of the letter. In chapter 5 we learn that someone in the Corinthian church was having a sexual affair with his step-mom (Woody Allen has nothing on the first-century Christians). In chapter 6, we find out there was so much bickering within the church that the members were constantly suing each other in court. Corinth was a trade hub between Asia and western Europe, and as such, had people from many different nationalities. The church there had plenty of Jewish Christians, but it also contained many gentile ones. These people believed in Jesus's resurrection and wanted to follow Him, but they lacked the knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures the Jewish Christians had. They were uncircumcised, and longed to feel wanted in a community considered a simple off-shoot of Judaism at the time.

Which brings us to chapter 12. In it, Paul tells everyone in the church in Corinth not only are they wanted, but the skills they bring to the table are crucial to the strength of the church. He says they all "form one body - whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free." As one body, "if one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." Here's Paul, an apostle and highly revered person of the faith, and he's telling everyone in the church, from those who have the Bible memorized to those sleeping with their step-mom, from those who are rich to those who are slaves, they're equal in God's eyes. Paul goes on to explain how God has given each person skills which are critical to the Kingdom of God. Oh, how the people of Corinth must have felt wanted when they read Paul's letter! If only I could replicate that feeling and take it to work.

Right now I'm reading a book recommended to me by my friend, Brittany, titled About My Father's Business, and it's all about how to share your faith with people at the office (without being dubbed the "weird, over-the-top religious guy"). It proposes some great ideas on how to love your coworkers and take the feeling of "I'm a wanted and needed part of the body of Christ" to the workplace where so many of us desperately need a larger, more fulfilling purpose. I planned on sharing a quote from the book and saying how all my insecurities of feeling unwanted at work had washed away since reading it, but that would be disingenuous. Honestly, it still hurts when someone at work tells me I'll never amount to anything, and it stings when they tell me I'm morbidly obese, too.

Here's what I do know: you are deeply wanted by God. He has given you some amazing talents, and He wants you to use them. The fleeting marketplace may not value those skills as highly as others, but to Him, they are the utmost of importance for eternity. Your local church is hobbling around without a foot because it's missing you. It doesn't matter how much of the Bible you know, or what you've done in the past - you are needed, you are wanted, and we can't survive without you.

What I'm listening to during this post: "Turn That Finger Around" by honeyhoney

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jay, this is actually the first post of yours that I have read, simply because I enjoy raw honesty and deep emotions, more so than the usual showcase of the surface of one's life. Which makes me believe that the two of us really have the potential to have long, deep conversations. (If I weren't so introverted, I'd show up at more of your parties, and actually try to talk!)

    First of all, I'm flabbergasted at what your coworkers said in each scenario. As someone who isn't as warm-hearted and accepting as you, I'd immediately deem them as unworthy of my time.

    Secondly, as someone who (maybe, arguable) has too high of a self-esteem, I'm self-qualified to give advice on your "struggle".

    I think instead of focusing on your emotions of desiring adoration, which you've identified as something that's not always positive for yourself (struggle), try focusing on your thoughts and figure out why you would want someone to want you. Emotions are important, but that doesn't mean they aren't irrational, they occur without logic.

    So, take it one at a time. For example, when Chile guy said you won't get anywhere, recognize how that makes you feel, absorb your emotions, but also think about:

    1. Why did he say that? How does saying that help him? (my guess is envy and resentment, so taking a stab at you soothes his feelings)
    2. Why should you care that he said that? Does it actually impact your life in anyway?
    3. Why would you want someone so close-minded and helpless to want you? Would they add to or substract from your life?
    4. Decide whether to continue to maintain and improve the relationship, or decide to ignore and play a cordial game.

    Understandably, people who go by their emotions have a harder time ignoring those emotions and focusing on thoughts, but I think it will help! And I really enjoyed writing this, rather than just give you a pat on the back or tell you "don't listen to them, you're awesome", because while those acts are great, they're not extremely applicable or practical. And I'm a lover of all things practical, including philosophy.

    Anyway, this is getting too long. I'm not gonna lie, I didn't read the religious second half, but this post has helped me understand you more, which is awesome, and you may have just gained a new person who wants to spend more time with you.