Thursday, March 13, 2008


So I was walking home from school today with a friend and we were having kind of an interesting conversation. It was about the idea of friends. We talked about how sometimes with some people, you try so hard to be friends with them because it seems like everything is great between you when you're around each other, but often times you have to do all the work as far as being a friend. Friendship can be a rather difficult thing. We wish that we all could just be great friends all of the time. But that just doesn't always happen. There's so many factors to take in. Time is really one of the biggest one. Sure, we've always got plenty of time for lots of things and lots of people. But at some point we do decide who or what is worth more of our time and we end up removing other things or people from that time in response. However, I think the biggest guiding factor of friendship is like any other relationship, it really boils down to the idea of expectation.

We form expectations for EVERYTHING in life. They can be really simple and stupid, like we expect that when we play with a bouncy ball, it will bounce. Or we might form more complex expectations based off of theories we have formed or what not. So in the case of people, our expectations fall a bit more along the lines of the latter. Of course expectations when it comes to people are a bit different. The examples I spoke about are more of an expectation based off of an action reaction kind of thing. However, our relationships with others is really a lot more about preference. We find traits in others that we prefer and have expectations relative to that. I think for a large part our expectations of others is rather similar from person to person. Now a lot of what guides our expectations of others is dependent upon what sort of relationship we have with others.

Obviously our expectations of others is severely diminished in the case of individuals that are simple acquaintances at best. I think we typically have an expectation of at least some civility when we meet random people on the streets, but that expectation is so low that it doesn't usually bother us too much if these people don't quite meet that expectation. But this progresses further and further as we develop a stronger relationship. In the case of friendship, this is kind of an interesting subject. With friendship, there really are so many different levels. We all have people that we would consider friends, but maybe we don't ever talk to them outside of a class or work or something like that. I think there's an expectation of being friendly, but not really an expectation of going out of our way to be a friend. Of course everybody's expectations of their friends can differ. I think there's two major problems we run into with all of this. One, people aren't always going to meet our expectations. Maybe our expectations are too high, or maybe their expectations are not quite the same as ours, or maybe they just don't do a great job of thinking outside of their own person and seeing how their actions would violate their own expectations. Needless to say, a problem is created because of a difference in expectation. Two, we can misperceive our relationship with this individual, which in turn creates a different expectation level. This really can go both ways. We might perceive that they are better friends with us than we are with them or vice versa. Either way, if the level of our perceived friendship doesn't match up, we are not likely to have the same expectations and somebody is likely to get hurt.

Now to complicate matters even further, picture all of this mess in a romantic relationship. The stakes are higher in the game of love and we've raised the level of expectation and the level of the relationship in general. It seems like to me, one of the absolute biggest problems in a romantic relationship is that people are not on the same level as far as what their relationship is. That's really kind of a funny idea because it is hard to really see different levels as far as a romantic relationship is concerned other than maybe the extremes, but they are certainly there. So I guess there lies another problem, it's hard to even perceive what these levels are. Also, you've brought even more expectations to the table because this person is so much more a part of your life than just a friend. Expectations to everyday living become a lot more important than they are with your buddies you just hang out with on the weekend. It all becomes so complex that it really is amazing that anybody can work it out.

A friend of mine once related the idea of a romantic relationship being kind of like a game of tug of war. What we tug on is trust and we're trying to get more trust out of the other person. I think this trust is relative to our expectations. We yank thinking that as we pull harder we can trust them more because they will meet our expectations more fully and this is a constant cycle. Now the problem is if we give up too much of that trust, they win the game and we get burned. It's a delicate balance. The trust must have a balance and so must the expectations. Obviously the balance isn't always going to be perfect, but if we let it go too far one way or the other, we lose the game.

The funny thing about all of this is in my life I don't know if this is just a lesson that I haven't really understood until recently or if I have done a lot better with meeting my expectations more than one would expect. As far as friendships, I think I do a pretty good job of feeling out what the friendship is and I don't typically feel too burned. I know I've had my times where I thought my friendship was something more than what it was, but typically it didn't take too much to realize that this was a misperception and I wasn't hurt hardly at all by it. Romantic relationships are somewhat of a different story. I've lost that game of trust a few too many times. But as far as a lot of it works, I don't know that it was too drastic of a problem as far as our expectations matching up. I can think of an instance in which my expectations were not being met in the least and so I had to let go because it was too difficult for me to maintain something like that. That really can be a hard and unfair place to put someone in, so it's something we definitely need to look out for when we might find ourselves in those kinds of circumstances.

Just be careful how you relate to other people's expectations. By no means does that mean we always have to bend to their expectations. Sometimes we set up faulty expectations so we do them no favor by maintaining improper expectations. But we should be aware of such things and realize that just because their expectations don't match ours doesn't make them wrong. I think the only wrong we commit as far as this is when we too blatantly disregard the expectations and in turn the feelings of others so as to be quite crushing to them. I know very few people anxiously pursue a course meant to hurt others, so that's why we need to be sensitive of others in every way possible. We need to be sensitive to those expectations, and if things be right for us, if the relationship (friendly or romantic) is what we want, be willing to help meet their expectations as much as possible.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Honesty vs. Openness

Honesty is really a funny thing. Certainly we hope to be completely honest and upright in our dealings with others, but undeniably that's pretty difficult. Sometimes there's what seems to be good reason to keep things to ourselves or to spin the truth a little bit or tell a little fib. I suppose that can be somewhat of a grey area, at least it seems like it. It seems harmless enough that it's hard to tell if it's necessarily wrong. Plus there's the issue of whether or not a lie might actually be in somebody's best interest. Withholding information from someone undeniably might make things better for them, in the short run at least. Ignorance really can be bliss.

I guess that's where things are really funny for me. One of my best friends told me that I "tell it like it is." I'm undeniably very opinionated. With that, I have developed a strong personality and so I'm not afraid to make my thoughts known. Unfortunately that does start to remove some of my tact. Now I wouldn't say I'm not a tactful person, but I could be a little more thoughtful with my honesty sometimes. There's always a better, kinder way to say everything. I guess the danger there is it may not convey the idea quite right and ameliorating any thought will make it seem more light. Sometimes people really do need to understand the actual weight of what your saying. But I must say, I'm sure I venture far past that. If anything I probably would be better off to error to caution and be more tactful. I think I do have a pleasant enough demeanor and am well intentioned enough that most of the time my strong words are taken in the best way possible, but it doesn't necessarily make it okay.

I ran into a similar issue with that recently. I was speaking to a friend and I'm certain I was way too upfront and honest about circumstances. I'd rather not go into all of the messy details because that's really not my place, but frankly I can't deny that I was far too overbearing and quite the jerk for a lot of what I said. I expressed a lot of thoughts and ideas relative to what we were speaking about that didn't need to be brought up and really were harmful. So it was an obvious overstepping of my bounds. So I guess that's the big question, when is it appropriate to be completely open?

This reminds me of the movie Liar, Liar. In case you're not familiar with the premise, Jim Carrey plays a lawyer that lies constantly. His son becomes frustrated with his lying and wishes that his father cannot lie anymore. So his son's wish is granted and Jim Carrey cannot lie anymore. Now the thing that I always picked on about the movie, Carrey's character could not keep his mouth closed. He felt like he had to make comments about anything and everything. It was kind of ridiculous because there were plenty of times he could have said less or kept his mouth shut or whatever else and not gotten himself into the trouble he did. Now I can't deny that that did help to add to the comedic value of the movie, but it did seem a bit ridiculous. Kind of funny though, now I liken myself to that. I'm the person who feels like they need to make ridiculous, needless comments that really are not as kind as they should be. I think that shows me that honesty and openness are not exactly the same thing.

So therein lies the question. How do we reconcile the difference between honesty and openness? I can't deny that sometimes we owe it some people to be open with them. In circumstances with friends we often have this kind of issue. But at the same time, it's not like you should always answer questions like "What do you honestly think about me?" With complete openness. There's a time and a place for that and it does depend on the context of your conversation and your relationship with the individual. But what's better? Where does this line exist of how much openness is right versus just "honesty"? I'm not sure it's lying to not be completely open, but there can be plenty of occasions where that idea can become a little blurry. So we have to figure this out and weigh the circumstances closely in order to come to a good conclusion.

"O be wise; what can I say more?" - Jacob 6:12

P.S. I just found this quote that I had to attach as a final note to this.
"Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy." - Isaac Newton

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Asthma, Smiles, and the Gospel

So I was just up late kind of thinking about life and stuff and just felt like I should get some things out there so I thought I'd write this. It's kind of funny that I blog at all because I'm pretty sure nobody ever reads these things. Occasionally when I just wrote Facebook notes I'd get comments on those but I don't think I've ever gotten anything from my blog thoughts. Oh well, whatever. If you read, I'd love to hear about it.

Life is pretty crazy. It's amazing how tough it can be for some people and it's amazing how tough it can be on us sometimes. I really can't imagine a lot of the difficulties a lot of people go through. I've hit some rough patches in my life here and there, but honestly things have been pretty easy for a lot of my life, especially when I look at others. It's amazing the struggles some people have to endure. I've seen a number of people that struggle with issues like anxiety and depression and it's such a sad thing to see how much eats them alive. Every single day is a battle to not get overly concerned and worried. I really am such a happy person that it boggles my mind what that must be like. Of course I guess that's just one of those interesting things. We each have our challenges and difficulties.

One of the challenges I was given was asthma and allergies. Now that pales in comparison to a lot of other people's struggles, but for me there have been a lot of times in my life where it was a pretty serious issue. I can still remember the first day my mom decided I had asthma. It's so funny because I really don't remember any sort of gradual onset or anything. I was really physically active and life was great, then bam, one day I'm wheezing up a storm and complaining to my mom that I couldn't breathe. I don't remember the doctor's visit, I just remember being on my mom's bed telling her I couldn't breathe. Ever since that day, my life has never been the same. I had nights where I would struggle so hard to breathe and so the night would seem so long until the next day when we would go to the doctor. I remember missing my first day of 6th grade because I was having problems with asthma so my mom took me to the doctor. Of all the medical conditions someone could have, it's really probably one of the best ones. It's reasonably easy to control. Sure it can be some fearful discomfort, but it's not likely to kill you and if it's regulated well enough you can still be physically active.

You know though, I'm really thankful for the experience of having asthma. It really was a rich blessing for me to have it growing up. I'm so much stronger for it. It taught me a lot about suffering. I mean it's a pretty scary thing not being able to breathe. I think we all have memories of being little and having people sit on us or being shut up in small areas and it just can be hard to breathe. That's scary. That's kind of what asthma is like. But after enough time even on those really difficult days and those especially long and tough nights, it wasn't scary. It was a pain in the neck, but it was manageable; I knew everything would be all right. And now, it's easier to have that kind of outlook on life in general. I've seen physically tough times, so when I have tough times of other kinds, it's easier. I don't know that I had ever really thought about it till tonight, but having asthma was a very spiritual experience. It taught me a lot about faith. Maybe my faith wasn't where it should have been at the time, but reflecting upon it all, the Lord blessed me and protected me. Now I know He can and will do the same even today. Sure it may be tough at times, but I'm strong, I can handle it. Better yet, I have others to help me along the way. And even better still, I can help others along the way. It really is such a blessing to make a difference in someone else's life.

It surprises me how big of a difference we can make in another's life through such seemingly simple acts. Ever notice the difference a smile can make? Now that is incredible. I sometimes wonder if I've got a special gift as far as that or if we've all got that inside, but I've noticed my smile can make a big difference when I show it for others. The big smile I give them makes them smile big in return. Reminds me of a semi-recent circumstance in which a friend told me "You make me smile because you're always so happy that it makes me happy." Smiles are powerful and pretty special. The gift of conversation is really special as well. My closest friends are my closest friends because of the things we don't do. I know that sounds funny, but what I'm saying is most of my really close friends we honestly don't go out and do a ton of stuff together. A lot of what we do is simply talk. Sure often times it's kind of mindless drivel, like talking sports and it's nice having that foundation, but it matters even more that we can have serious, deep, meaningful conversations and that we can lift each other up. I love that in my life and I know others need it more in their life, that's probably I should try to share with them more often. It's interesting how small gestures can make such a difference. I love spending time doing things with others and I don't like excluding others from the group. I know that makes a big difference in others' lives, being included in the group. Next time you're going to do something with your group, maybe you should try inviting somebody you maybe wouldn't normally. Sure maybe you won't become best friends, but it just might make a big difference in their life.

All of this talk reminds me of a paper I recently read by one of my best friends. She's an English major and just an all around amazing person. She's somebody I really look up to. Apparently she is going to get this essay published in a journal later this year, so I took a chance to read this personal essay. It really was fascinating. It was a personal exploration and it gave some amazing insights into the person she is. Her struggle in life is having some teeth that she has had to have repeated surgeries on. I knew somewhat about these circumstances, but I didn't realize just how deep they were until I read this paper. It really has been a trying and difficult experience for her and she's developed a lot of anxiety over it. It was really fascinating to read about this experience because she is somebody that I view to be such an amazing and strong person. But I guess it was naive of me to think that she wouldn't have her struggles as well. I wonder how her struggles have shaped her. I wonder if a lot of the reason why she is the way she is came from her struggles with her teeth. The paper made it sound like that for a large part. I wonder how much of a realization that has been for her. It was funny to read about a lot of the cruel ironies that came to her relative to teeth in her life. I think it's also kind of funny that a person with problems with teeth would be so heavily involved in something related to communication. Life is beautiful.

I suppose I'll leave this off with my testimony. This has been a rather relaxing and empowering experience for me to write all of this. I love the miraculous blessings I have in my life. My Heavenly Father has blessed me so richly. I know that He loves me. I know that He is there for me. I know that He is the greatest friend I have in this life. I know the suffering the Savior experienced is far greater than I'll ever know, but because of my experiences I've grown closer to Him and I love Him for it. I hope I can someday be like Him. I hope I can touch others' lives like He has touched mine. I hope I can be a great example of Him and I hope to always share His love. I know that the Atonement is real. It can and will bring us at one with God. We can have hope in this life through our faith in Jesus Christ. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet. I know his teachings are true teachings from the Father of us all. I know the Book of Mormon is an inspired book meant to bless our lives and I know by applying its teachings, we will return to live with our Father in heaven again someday. I bear witness that the work of the Lord is marvelous, perfect, and true.