There this guy who goes to my church, he sometimes disappears for weeks on end and obviously we don’t get to see him. When he shows up for church people always say hello and say “you’ve been so lost”! I noticed that he sort of used to take offence at this and he would retort “you’ve been lost too”! After observing these social interactions for a bit I realized if we could put what annoyed him in a sentence it would read “if you care so much about my being lost, why have you not done a thing about it?” Let’s think about it, when something is lost the natural (common sense) thing to do is to find it. I mean does it make sense that you misplace your keys and you sit around until they turn up and then you say “hey you’ve been lost”. Yet that is what we do with people we like and/or love. Last I checked a friend or relative is worth more than a bunch of keys yet we will seek the latter out with more gusto when lost.
I have to say it also bothers me when someone tells me I have been lost and they haven’t made an attempt to find me. Some days it bothers me more and I coined a phrase to describe such people. On other days it doesn’t bother me so much because I dismiss the comment (in my head) by calling the phrase “you’ve been lost” a conversational cliché, but that is a topic for another day. The phrase I coined is: relationally laziness. I came to the conclusion that some people are just relationally lazy.
I hadn’t heard the phrase being used before but when I started to use it (in my head) I knew it must exist. Then I recently googled it and found an article about it and it described the phrase just as I thought it should be used. Relationally lazy people are people who barely ever (I’m really restraining myself from using never) initiate contact. They don’t ever call but they are so glad to hear your voice when you do and they wonder why you haven’t talked in such a long while. They don’t ever text (even in this day of 1 bob texts) yet they are sure glad to receive. They forever talk about having dates but would never suggest a time and place until (you guessed it) you do. I don’t know about you but is this annoying or is this annoying. Human beings are wired to give and to receive. In social interaction it is no different; give and take is supposed to be the norm rather than the exception. If someone takes time to call you, text you, visit you, meet up with you etc it means they like you (no surprises there). What do they expect in return? They expect you to initiate any number of the above to show that you like them back. The question is: do you like them back? If you do then busyness is no excuse.
I recently read an article written by a woman dying of cancer and she talk about counting her real friends on one hand. She said she would like to understand the rest who claim to be her friend yet they don’t call, or email or text or drop by to say hello; because in reality they don’t know how to deal with the fact that their friend is dying and they don’t know what to say to her so they try to hide their discomfort by feigning busyness. She said she did not understand them. She went on to say she runs into some of them and they tell her they are praying for her. Then she wondered what their God, who is so compassionate, would say to their not making time for her. She went on to say her real friends call her, text her, show up at her door and they talk about the weather, their children, work and all the things they used to talk about when she didn’t have cancer. This really got to me so I wrote to her and said God wouldn’t take busyness as a good excuse for doing nothing to keep a friendship going. God would want her friends (any friend) to call, text, email, go for coffee, pay a visit and talk about nothing, and everything and to laugh and cry and sit smiling saying nothing over a hot cup of tea or coffee. The sad thing is if you are too lazy to reach out to your friends when they are good and healthy you risk your friend dismissing you as not a true friend when he/she is dying.
I know most people have these relationally lazy people in their lives and you wonder what to do with them. Do you keep trying, cut them loose and concentrate on your active friendships or commission a fly-by sign in ginormous letters saying “I would feel better if I knew you cared for me as much as I do you! Call me sometime?” That’s a tough question. From personal experience I have learnt that relational laziness is infectious. It will get to a point and you will burn out and you will even stop reaching out to your active friends. At that point you start to become relationally lazy too. I would encourage us all to fight it. Think about it, Jesus who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped is continually seeking out sinners despite the number of times the door is slammed in his face. If you consider a friendship worth saving you need to continually seek this person out. If you find you are tired go ahead and let out an exasperated sigh, take a break for a month or two and reach out to the person once again. If you realize that you fit the relationally lazy description-get a clue!