I heard you this time.
I didn’t before.
I’d closed my ears to all those who came before you.
But, now…, yes, now I understand how very wrong, how foolish I truly was.
The truth, as you must surely realize, is that I was angry. I feel like I had been betrayed so many times before, by people who I believed to be my friends. As I grew to know them, my natural caution fell away. I offered them my confidence and they turned on me, one by one, exploiting that trust in an attempt to undermine my beliefs.
It seemed as if they just wanted me for their church and their god.
Wasn’t I good enough for them the way I was?
Why couldn’t they just accept me for who I was and for what I believed?
For the longest time now, I’ve felt like the failure was with them.
And so I was angry, and so I was wrong.
The failure was mine.
I know now, that I didn’t understand what friendship really meant.
Because when you truly care for someone, and when you see them engaging in self destructive behaviors, there comes a point when you either walk away, or try to guide them to a better, safer path. Until now, I’ve always seen it as intrusive ‘proselytizing’, when in reality it is far more of an ‘intervention’. Still intrusive – yes, but done in love, for the greater good.
I don’t doubt that you’d have done the same thing if you’d seen me drinking myself into an early grave, or wandering blindly off some curb and into traffic.
I should thank you for being such a good friend!
You waited and you watched, undoubtedly hoping that I would find my own way away from the all-consuming fires of hell. And all this time, as I spoke and wrote about discovering the gods of my ancestors, about the spiritual connection I have felt with the world around us, and about my personal growth as a human being, all you could hear were desperate cries for help. It must have been painful to listen for so long, and still remain silent.
Finally, you could, in good conscience, tolerate it no longer. You spoke out because you couldn’t stand the thought of my suffering in an eternity of torment. You spoke out in the true spirit of friendship.
And for the first time your words touched me, and I understood how very wrong I have been, how unfair.
What I have always seen as an intrusive act, was actually selfless.
Your disregard for my personal boundaries, pure heroism.
The lack of respect you hold for my intelligence, heartwarming.
How could I ever have been so foolish?
In your eyes, you see me as only a true friend could: broken, insufficient, and damned.
But there’s still time.
If I give up the beliefs and experiences of a lifetime, if I reject all that I know in my heart to be true, and if I purge my faith and replace it with your own, we can be better than friends.
We can be “Brothers in Christ” — and oh what a family that must be!
I heard you this time, and I understand now that the failure is mine.
While ‘I’ might try to intervene if I believed you were in immediate physical danger, I guess I don’t care enough to intercede on behalf of your soul. Oh sure, I may try to “lead by example”, and I’m certainly willing to explain my beliefs to those who show an interest, but when have I ever taken you aside to explain how very wrong you are in your notions? Have I ever shown you the proper disrespect? Have I disparaged your life choices as only a true friend would?
In your need, I have failed you. I am a poor friend, in deed.
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations