“Guess who’s engaged?!”
Do you struggle with balancing the sting of hearing about yet another engagement with genuine excitement? What emotions come into play? What virtues do you enlist to help with it all?
Over Christmas and New Year’s, two of my friends and I had heard about a collective 20 engagements. Twenty. It quickly became apparent that our responses depended on how we felt about marriage for ourselves and how much we valued it.
Me, I was thinking, “It is that time of year.” And also really happy for my close friends, my friends, and the people I’m acquainted with on Facebook. In fact, I even have a fun little game with myself: whenever I see an extremely happy couple at religious/pretty site with left hand hidden, I predict the engagement announcement within the next two weeks and am actually a little sad when it’s not!
Like a lot of people, I suspect, I react best to news of close friends embarking on the sacrament. I just feel such joy for them. but in the past, when it’s come to seeing engagements of people I once knew or sorta know now but still like as a person, I admit it brought out some negative emotions. I think our responses and how to deal with them come from understanding a lot of it might be projection and lack of perspective.
Often the wailing and gnashing of teeth at news of yet another proposal comes from me projecting my own fears and anxieties that I’ll be single forever. Or jealousy that they get to go through something I long for. But while we think projection is just trying to take the spotlight off of ourselves, what it does is bring to light all that we hold and amplify it. So for me it helps to try to be at service to the other. That might mean sending a hand-written card of congratulations, phoning up a dear friend and saying “anything you need,” and the like. And for the betrothed I don’t know that well, simply praying for God to bless their upcoming marriage. Then the focus was on the other, and what was amplified was love.
Lack of Perspective
Back when we NASers wrote about Envy and Singlehood, Amanda over at Worthy of Agape touched upon our lack of perspective: when we see the bright, happy, shiny things about a couple, we often don’t perceive the dark, sad, dull things our friends might be going through. I freely admit that in past private reactions I’ve been most guilty of lack of perspective. All I saw were young, healthy kids with young, healthy parents with decades (that’s plural!) to get ready for the challenges sure to come, while I was nearing thirty with aging parents at scary risks for cancer and dementia and upset that any serious courtship would be full of discussions of how would we take care of two sets of parents, what qualities do you have that means having kids at an older age won’t be too difficult, etc. etc. What I wasn’t realizing was that I only had one window into others’ relationships–and it was just the one on my Facebook wall.
So I obviously needed to have my eyesight checked. Maybe work on building some new glasses with Trinity-Trinity vision. Framed in humility with lenses of charity, these new prescriptives help me try to see the whole picture that God wants for me to see: simply an image of love.