So I was thinking about the notion of soul mates the other day. “Soul mate” is one of those terms that gets thrown around loosely within the realm of love and relationships.
So what does it really mean? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary a soul mate is: “a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament”; “a person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs.”
So basically, two people who are similar. Two people who get along. Let’s look at “perfectly suited for one another in temperament.” Perfect means “to a complete or adequate extent.” So, perfectly can mean to complete, or to serve the purpose in an adequate or “good enough” manner.
Now let’s look at temperament: “Characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response.” So, simply stated, “soul mate” means a person who suits your habits and emotions well enough (or possibly completely).
The concept of a soul is what makes the term soul mate seem so intense. Soul: “the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life.” So your soul is what makes you you. Your soul is the part of you that cannot be tangibly seen or touched. Your soul is what gives you life. So, a mate for your soul means that person knows the side of you that other people don’t — the question is, do they not know it because they can’t or because they’ve not had the chance?
So what happens when you’re young and in love, you marry your soul mate and twenty years down the road you tragically lose that person. A few years later, after a lot of heartache, you find love again. You love this new person deeply and completely, in both a different and very similar way as you did your “soul mate.” Upon meeting this new love, the term “soul mate” arises in your mind again. You feel your soul is connected to this person as well.
So can you have two soul mates? Suppose your second love is lost and you have a third. Can you have three soul mates?
Some people do. So does the value of the term “soul mate” depreciate as it is used repetitively? Is it a term that was fictionalized through Hollywood and fairy tales? Is the idea of a soul mate or soul mates true? If you can have more than one soul mate, what is different than simply being in love multiple times? Can you be in love apart from being soul mates with someone?
So, because you fall madly in love and that person loves you back, and that person knows the side of you no one else does, does that mean that is the only person you are compatible with? Do you fall for the first person you love who loves you back? Is it a matter of being soul mates or of wanting the same things? Let’s think back to perfectly and temperament. So someone who is similar in personality as you, and who understands or complements you either exactly or well enough.
Isn’t it true that perhaps many people might suit you well enough — plenty of people might have similar interests and wants, and the ability to understand you if they were given the chance to try?
Isn’t it also true that you could love someone with whom you have little in common? Maybe you want the same things but you have very different interests. Or maybe you have similar interests but want very different things. Can you still be soul mates? Or are you simply in love? Is one less valuable than the other?
I am not attempting to disprove the idea of love or of finding someone who seems perfect for you. I’m mostly calling b.s. on a notion that seems heavily materialized. We see fairy tale-like romance is movies all the time. It seems that love wasn’t good enough for Hollywood, so they materialized the idea of “perfect love.” If you love someone and that person loves you, it’s love. If you’re together forever and always in love, it is true love. It’s possible to fall in love again, but maybe some people don’t. Maybe the first love was all they had to give. And so, they had true love. Why is the idea of a soul mate necessary?
Could you have loved a middle school boy or girlfriend? Maybe. Perhaps the timing was off. Maybe someone you had a crush on in high school could have been compatible had the timing been right. Love is about timing — meeting the person you need at the right stage in your life. That doesn’t make love less real, less important or less true. It doesn’t make the person you are with less right for you, and it doesn’t mean that you want to be with someone else. It doesn’t mean you will ever want to be with someone else, even if you lose the person you are with.
It simply means that “soul mate” broken down essentially means “love” or “true love.” So why create a new name for it? Society has given “soul mate” a more intense meaning than is defined… so we create this notion and this name for it, both of which are materialized. Just like Cinderella fell in love with the prince, life and love are not so glamorous. Hollywood shows us the materialized notion of love and soul mates, but real life shows us true love and true companionship.
Calling a true love a “soul mate” is like having “the best” and calling it “the better-best” — it doesn’t exist. There is nothing better than the best. That’s why the best is the best. And so, there is nothing better than true love, so we don’t need to try and create something “better.”
i’ve been thinking a lot lately about trust and forgiveness.
why do we trust people? why is it so hard to forgive? why do we hold some people to a higher standard than others?
where does trust come from? i guess i’ve always thought of trust as which friend you can tell a secret to without worry of confidence being broken. if one friend makes you mad, which friend can you tell without that friend telling the friend who made you mad that you are mad. i think of trust mostly on an individual basis. so what makes some people more trustworthy than others? what makes one person less likely to let you down than another? why do we trust anyone but ourselves with secrets? how does keeping your secrets to yourself and not trusting others affect your ability to connect with people?
i’ve come up with a few ideas about how trust and forgiveness relate.
when trust is broken, at least for me, i have a very difficult time forgiving. i try to remind myself that forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, but i find that most of the time i am unable to forgive, let alone, forget.
this brings me back to an initial question: why do we hold some people to a higher standard than others? aren’t we all human? don’t we all have the same capacity to keep or break trust?
for example, what makes us trust a pastor more than another friend? if seeking religious advice, then sure, the pastor has gone through seminary. but isn’t your friend just as capable of reading the bible? yes, people have taught and trained the pastor in seminary, but weren’t those teachers taught by someone? it’s a cycle of people teaching people, of people trusting people that they are being told and taught the truth.
so we come back to trust. we hold some people to a higher standard than others, because we are trusting, as are they, that they were taught the truth and are conveying it.
another example is an old friend. why do we trust old friends more than new ones? both have the capacity to let you down and break your trust, yet you trust one more than the other. sure, you’ve been friends with the old friend longer, but why does that make him or her less likely to let you down or break your trust? maybe you think that friend has proven him or herself to you — but that’s how trust is formed and how it is broken. you trust them, they break it. that’s how it works. so, the old friend isn’t really more secure than the new — you just think he or she is.
so, why is it so hard to forgive? it’s so hard to forgive because we convince ourselves that the people we trust are incapable of letting us down. for instance, you have a boy or girlfriend that makes all sorts of promises to you — you make the choice to trust in those promises and in that person. but then, reality sets in. you’re in high school, the boy breaks up with you — your trust is broken and you are unable to forgive. but isn’t it sort of self-inflicted? sure, the boyfriend made himself seem sweet, reliable and trustworthy — but your idea of trust and what it means was blinding. to you, trust means that the people you care about and trust are incapable of hurting you. however, it’s untrue. when it comes down to it, human nature teaches us to look out for ourselves first, then others. so the boyfriend liked you, then realized he liked someone else more. therefore, his promises and the trust he knew you had in him were less important that his desire to move on.
but then, would you want him to stay with you just because he made a promise in high school? should you have trusted him fully? is your pain self-inflicted? is your inability to trust and forgive self-inflicted?
i’ve decided that it’s so hard to forgive because we teach ourselves that we will not need to forgive the people we trust. you assume that if someone cares about you and knows that you trust him or her, they would do nothing to break that. because they care about you just as much.
but we all have those friends who call only when they have a crisis. you call them with a crisis, and can tell that the interest and care aren’t at the same level as yours is for that friend. you can’t truly tell how much a person values your trust.
however, what is life without trust? if you’ve trusted and your trust has been broken, it becomes harder to trust others. so what next? when you are less capable of trusting others, and incapable of forgiving those who’ve wronged you, what is left? how does this affect future relationships (with friends, acquaintances and significant others)?
i’ve learned that i have a hard time with trust. i also have a hard time with forgiving. so what’s left? do you simply trust those you already trust? do you move on from those you’ve not forgiven, feeling anger every time you encounter them for the rest of your life? how do you forgive someone who knows they’ve wronged you and hasn’t apologized?
do you go on, acting like nothing is wrong when you see him or her? isn’t that deceitful? do you make the move to repair the relationship, when it was you who was wronged? if you made amends, would you be able to trust again? why did you hold that person to a higher standard in the first place?
the fact is, we act like we take promises very seriously. empty words are often masked with “i promise.” these create empty promises, which lead to disappointment and broken trust. we all make promises we don’t mean. “i promise i’ll come visit you,” or “i promise i won’t tell her you don’t like her.” we say these things to make others trust us… maybe it’s greed in the human nature. yet, we don’t intend to keep those promises, even as they come out of our mouths.
my conclusion is this: we must have discernment in the promises we choose to believe. we must have discernment in the person we choose to trust, and we must take our time to build the trust. automatic trust is a disaster waiting to happen. we must approach with caution, being as trustworthy and true as we’d like others to be. maybe following through on your promises will inspire people in your life to follow through on their promises to you.
we must lose the idea that some are more trustworthy than others. discernment is good, but never put someone on a pedestal as “the most trustworthy.” we must untrain ourselves — rid ourselves of this idea that those we love are incapable of hurting us. it’s untrue, and sadly, something we don’t learn.
so, how do you protect yourself and reserve your trust, while making new friendships? i suppose you act as you want the people you trust to act, and maybe it will be contagious. who knows.
“If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, then it isn’t good news for anybody. And this is because the most powerful things happen when the church surrenders its desire to convert people and convince them to join. It is when the church gives itself away in radical acts of service and compassion, expecting nothing in return, that the way of Jesus is most vividly put on display. To do this, the church must stop thinking about everybody primarily in categories of in or out, saved or not, believer or nonbeliever. Besides the fact that these terms are offensive to those who are the “un” and “non”, they work against Jesus’ teachings about how we are to treat each other. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor, and our neighbor can be anybody. We are all created in the image of God, and we are all sacred, valuable creations of God. Everybody matters. To treat people differently based on who believes what is to fail to respect the image of God in everyone. As the book of James says, “God shows no favoritism.” So we don’t either.” -Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith
“I wish I could go back and talk to myself when I was twenty. I’d say to myself, ‘Listen, don’t worry about the things you’ve been worrying about. Everything is going to work out great.’ And I’d likely clarify with myself that ‘In the future I get everything I need?’ And I’d say back to myself ‘No, you just realize you didn’t need it. And that’s even better.’” -Donald Miller
We all have friends that suit us for certain times in our lives. Some friends suit us in our younger years, some before children, some after, and some forever. I can remember my chubby little best friend from preschool — while she was my bff for that glorious year, the friendship did not carry over to kindergarten. I remember the first friend I made in kindergarten, and the first best friend I had in elementary school. I remember every best friend I ever had, whether the friendship lasted for the duration of the school year, or the friendship still exists today.
Some friendships last for years, but the closeness of the friendship fades in and out, based on the stages and phases that life brings. I have a friend who is and always will be a best friend — we’ve known each other since first grade, and we have gone through phases and love and hate, of best friendness and almost merely acquaintances. While we’ve had our share of ups and downs, she is always a solid friend to fall back on, and she will always be one of my best friends.
On the other hand, you have friends who suit you for only a short time. That short time may be a few months or a few years, but at some point your goals change and the friendship fades.
There are friend you meet and are with for only a few weeks, who live on the other side of the country, but have the loyalty and honesty that you need for a lifetime of friendship.
My best friend and I have known each other since middle school, and for the most part we never fought or got angry with each other. We never really have any friendship strengthening situations that taught us how to rebound from simple disagreements. After a few months of hidden frustration, we had a little tiff and didn’t speak for about five or six months. Once we finally talked and apologized, we learned how to talk about what upset us, and we mended our friendship. I can see now that there was definitely a best-friend void during those few months, but I think that we needed the time apart to grow in our own ways.
We all have friends who suit certain moods, or who make us more comfortable than others. We have friends that we can’t really tell secrets to, ones who we tell some secrets to, and friends that we tell all our secrets to, with no fear of disclosure. There are friends that we are timid around, and friends that we can truly be ourselves with. Friends who care about our dreams, friends who support our dreams, and friends who want to be a part of our dreams.
When you are excited, there are friends who congratulate you, and there are friends who squeal with you. There are friends who half-mindedly say they are happy for you, and friends who sincerely empathize with you and feel your joy.
There are friends to plan and dream with, and friends who watch you plan and dream, and offer the occasional kind comment. In other words, there are friends who play in the snow with you, and friends who watch you play from the window.
The key to empathizing is to truly understand the way your friend feels. If you are in love and your friend just got dumped, you both have to work hard to empathize with each other. If you are graduating college and your friend has two more years, it’s hard to be thinking about the same things. While it may be hard, true friends feel and understand your joy because your joy is sincerely in their hearts. If something exciting has happened to one of your friends, you know whether you honestly felt joy for them in your heart, or if you muttered a few encouraging words while preoccupied with something else. This is the difference between true friends and other friends.
When you have a friend in the same stage of life as you, everything that happens to you is that much more exciting. Having a friend to dream with as your dreams are coming true makes all the joy you feel intensify. There are friends who honestly support you, and friends who say they do, but have something else to say to others when you aren’t around. These friends do not feel your joy.
I was talking with a friend yesterday about my recent engagement, and her (hopefully) upcoming one, and she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, our dreams are coming true!” There is something so exciting about having a friend to dream with.
When it comes to wedding planning, it is much more fun to flip through magazines with a friend than to read them alone. It’s fun to look at gowns with your mom, but sometimes you need a reliable “younger” opinion; you can always consult future hubs about color schemes and locations, but you know that he doesn’t care, and it’s more fun to talk to a girl anyway. There are the friends who say, “you will figure your colors out” and friends who offer real advice and talk about what they want for their wedding.
There are friends to dream with. Friends to plan with, friends to diet with, friends to laugh with. Friends who are there to offer support in any situation, whether they join you in your dieting plans or help you plan for the future.
All of this is to say that life is too short not to have a friend to dream with. If you realize that your friends don’t support your dreams or want to be involved in them, maybe they aren’t the friends you thought they were. If you’ve been neglecting a friend who would be by your side at the drop of a hat, maybe you should think about it. Some day you will want or need a friend to dream with, and those friends are few and far between.
You need friends who know you at your best, and who know you at your worst. Friends who help you find who you are when you are lost, or remind you where you’ve been if you are about to do something stupid. Friends who are honest, but not brutally in a way that makes you feel ashamed. Friends who consider your feelings and truly want the best for you, and friends who regard your advice in the highest. Friends who love you unconditionally, who feel that that unconditional love and acceptance goes both ways. It is great to be in love, but sometimes you need your best girl (or guy) friend, because the support and love from a best friend is irreplaceable.
You may have one friend to dream with, or you may have many friends to dream with. Either way, they are essential. I lacked my friend to dream with until recently, and having that support and excitement has made the excitement of my engagement so much more special. Had this happened three or four months ago, it would not have been nearly as special (no offense Derek).
“It is no coincidence that Jesus talks endlessly about love. Free love. Unconditional love.” -Donald Miller
“I fell in love with books. Some people find beauty in music, some in painting, some in landscape, but I find it in words. By beauty, I mean the feeling you have suddenly glimpsed another world, or looked into a portal that reveals a kind of magic or romance out of which the world has been constructed, a feeling there is something more than the mundane, and a reson for our plodding.” -Donald Miller