There is an obvious difference between those who care about you and those who do not. It is told by their actions and their inactions. Their words play a large role, but not as much as you would think. The old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," must have been written by a deaf person before the creation of sign language. The phrase is simply not true, but is probably repeated to young children in order to help them get through the torture of growing up because as we know, teenagers can be utterly cruel and kids say the darnedest things.
I know it's not too different being an adult, though. We get mad at each other rather easily and I have realized that when people lash out, their anger or rage isn't so much in regard to the current situation, but a multitude of past hurts. That's normal. Well, let's not excuse it as normal, but rather say it is common.
My good friend told me the other day that hurt people hurt people. That's not a typo. People who have been hurt tend to hurt other people because their boiling point is already so close to the top at the start of each day. It's a fault of their own, but often it is not their fault. Remember what I mentioned earlier with teenagers and kids. Well, adults can be cruel to children as well, and at times with more than words - sticks and stones come into play.
KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE
So how do you know when someone cares and someone doesn't? Too often it takes a long time to be certain. There are some people who have proven themselves to you over time that they care, and then there are those who you can feel care for you deeply even in a small amount of time. And of course, this is the same scenario on the other end. Some have proven over time that they do not care about you and then there are those people who you know from the beginning they aren't worth the time of day.
I think the most obvious way to know if someone cares for you - truly cares for you - is through the power of the apology. It isn't gifts. It isn't kisses on the cheek, like Proverbs 27:6 says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." As proven here by a man much wiser than me (King Solomon), it isn't just an apology, but sheer honesty. Someone who cares for you will speak the truth to you regarding your strengths and your weaknesses. They will advise you and at times speak those words you won't want to hear.
You might be saying, "I don't trust the people who do those things." Rest assured there are reasons for distrust, for these same words and actions can easily be applied to those who wish for you to fail or at least wish for your misery. People love to point out weaknesses of others. We do it every day, all the time, especially about people we don't know (i.e. celebrities).
People can be honest in a cruel manner, much like children do among themselves. "You're fat." "You're ugly." "You're dumb." Perception is reality. This fact in itself is cruel and many people love to harness it. Why? Because it is easy. The target is the broad side of a barn. It's a can't-miss and for those who don't care for you, when they approach an opportunity, they take their ball of mud and sling it in your direction knowing, even with their extreme carelessness, that it will reach its intended target.
Trust is a difficult item to acquire. It cannot be bought, but it can definitely be sold. As painstakingly long as it is to earn (not in the same definition as "bought"), it can quickly be relinquished.
Pointing out weaknesses, however, can be "wounds of a friend" and an attempt to make you a better person. These wounds are often proven over time. No new friend will immediately begin to point out all of your flaws, unless they are so glaring that they can't stand to be around you until you fix those problems.
This doesn't, however, mean that mistakes can't be made. We are human and lean toward mistake-filled lives. These mistakes are so commonly the products of our lips. We say the wrong things at the wrong time and we can crush each other. We can truly do damage, not only to the relationship, but to that person moving forward. This is where the power of the apology comes in. Without this there is no room, really, for trust. It is our one opportunity to take a step back. To erase and start clean. This is the opportunity for a great gift: forgiveness.
APOLOGIES AND FORGIVENESS
As wonderful as the apology and forgiveness sound, it is by no means easy and many people prefer to defer on both accounts. But I have witnessed that it is harder to carry those weights of never apologizing and never forgiving than it is to resolve the situation and move forward with life. Yet people do it. Sometimes to simply prove a point to each other that they don't have to apologize or forgive. That they are their own boss and no one can rule them. Ironically, this mistake actually causes that person to rule over you. They become your conversation piece and one that no one wishes to hear. It is how that person hurt you and how you won't forgive them. It may feel good in your chest to say it. To say, "I hate that person. I can't stand that person." There is a release of emotion in those words, but that emotion is simply what is stated: hate. It is bitterness. And as often as you release that emotion of bitterness outwardly, it takes even deeper roots inwardly. Soon the wages of that bitterness begin to show - physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. So what power did you receive? None. You lost power, and simultaneously, the ability to truly trust.
Learn to apologize. Learn to forgive. And how do you learn these? The same way you learn everything in life: repetition.
The holiday season is here, take a moment to do one of two things: apologize or forgive. Dare I say do both? Do you dare do both?
You are not bigger than life. You are simply life, and living a good, honest, happy life truly hinges on these two acts: apologies and forgiveness. From these two acts, you will find out who cares about you and who doesn't. Conversely, you will also find out who you care about and who you don't.