Quickening my pace I made my way down the wet sidewalk, inwardly cursing myself for not bringing an umbrella... or rain boots. Fortunately, I was nearing the coffee shop where I was to meet one of my dear friends. We’ve always preferred to meet up in warmly lit places where the air is filled with chai and ginger cookies, catching up on the little details of life.
“How are you?” I asked Nicole, while I shook water droplets from my jacket.
“No, I AM. I’m fine. It’s just – I don’t know, this whole thing – that isn’t a thing – with James.”
“Have you guys been talking a lot?” I asked, taking a sip of latte from my mug. James was a guy that Nicole knew from church and had been interested in for a couple of months.
“Well, we hung out a couple of times, but … nothing seems to be progressing,” she breathed. “I keep telling myself that I don’t care, because it doesn’t really seem like he does. Or well, sometimes it seems he really likes me … and then nothing.”
Nicole glanced down at her phone at the black screen of no new messages. She intentionally placed it down and crossed her arms, looking up at me, “I think … think I’m done.”
In that moment I understood what she was really saying, “Caring is too hard. I can’t do it anymore. It’s too scary; I’m safer if I just hide behind this wall I have now decided to build.”
About half way through our coffee date, Nicole’s phone lit up. I watched as she peered down at the message and then purposely placed her phone in her bag.
“Was that James?" I asked, my curiosity tingling.
“Yep,” Nicole replied, lacking emotion.
“Hello, aren’t you going to respond!?”
“No,” Nicole said with conviction. “I don’t care. He can see how it feels to be ignored for once.”
I was disheartened as she changed the subject. We didn’t revisit the topic of James for the remainder of our time together; but as I was walking back to my car, the sun finally beaming from behind the clouds, I began to ponder some of the implications our conversation held. Thinking, not for the first time, why in our nation it seems whoever cares less holds all the power. Why is it that the ultimate personification of “attractive” seems to be a concoction of indifference and emotional aloofness?
My heart ached as I realized that we've traded in vulnerability, and genuine empathy for a facade - a facade that loudly declares “caring is beneath me”. We value nonchalance above consideration.
Like pieces of a puzzle coming together, I began to realize that I was just as guilty of this as Nicole and James. Countless times I’ve deliberately waited to answer a text or Facebook message. How often do I hide behind humor and sarcasm to deviate from my feelings?
I have asked myself this for a long while and still do not have a clear answer. I know it has to do with desiring safety. I also know that it is wise to guard and protect your heart. However, how often is our motivation for “guarding” out of fear rather than wisdom? Is the reason we hide behind this façade of indifference because we are being wise and guarded? Or is it because we fear vulnerability, lest someone wound us? Why is pretending not to care, when we actually do, the ultimate?
Because then we have all the power to wound and no perceived weakness.
But this is not power. It is merely a cheap façade that comes from partaking in the illusion. This, at the very core and definition, is cowardice. Cowards flee from battle, hiding behind bricks. Heroes humble themselves for the benefit of others. Heroes run into the heat of the battle knowing they may become wounded. But they know there’s something worth fighting for, worth more than their own safety.
That’s true power. Making people feel safe. Helping them believe again. Hope again.
Compassion and empathy is the goal. Never indifference. No friendship, no romance, no legendary story, nothing worth anything was ever built on indifference. Not even your image. Because to put it quite frankly, no one likes that image, it makes people belittled and worthless.
Intentionally making people believe that they are unworthy of your attention is not, and will never be, attractive.