Some Thoughts on Valentine’s Day

I can’t sleep and that never happens. Not to Jo. Normally I can sleep like a rock (or a grandma, depending on how you want to see it), any time, any place. So I’m going to write (which will, of course, backfire on me because everyone knows a computer screen aggravates insomnia). Oh Well.

I was thinking about Valentine’s Day, as it’s almost exactly a month til and the stores are already red and pink and white and sappy. I like Valentine’s Day, even though I guess, technically, I’ve never “had a reason” to. It’s always been a family day for me; my parents get me and my sisters little gifts, and we give each other Valentine hearts. I’m pretty sure one of my sisters has been my Valentine for the whole decade she’s been alive. Whether you’re one of the ones who’s going to celebrate the day with one special person, or whether you’re one who sort of dreads the day because you’re not, I invite you to celebrate anyway by telling people you love them and appreciate them. It doesn’t just have to be on that one day, either—tomorrow you could try and remember to give an extra thanks to the person who serves you in the cafeteria or the coffee shop—heck, say hey to the janitor (cause they are pretty much the coolest:)

All that got me thinking about a little thing I wrote last year, as a freshman here, about the need both to say what you mean, and, just as importantly, to mean what you say. I was frustrated at the constant use of sarcasm toward friends, which, as I saw it, reflected peoples’ inability to say what they really meant. I didn’t understand why, in order to convey that they loved their friends, some people faked being mean to them, all in a joking, “harmless” manner, of course.

I see a little better now, I guess. It’s hard to open up—to expose your feelings without the assurance that they’ll be returned—that’s scary. And while I don’t usually use the tactics that I observed (observed with such righteous disgust, too;) last year, I do struggle with telling people I love them. I struggle with that a lot, actually. I’m a quiet person by nature—I know this; other people know this; those quizzes on Facebook even know this (which must be conclusive proof!)—and it’s very, very hard for me to open up unless I really trust a person, until I am truly comfortable around that person. Sometimes I think it’s with those people, though—the ones that I value the most—that I keep the most to myself. I think about how much I love them, but might never actually voice it to the person. That is sad, and pathetic, and I’m trying to change that. If I may, though, I will repost what I wrote last year, the year I spent Valentine’s Day in the library with a textbook. I called it, “This is Encouragement, Sheldon…”

I think I’ll start by petitioning my peers: can we stop being fake-mean to our friends? I’ve about had it with stale one-liners hit back and forth across a table of supposed companions. Does it make it more comfortable to pretend to take offense easily? Why the constant, petty insults covered by hasty “just kiddings”—what good can come from being insincere? I suppose I’m being too literal-minded and that it’s all in fun and kidding around. But people can pretend; what if something I said “just kidding” actually ended up hurting a friend, without my realizing it? I can’t help but think it’s part of a deeper issue. People find it difficult to say what they mean. I’ve noticed it in my own habits: I am a noticeably reserved person around those I don’t know very well, because I haven’t learned to trust them. I worry about the smallest flaws people might find in my words; I fear that they will laugh at me, or think ill of me, or simply not have a good impression of me, Jo. I am often just as restrained with the people I care most about—I fear that love will be one-sided, that I will “weird them out” if I tell them how neat I think they are. There are a thousand other tiny fears planted maliciously in my mind, preventing me from saying what I really mean.

Then again, I’ve never been able to stomach those who habitually toss out “I love you’s” without thinking about it. They make acquaintances and, quite suddenly, whoever happens to be in their favor is now their “favorite person.” No, they’re not. Don’t use those words, don’t say “I love you” if you don’t mean it. Overuse cheapens endearments.

My two tirades seem contradictory: one encourages more kind words while the other rages against thoughtless sugary phrases. This is my point: wait until you can say it and mean it. If that’s something negative or critical, then wait until you’re alone and have it out—yell, if it leads to reconciliation. Don’t allow fake cruelty to escape your lips and taint a good friendship. Don’t be fake.

Tell people what you notice about them as you grow to know them better—but don’t carelessly throw out “I love you” to someone you can’t stand. Keep it valuable, and when you can mean it, then say it. Say it often. Say it in different ways—aim to lift the loved one’s soul to the sky.

There is a TV show, apparently, in which one character doesn’t understand sarcasm, so other characters let him know for certain when they are being sarcastic. Can we be just as intentional about making our words uplifting? It would be nice if we were actually nice to each other; if, instead of worrying that we’ll seem—I don’t know— too sweet?— we actually encouraged one another. You do this so well, Sarah. Sean, I love seeing you smile. You are a kind person, Zach. You are a wonderful sister, Esther.    What if we outdid one another in making each other’s days bright and lovely?

What I wrote was not great, but when I couldn’t sleep just now it kept going through my head, and it connected, as it hadn’t before, with all those verses in the New Testament, usually at the ends or beginnings of letters, when the writer tells his audience to “encourage one another” daily, or to “exhort one another,” or to “build each other up in the faith,” so that their “hearts may be encouraged.” All these are phrases from Galatians, Ephesians, Thessalonians—pretty much any of them, really—that indicate that Christians, anyway, are commanded to love each other and make their love known and evident.

I’ll end here, but the other thing that kept going through my head was a thought that sometimes comes, and which may seem morbid to some of you: sometimes I wonder about death, and what would happen if I died. What would happen, I mean, to the ones I’ll leave here—I know where I’ll be. Sometimes I wonder whether the people who’ve hurt me (whether intentionally or not) will be slightly haunted by the lack of resolution on their part—that is the morbid part, I admit it freely. Mostly, though, I wonder whether I’ll have said all I needed to say. I fear, sometimes, that I ignore God’s promptings to encourage somebody who needs it, or that I let opportunities pass when I could make peace with one of those people who’ve hurt me (or with one of the many people I have hurt, in turn). I fear that someday, I will lose the chance to tell my friend, “I love you, just because.” While it won’t be a concern when I’ve left here, that in itself makes it more of a concern now. Let me tell you, and show you, how I love you now, while I can.

Good morning, friends, and thanks for reading:)