See this beautiful stream? It’s peaceful to me, even romantic. The small trickle of water has made a course down the easiest path, gently moving stones and earth, reeds and brush.
Flood it with too much water all at once, however, and instead of a peaceful work of natural art, you would see destruction, such as the tree that’s fallen over the stream–it probably happened when that same stream overflowed its banks following a storm. Had it been more destructive, a large tree might have blocked the stream altogether, destroying its beauty.
I’ve seen too many relationships and hearts broken–not just in romantic love, but in friendship–because those in the relationship made judgments based on immediate gratification, when the rush of emotion overflowed natural boundaries and the individuals placed too much trust too quickly in an unknown entity.
How do I know this? From far too much experience.
Have you met anyone online lately? Has someone contacted you on Facebook or Twitter because of something you said that resonated with them? Did you quickly develop a mutual admiration for one another? In just a few weeks, or even less, did you decide you would be forever friends because of those experiences shared? I have. I’ve also seen it happen to others.
I’ve then seen too many of those relationships blow apart like a dirty bomb, damaging those who thought they’d formed a lifelong friendship, or maybe even a lifelong love. Why? Because it’s human nature to present your very best face to someone you think you might like. We hide our ugliness with sweet smiles and kind words. It’s especially easy to keep up a good front online. How many minutes a day do you spend sharing yourself with someone else via internet? All they see are your written words, nothing else. They don’t smell your morning breath or watch you eat or sleep or hear you complain when you drive in traffic.
People think they know me when they read a blog or a novel I’ve written. They don’t realize I’ve edited myself to death, and then have been edited again and again by a professional with my novels. They don’t realize I’ve deleted my first, second, third drafts, and worked hard to make my words pleasing. Some readers even think they know me through the characters in my novels. They don’t see the research that goes into developing each one. Those characters aren’t me. Sure, they might have parts of me, but my readers have no way of knowing which parts.
How many times have you watched a television show or movie and loved the actor because of the part they played? You might follow up on that actor and read more about him online and be extremely disappointed. It’s all fiction. Often, when we communicate online, it’s also fiction. We only allow our readers to see who we want them to, not who we really are.
That goes for physical, face-to-face interactions, as well. I put my best face forward when I’m in public because that’s what I’ve been taught to do.
When Mel and I went out on our first real, fourteen-hour date, sure, we got to know one another a little better, but it took many months of experiencing different situations together, difficult times, conflict, deep discussions, and meeting the families, relating with others, each seeing the other relate to mutual friends, before we truly had a concept about what to expect in a relationship of our own. If Mel had told me on our first date, or second, or third, that he loved me and wanted to marry me, or if I’d done the same to him, it would have made for a difficult relationship. It might even have destroyed what has become a beautiful marriage, not because we aren’t suited to one another, but because we needed that time of learning about one another, of gently growing closer with that slow trickle, instead of rushing forward with a torrent of premature passion. The torrent would have left our relationship damaged, possibly beyond repair. There’s a good reason the Bible tells us to delay physical gratification until after marriage.
All I’m saying is do what I have my heroes and heroines do in my novels; take your time in a new relationship of any kind. Get to know a person, allow him or her time to prove loyalty and constancy before giving them your complete faith. Once you feel you really know this person, continue to give it time. Don’t move too quickly or trust immediately. Whether we intend to or not, or realize it or not, we each wear a mask of some kind. Beware of the masks around you, and get to know the real people behind them before placing your trust there. Am I repeating myself? Yeah. And I’m not editing that out, because it needs repeating.
You can always trust God, but never take anyone else at face value. Time is your friend.