'Carrie. You've gone through some break-ups...'
My boss is running the panel this afternoon, and decides to share such a thought in front of 700 people. It's happened a few times in public. Now, I trust him with my life. Albeit with white knuckles and a quick look to my interns off stage. I had faith that the end of the sentence might turn out better than the beginning of it.
'...so tell these ones how to break-up well.'
'Well I am an expert.' (Cue the audience's nervous laughter).
I've dated a few long-term relationships since I was 18. Some were beautifully gorgeous, a few, well, less so.
I continue to speak into the microphone...
'But these days I'm sometimes (inwardly), shaking my head at how poorly men and women act out the final scene. It's as if the gospel stayed at the door, along with a smile and one's ownership of their choices. Chivalry might be deceased.'
All those eyeball rolling lines that come from those whom haven't experienced true intimacy, 'I didn't feel peace in it,' or 'I didn't feel the LORD in it.' Some people don't learn powerful protocol until they've been broken hearted. Some of the finest relationships have to go through peace-less times. If we're bolting on the moment there is not peace, well for those who've really loved - perseverance is actually necessary. Blaming God for breaking up is part and parcel of Christ looking upon the scene, wondering why He's being blamed for their hurting heart.
No sweetheart, the decision to pick up the opportunity of a (wo)man was yours, and to finish it, was also yours. Let's be Swarovski clear.
I too have failed miserably at the heartbreak ride. I've been head over heels and had some stunningly fun and glorious, long-term relationships. But I've made the immature mistake of dialing their digits instead of talking to their tears.
I've shut down. Refused to listen to their thoughts or feedback. (I was too much of a perfectionist to allow any more criticism from another). I've moved on before the end. I've sighed as they cry on my lap. I've had men on their knees begging me to reconsider whilst I look out the window checking the weather. I've equally clung onto a boyfriend's denim cladded leg before screaming 'BUT WHY!!!!?'
And other dignified responses.
May my pain be the church's gain, because if I'm seeing secular people do this better, we have a problem. A real problem. Secular men, taking their time to allow the woman to grieve, share their heart, be sensitive to her surroundings, not boost or prove anything through shame-drenched 'I am enough, I am competent' social media posts. Kindness is kingdom, and yet how come I see it occur more in the secular when it comes to this arena? As a church, shouldn't we at least know the basics?
I remember asking my spiritual father once upon a time:
'What were you like, back then, when you were single?'
He takes his time.
'That was a long time ago. But I hope, I hope, I was always honorable. Always looking at a woman with honor in who she was, not with what she could give me.'
And there's your disco.
Nothing should change in the break up. Let not shame make you feel you're rejecting or being rejected. You're just not being chosen - this time.
So here are some thoughts for breaking up well, for the sake of community, for the sake of exampling a gospel heart:
1. Seek advice from those who know BOTH of you. You might be a rockstar with your buds, but are you any good at intimacy? Don't leave this to you and your journal. As my aforementioned friends above shared 'The problem with self-reflection, asking no one who could speak into both of your lives, is that you will always think you are right.' So choose your committee. Make it a small number to ensure covering over them. These few should have been involved at the very beginning. If wise, they will be polite and civil to the other party, but behind closed doors, they'll give you a truthful answer.
2. Do it in person. No face time/texts/post-it notes/homing pigeons. If you're attempting any similar method, I would suggest holding off all dating until you have learnt the fundamentals. Did your actions reflect your words? If they didn't, take this opportunity to apologise. Ask questions. Don't assume you know how they feel. I remember once, a man walking into my office, telling me it's all off, and left without actually asking if I wanted to finish this too. Instead 'I didn't want to string you along' and 'do you need anything from me at this difficult time?' ('Erm hi. Me here - the one you were quite inconsistent with - I do actuality want to break this off also, you can spare your sweet monologue for the next one').
3. Instead of brushing off critical rhetoric with 'I don't care what people say.' Perhaps reconsider and think if this is about your feelings, or if it's about respect towards another heart? Time to look at yourself, from people who do this better than you. Be powerful. Avoid projection and blame. If you made the decision, own the decision. Let not shame nor guilt give you defence mechanisms that belittle the other. You want to carry out a conversation that you won't regret in a year's time when all the pain is gone.
Seek connection over being right. The finest breakups for me were the ones where we talked for hours reminiscing about the fun times. Don't brush over it as if it were nothing, for you were handling a heart, and the heart is the most important thing to Him. If you treasure what is dear to Him, you will treasure what is dear to them.
4. Watch your social media etiquette. No videos or over enthusiastic sensationalism on how WONDERFUL your life is when you broke away only a week ago. One thing this will do is enforce deep joy in the guy/girl; jubilant that they didn't hand over their heart to you if you couldn't do a decent job of being sensitive. If you know the other is missing a sensitivity chip, best to unfollow, or remove on networking mediums, and if you need to, explain (gently) why you are doing so ahead of time.
5. Only stay friends if you truly know there is no hope from either party. It's a cruel ego that seeks to stay friends with someone who still holds hope. Only a person holding a chasm of self-loathing, would tease someone in close proximity. I hold friendships with very few exes. And it took work to get there. Just the other day I sat next to an ex in a meeting who had also dated the girl next to me. We joked about the irony, and yet felt a real sense of love for each other. You can move on with kindness and joy, but they will not know the inner workings of my day. If respect wasn't reciprocated, don't attempt a new friendship now - you already have plenty.
If we love who we are, with gentleness and kindness, without building case studies for the other person's problems, we'll naturally carry out the kindest option. The basics will be hardwired in our subconscious and you may actually leave them with the thought, 'Despite the destiny he and I won't share, he respected me, he showed honor and I learnt something.'
I don't type this with an insidious expectation that the church must exemplify a better code of conduct than good people outside of the church (although that would be pleasant). But if we must say we follow the gospel, then shouldn't this end as it had originally begun? In love?