Pearls before swine
I was talking to a good friend a few days ago about how hurt she was by her brother. She and a few others threw a party for her brother on his birthday. It was a lovely event at a local restaurant. Everyone enjoyed the great meal. Everyone congratulated her brother on his birthday. The event was a great success, but…
But her brother never said thank you. After all my friend’s planning and effort, her brother seemed to only muster up a world weary attitude and a smug: “That’s nice,” that translated to: “I am not sure I can be bothered.” She was hurt and angry that her gift to this individual was dismissed in a moment. She did something kind and hospitable, and he could not even say thank you. He could not even recognize that someone did something for him in love and kindness.
Now you might say maybe he did not want a party, but that was not the case. He did. He knew about the party. He was asked where he wanted to go for his party. He was even asked who he wanted at his party. My friend and his friends heeded his requests. So it was not as if he did not get what he wanted, he did, but still there was no thanks.
I talked to my friend about her hurt. I wondered why his response to her gift was so important to her. The party was a gift after all. Or was it? Was she throwing this party to express happiness and joy for her brother’s special day? Or was she throwing this party for another reason?
She looked down at her hands and then quietly said: “I guess that I wanted him to affirm me.” A “thanks” certainly would have gone a long way to that affirmation, but her brother was never, ever going to give that affirmation. As we scratched the surface, she revealed that so much she had done in her life for this man had been an attempt to receive affirmation from him, but knowing this man I am not sure he was really capable of affirming her.
Over and over again, she was casting her pearls before swine. The question was: could she stop trying to receive affirmation from someone who was incapable of giving affirmation to anyone? The other question was: why does she need it from him?
I guess for that matter, why does anyone need affirmation from anyone? I do not know why, but we need it! We need affirmation that we are beautiful and loved. We need affirmation that we are wanted and worthy. The affirmation is out there, but why do we insist on wringing it from the cold dead grip of swine?
My friend’s brother acted terribly. He acted like an entitled jerk, but my sweet friend also needed to examine this need within her. Heck, we all need to examine this need within ourselves.
Are we chasing after swine, begging for their recognition? Are we trying to please others until the point of bleeding? How do we find the affirmation we truly need, that will fulfill us? What is the point that we come to when we stop casting our pearls before swine and start sharing those precious pearls with those who truly appreciate them and us?
I think it starts with recognizing the pearls being tossed before us. Do we even see the pearls in the mud being shared with us? Only when we can recognize them, only when we can say: “Thank you,” can we even begin to receive that life giving affirmation. Of course, this is a slow process in the mud and muck. It is a slow process to realize that everything is a gift.
We are not entitled to anything, except a swift kick in the rear sometimes, and yet, we are given everything. We act like pigs, and yet we are treated like royalty. God’s Kingdom is given to us, a beautiful, precious gift. Will we receive it with thanks or just keep rolling in the mud?
I think that we all feel very vulnerable at times, particularly if we have opened ourselves up to another without much reserve. This may not be the case for your friend, but I think that it's the vulnerability we all feel at times that makes us seek affirmation, or validation from others. I do believe you're right, however, that before we seek it from anyone else, we need to seek it from ourselves. If we are self-affirming, then we are less likely to seek it from others. We won't need to. Unfortunately, being imperfect beings, we don't always realize this, even if it is a lesson we have learned (or been presented, at least) once or twice before.
Thanks for the thoughtful words. They are much appreciated.