“Why didn’t you ask us?”

Today’s blog has an ambiguous title but hopefully once you have read it, it will make sense. In a way I’m talking about communication, but from both a faith based and an operation based angle.

The title comes from a conversation that took place quite a while ago at the end of Easter term. The CU had an Easter themed quiz/talk/music night and I put some flyers on the table in the flat. No-one approached me with any interest so I went with my regular CU friends, quite early as I had been tasked with buying snacks and prizes. After a mad supermarket sweep to buy far too much food and then a longer walk than planned as we struggled to find a parking space off campus, we arrived and had an enjoyable night. I came back and went to bed and thought no more about it.

Then the next day I got a few comments on the flyers and what a shame it was that they hadn’t noticed them sooner. “Why didn’t you ask us?” is a paraphrase of the general gist of people’s feelings and that’s a very good question. Why did I not ask them? I guess there are probably two reasons: firstly, the practicalities of the fact that I was buying food on the way so would have to meet them there; but more importantly, I didn’t expect them to want to come. The number of times I’ve asked people to church and CU events and been knocked back are multiple, but I think that was my wake up call that I’d actually given up asking.

Asking someone to do something with you is an interesting phenomenon. It can prompt different reactions from people: happiness and pleasure to be asked or awkwardness if it’s not something they want to do. Part of the fear that made me ‘give up’ was that the awkwardness would turn to annoyance or resentment if I repeatedly ask them to do things and they say no. This can be applied, I think, to any situation – even looking at ordinary things I do with friends at university, I barely ever initiate these but am very enthusiastic about bringing a suggestion to fruition. At home I’m more likely to organise meeting up with friends, but even with some friends, I have again given up asking.

This confidence to ask people to do things is quite similar to the situation in the year prior to my surgery, which is almost 4 years ago (I’m now 2 years, 9 and a half months post-op!) I completely could not talk to people about the fact I was going to have an operation, although people would ask how my hospital appointments were: these questions were largely during lessons so I used this as an excuse to keep quiet. I didn’t want to pressure others to give me sympathy or support me and if I did talk about it, it was on a one-to-one basis. This probably created a bit of a feeling amongst my friends that each was the only one to know, even though they were not. Most similarly, I didn’t want to go on about it and make others resent me for having this massive thing happening and letting the stress and anxiety over it consume every situation.

The above approach didn’t really work for any of the concerned parties, and I think we probably all need to be more open with others. For instance, a lot of my conversations in the past week have concerned my hospital appointment and the train strike (now cancelled, hooray!) and I feel a bit like it’s consuming everything. However, I’ve had no complaints from people I’m spoken to and real friends will make it clear that one topic is permeating the conversation by changing the subject or politely saying shut up. They won’t resent you for constantly asking them to do the same thing and them constantly refusing – if it’s getting too annoying they will say that there’s no chance they’ll ever want to do that and please stop asking, and if they do resent you, then sever some of your ties with them. Remember the love that real friends have, and hold on to that

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