Loving Peoples’ Details

“I think Mom and Dad should have gotten you tested for autism.” My sister said this to me recently. Or something along those lines. (Yeah, we’re all about the honesty in our family…)

She was referring to the fact that I’m highly tactile. I run my fingers along clothing to see how they feel. The other day I touched someone’s shaved head and literally jumped six inches in the air because it didn’t feel how I expected. (Sooooo weird. Do not touch shaved heads. They feel super weird.)

I have a visceral reaction to the minute details of the texture of things. If I was on the fence about dating someone and they started wearing a lot of flannel and really soft t-shirts, I’d probably date them. (Just kidding. Mostly. Obviously they’d also have to be awesome and love Jesus and… Again, we’re not always as deep as we’d like to be.)

But I also love the non-tactile details of people. The words they use. The things that make them feel awkward. Their senses of humor. The way their eyes crinkle when they laugh. Whether they look service people in the eye. Whether they can sit in silence and be relaxed.

When we don’t know people, we tend to see them for what they represent rather than who they are. A barista or an accountant. A quiet person or a loud one. Short or tall. Funny or serious. Our brain automatically applies a cross section of categories to each person we meet. And they get filed away under those generalizations until we actually get to know them. If we ever bother to.

The people who I love the most are the ones whose details I know the best. The ones who I would find hard to describe if you asked me to, rather than the ones that are still languishing under their generic tags of career, height, and personality type. Because they’re so much more than their labels. 

I think this is the way that God loves us. For our quirky details. For our unique compilation of brilliant attributes and heartbreaking flaws. Loving our courage and comforting us in our shortcomings. Encouraging us to try again. Helping us discover that our highest, best selves are worth striving for.

There’s something profound about being known in this way by another person. Being seen. It’s inherently intimate and infinitely valuable when someone unexpected sees you. It shocks me every time. Most of the time it gives me courage. If this person really sees me and loves me anyway, then maybe it’s okay to let down a few walls. To let a few other people see the unique compilation of characteristics that make me unique. Maybe they’ll approve as well. It’s a heady feeling.

What strikes me is how often fear stops us from expressing our affection for people. When we see others–really take the time to see them–and approve of them, it’s easy for us to be silent instead of encouraging them. Maybe we’re busy and it doesn’t occur to us to communicate our approval. Maybe we’re afraid they’ll misinterpret our approval. Maybe they seem confident and we don’t think it’ll matter. But it does matter. I’ve never met someone who walks around feeling too valued or too comfortable with themselves.

I’m going to try to be better about expressing my approval and affection in my relationships this week. How much I enjoy the tiny, small, beautifully flawed details of those I love. And see what happens. My prediction would be a lot of smiles. And some trust. Maybe some awkwardness (a feeling we’re all going to have to get used to because it seems to be associated with 99% of the growth-oriented activities we pursue). But I’m betting the good out-weighs the bad. Hopefully in some unexpected and charming ways.

“Sometimes it’s a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence.” ― David Byrne

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