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dna-ii acceptance dark sideIn this post I want warn you to beware of friends who aren’t.

Because, if you’re like me, you’ve always longed to hang out with people who “get you.” And not just “get you,” but embrace everything about you. Even those things you’re not exactly proud of. And by that I’m not referring to personal inadequacies. I’m talking about sinful attitudes, habits and thoughts.

You naturally want to be around people who won’t “judge you,” call you out, or hold anything against you.

You know the phrase: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Well again, if you’re like me, your parents didn’t cut it. That is to say, they didn’t exactly “get you,” to the extent to which you wished to be “gotten.” And neither did other important adults in your life.

And so you endeavored to find someone or someones out there who would.

For me, that meant looking for a romantic relationship where I would be accepted just the way I was (that didn’t work, by the way), but for many others they take the road less romantic:

The Clique

Many people feel they find the unconditional acceptance they always needed (and deserved) in a clique. They wouldn’t call it a clique, of course. It might be a club, a team, a gang, a fraternity/sorority, or some other social grouping.

Of course there’s nothing inherently evil about these societal entities, but there is something deceptive about them. They can make the group members feel a level of acceptance that isn’t real.

If I’m an athlete it’s pretty easy to feel accepted just the way I am by other athletes.

If I’m a nerd, it’s pretty easy to feel accepted just the way I am by other nerds. (Indeed, other nerds may be the only ones to accept me at all.)

Same thing for the geeks, freaks and popular peeps. But that feeling of unconditional acceptance is an illusion.

If you feel accepted by people who are similar to you, you’re actually not being accepted just the way you are. You’re being accepted just the way they are.

In other words, the conditions of your acceptance have far less to do with who you are as an individual as it does with who you are as a group. In affirming you, they’re actually affirming themselves.

Your acceptance is still very much conditional, but it doesn’t feel that way. Since they are so much like you already, it takes little effort for them to accept you. And you them.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with hanging out with people of like interests, attitudes and talents. But there is a danger in finding your identity in a group of people who all find their identity in the group.

There’s something even more troublesome if, in identifying yourself with your chosen clique, you distance yourself from the family and friends who love you most.

The Contract Friend

Cliques don’t have the corner on offering what feels like unconditional acceptance.

There are other friends out there who will seem to accept you just the way you are. Indeed, these people may seem like they’d accept anyone.

It might be an easy-going company of pot smokers who think you’re alright, even if you don’t have any weed on you. Or a band of punk rockers who accept you whether or not you wear black lipstick and eye shadow. Or it might be the LGBTQIA group at school.

In these social circles, inclusivity is the new acceptance and tolerance the new love, but here’s the deal, if you don’t agree with their way of looking at the world, you don’t get accepted by them.

That’s why I call them contract friends. There are no forms to fill out and sign, but the agreement is implicitly understood: I’ll accept you just the way you are IF you accept me just the way I am.

Your friendly local weed growers won’t think you’re cool if you try to convince them that their drug habit might be bad for them.

If you discover that one of those misunderstood lovers-of-all-things-gothic is cutting, just look the other way. If you confront them about it, you’re not accepting them (just the way they are). And they likely will return the favor.

As for that gay friend who’s totally cool that you’re heterosexual. They’re only totally cool with that IF you’re totally cool that they’re homosexual. Cool?

So much for unconditional acceptance.

Here’s the unpopular, but unbelievably wonderful truth:

True love doesn’t require behavior modification to enjoy its benefits, but part of the benefits of true love is inspiration and even empowerment to change.

God’s love is so powerful it doesn’t accept our sin, but instead, when we walk in it we find the ability, desire and determination to resist the dark side and embrace righteousness, no matter how unnatural it may feel to us.

But don’t take my word for it. Take God’s!

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:1-6 (ESV)

So here’s my final appeal: look no longer for friends who will accept you just the way you are. Seek to find and keep close, loved ones who will accept you in spite of the way you are and inspire and lead you into new life.

Even if it hurts.

Because growing in true intimacy is worth it!

Next week we’ll introduce our next intimacy impostor. If you’ve always wanted to make a difference in this world, you may be seeking it.

Date Night Advice (DNA) series: The Intimacy Impostor of Acceptance
Episode 4: Beware of Friends Who Aren’t
Begin with the First Episode: Does God Accept You Just the Way You Are?

This is post is part of a larger series called Relation^ology (it begins with this post) where we identify the greatest relational need of our heart and then ID the counterfeits we seek out or settle for instead.