crossing the awkward :: friendship at the speed limit in outer space

April 20, 2010

All of us have an inner 3rd Grader longing to be set free. That’s why I’m still amused by this joke, lo these 30 years later…

Q: “What’s the speed limit in outer space?”  A: (say it with me…)  “WIDE OPEN, just like your ZIPPER!”

OK, maybe it’s just me (and my dad… and my 3rd Grader) who has an inner 3rd Grader.  But last Friday, in my dapper dress for my corporate office job, I noticed it seemed a bit… drafty.  * Pause… Yep.  That’s what I’m saying. *

So I realized my unfortunate state of (un)dress not long after taking a meandering walk through the halls of our office building, talking to, well… at least 9 people.  I counted. Because you would too, right?  We have the moment of discovery, and it is immediately followed by a shot of adrenaline and a mental checklist of all the people you have recently interacted with in the last 15 minutes.  All of them fall into one of two categories at this point:  either “none-the-wiser” or “enablers.”

That’s it.  At this point, either you’re with me or against me, so to speak.  Either you DIDN’T notice I was letting my freak flag fly, or you DID… in which case, you let me carry on my walk of shame, oblivious to my own gravitationally challenged zipper.  Thanks a lot.

I mentioned my predicament on Facebook in an effort to rally moral support.  And because my inner 3rd Grader thought it was funny.  And I got a comment back that caught my attention…

“You find out real quick who your real friends are. Personally the one time I had that particular wardrobe malfunction, I had a friend who told me right away. I am thankful for friends who will cross the awkward to let you know.”

And there it was.  My daily dose of relational insight.  We need real friends who are willing to “cross the awkward” for us.  And this is where my zipper becomes a metaphor.

We all have a circle of relationships that never cross the awkward.  Surface.  Polite.  But not substantive.  And certainly not life-changing.

In this one life, I’m more and more committed to relationships that run deep enough to cross the awkward when necessary.  The book of Proverbs says that “an honest answer is like a kiss on the lips,” (24:26) and that even “wounds from a friend can be trusted.” (27:6)  In other words, friends who are willing to tell us the truth – even when it’s awkward – are a BLESSING.

I am grateful to have some good friends in my life who have crossed the awkward for me.  Not just to save me from publicly exposing whether I’m a boxers or briefs sort of guy (I’ll never tell) – but to step into my space and, in love, confront me when I needed it.  One closed friend of mine who lives across the city, for example, told me that our friendship was suffering because I am always so busy I rarely check in to see how he’s doing…  I gotta call him, come to think of it.  And it wasn’t just about him.  He was crossing the polite barrier and opening my eyes to a pattern of behavior – of taking my close relationships for granted.  It wasn’t easy to hear at the time.  But I’m working on it – and my relationships are better for it.  If he wasn’t willing to risk a little awkward, I would have just continued blindly to expose my self-absorbed nature to everyone around me.  But he was willing to pull me aside, and discreetly say, “Dude… Your, um… Your self-absorbed nature is showing.  You might wanna get on that.”

And honestly, I just crossed the awkward for a good friend of mine this week in a big way.  I have NO DOUBT that we will be much closer friends because of it.

So, on behalf of those of us with a misbehaving zipper, spinach in our teeth, or (more significantly) some issue of concern with our character or lifestyle, would you do me a favor?  Would you please, for the sake of the betterment of mankind and in the name of life-changing relationships, please be willing to cross the awkward. Say what needs to be said. Don’t enable us on our walk of shame any longer.  I think we’ve exposed ourselves quite enough, thank you very much.

Ever had someone “cross the awkward” for you when you really need it?  Let me know…

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“crossing the awkward :: friendships at the speed limit in outer space” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

2 responses to crossing the awkward :: friendship at the speed limit in outer space

  1. Thanks Josh… thanks for crossing the Awkward… Great Joke – I hadn’t heard that one since, ~3rd grade. I love listening and reading your blogs… you are truly an inspiration to all.
    – Mark