Priorities and Options
Never allow someone to be your priority,
while allowing yourself to be their option.
An anonymous quote.
Simple in it's design, complex in it's meaning.
A quote I would have never known had it not been for the internet.
A quote that has haunted me for literally years.
Never - at no time in the past or future; on no occasion; not ever.
allow - grant permission.
someone - a person of importance or authority.
(to be your) priority - fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important.
while - during which.
allowing - giving permission.
yourself - you personally.
(to be their) option - something or someone that may or may not be chosen.
I have, so many times in my life, put myself in the position of valuing certain individuals higher than they valued me. Part of me kicks myself for a seeming lack of self-respect. But on the other hand, is it not noble, admirable at the least, to value those around you highly regardless of their opinion about you? Can we affirm that Scripture says love your neighbor only when they value the friendship as highly as you do? No, we are all required to love without conditions, at least that's my view.
On further examination of this haunting, self-incriminating quote, I find myself trying to think of how many in my life have considered me 'an option'. I was certainly an option to every teacher I had in school; many other students actually studied, listened and were far more respectful than myself. Likewise, I was an option to a lot of somewhat shallow friends and acquaintances over the years, evidenced by the fact that they are no longer in my life. I have to admit that many of the special loves of my life have been optional, as well, since they were not required enough to continue a romantic relationship. My parents would not say I was optional, of course, but I'm not so sure about my sibling or my aunts, uncles or cousins, whom I see only at family funerals. I don't think I'm optional to my best friends, at least at this point, but who knows what the future will hold. Will I become optional in their view at some later date when circumstances change? My husband and I are not optional to each other, but that may be due to the legalities involved. My kids are not optional to me, most assuredly, but as they are teens, they certainly consider me optional...especially when they are with their friends.
With all that, is it even feasible to consider that in order to engage in relationship one must be considered a priority? Perhaps it would be alright to be considered a priority for a season. Or maybe a priority as long as you worked together, or shared the same hobby. You could certainly consider someone a priority if they agreed with you on most everything, right? Would that warrant the coveted label of priority?
Moreover, can we truly consider anyone an option? Somehow that just smacks of devaluation of ones we are called to love - which is our neighbor, just to refresh our memories. Would I consider my physical neighbors optional? Well, I don't talk to them much...perhaps once or twice in the summer when we are getting our mail at the same time. What about my 'neighbors' in my synagogue or church? Is the person sitting behind me week in and week out optional? Heck, I may not even know their name, much less their kids. Can I just go out on a jukin' limb and say that the Holy One doesn't consider anyone optional? I'd like to think that, for sure.
I know what is at the heart of this pithy quote. It can be easy to devalue ourselves to a position of doormat, especially in a relationship you absolutely do not want to lose. The essence of it, I believe, is an admonition to not sit still and allow someone to take you for granted to a level of disrespect in a any relationship that you feel is important. No one likes, or should be, taken for granted, right? We all have worth, we all deserve basic human respect and we all want to feel wanted and needed. Just the idea that you would or could 'allow' someone to consider you an option should rub everyone the wrong way. Surely, there is no one reading this quote that would say, "gosh, I don't mind being someones option". That is just not how we are to think of ourselves as we move through our lives; we are valued more than that by the Maker, at the very least.
The bottom line is this - relationships are hard. There is a give-and-take reality of relationships that demands that sometimes we are the priority and other times we are the option. We are not always going to be the center of attention or the important one. There are times, lots of times, that we need to be the humble one, the serving one or the forgiving one. It is that give-and-take that fosters trust, compassion and love.
If you will allow, I would like to re-write the above quote to something more appropriate, more healthy, and perhaps more fitting to living at peace with one another. May we all be blessed with relationships that make us feel wanted and needed, where we are considered a priority.
Always allow others to be your priority,
while acknowledging that you are G-d's.