A few weeks ago my social life was falling apart. I have never had good friends my age who understand me and stay an active part of my life. I find someone that maybe could fit part of that role, and then they decide to move a thousand miles away, life moves us apart in time and place, or they turn to me one day and tell me to get lost. Don't get me wrong - I have amazing mentors and role models and leaders who will do anything for me - but it's not the same. I've never had friends my age for longer than a few months. And days like today make me wonder if it will ever change.

I met with my priesthood leader today... and I'm torn between wanting to explain the details of our conversation - so you understand his motivation in what he did - and wanting to keep the confidence he indirectly requested. Even though we may never become good friends, and he may never read this post or GMG again, integrity and loyalty are more important to me in relationships (even tenuous ones) than anything else... so I'll just go on.

I've talked with a number of friends recently, trying to identify what it is about me that is so repulsive. I can write something that appeals to hundreds of thousands of people... So what makes those same people, when they begin to get to know me, instantly reject me as an option to be a friend? Most of my recent friends were unwilling to give me any feedback - claiming they didn't know me well enough or that there wasn't anything inherently bad... but finally someone told me: I love people intensely, and most people don't want intense relationships. 

As I look at my life, I understand the truth of that statement. I call or text people every time I think of them. Most people want friends who will call them every so often. I invite people to everything I do - extending the invitation whether or not they will accept. They want people who only invite them to some things. When my friends are sick, I make them soup, put their names on the temple prayer roll, and coordinate with leaders to ensure they receive blessings. Most people want friends who will ask once how they're doing... but won't actively try to understand their needs or their soul. I pray for my friends by name, try to find them the best surprise Christmas presents, attend their concerts and learn their trades. Ultimately, when I find a friend, I open my entire heart and soul to him, and, subconsciously, take the steps to unlock and understand his as well... and because of that, I am intense.

In recent years I've put more and more effort into trying to appear less intense so that people accept me. I've had lists of conversation topics (and blacklists), taken courses on direct and indirect communication, talked with communication experts, logged interventions, and asked the Lord for help. But there has been no appreciable change. I'm thinking, honestly, that I may have Asperger's and simply have a different way of processing relational information.

It was with this understanding, and not really sure what to expect, that I met my bishop again today. He, too, asked me not to blog our conversation... But I will tell you that he had prayerfully prepared... and I will share one piece of inspired counsel he gave that was an answer to years of prayer: when you are trying to find good friends, be yourself.

I had asked him part of the list I made - for help finding good friends - people who wouldn't tell me to change who I was, wouldn't be afraid or discomfited by my intensity, and could actually, maybe, become good friends. He listed off a few names, then turned to me with the familiar look in his eyes of a Priesthood Leader who has received truth from God... and told me to be myself.

Before my mission, I never really had to make relationships work. I had tons of acquaintances and, somehow, found ways to fill my needs, or ignore them, by being busy in my life. But when I entered the MTC I realized that my intensity was the biggest stumbling block in trying to become friends with the people I loved. I began trying to develop social skills... always assuming that, because something in my character was incompatible with others, I had the burden of change. I started by trying to understand exactly what I was "supposed" to be doing in a given friendship and then doing it - making friendship like a dance or a game of cards or a counseling session. And while sometimes I was able to find temporary "friends" that way, they never understood me... and the friendships inevitably failed as I realized that I was tired of the dance and wanted real friends, or they saw beyond the facade and promptly rejected me. No one has ever made the jump from dance-friend in a carefully structured relationship... to true friend who loves and accepts me for who I am... and strives to understand and meet my own needs. No one my age has ever made the jump to true friend at all.

The stark contrast hit me - and I realized that this was my ultimate choice. I could try to love people less and pretend that I don't want to be involved in the intimate details of their lives - perhaps finding more people who will accept a faux me... or I can be true to the intensity that is an integral part of who I am, and with the hope of finding someone who will accept me, risk complete rejection and pain at every turn.

As I write this post, I realize that part of my lot in life is to know what it means to be friendless. Curled up in a ball, crying for peace, the Lord has taught me the importance of turning to Him before anyone else - anyone - and shown me how I can be a friend to those in need even if they can never reciprocate. He has answered my prayers for peace and guidance when no one else could... and I am grateful for the relationship that I have slowly developed with Him. I don't know if I will ever find true best friends. I mean, I believe I'll find a wife someday, and she will be my best friend first... but decades of trying hasn't worked before. How will this run be different from the last time, when I met utter rejection in the face?

Maybe it won't work, and part of my trial is learning how to be honest and true to who I am... even without friends - sort of like staying true to the law of chastity that I covenanted with God to keep in His temple, even when everyone around me tells me I'm a fool.

Either way, I know my direction... and I know that God will take care of me. He does miracles in my behalf, and He will make it right.
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