I used to have this friend. His name was Doubt. We were close for awhile, but not anymore.
We used to spend a lot of time together. He would drop by unexpectedly, and, not knowing how to handle the situation, I would let him stay for a visit. It didn't matter where I was or what time it was, he would show up out of nowhere, always ready to share his litany of accusations and confusing, discouraging stories.
Doubt never had much self-confidence. I am sorry to be blunt about this, but he never had any self-assurance. He never will. He was also not much of a listener, either. He was mainly interested in himself and his slump-shouldered troubles.
He could be pretty annoying. He would poke me in the ribs at church. Call my cell phone when I was deep in thought. Keep me from reading and studying. Sometimes he would keep me up at night retelling his misadventures and tales of woe. Over and over. He was arrogant, too. He thought he knew so much more than me and everyone else.
Doubt was not what you would call a snappy dresser. In fact, he didn't care much how he looked. I could never figure out if he was grumpy because he was frumpy, or if he was frumpy because he was grumpy. It doesn't matter now.
He never smelled good, either. In fact, he sort of stunk. He has this issue with personal hygiene. He never cleaned himself up. I got used to the smell for a while; in fact, there was a time that I hardly noticed it. But after you get away from him, you can really notice the smell when he tries to get near you again.
Doubt and I grew apart. I started to figure out a few things about him. His sister, Faith, let me in on a few of his secrets. First of all, he was always negative. In fact, he was downright depressing. He always pointed out what was wrong with everyone and everything. A total contrarian. No matter what I'd say, he'd have his own say and try to prove me and everyone else wrong.
Then we had our falling out. I realized how clearly negative he was, that he was lying to me. All the time. About everything. That he never built up or complimented anyone. I started to understand his true motives. Once I realized what was going on, we had a crucial conversation on the doorstep to my house. To the best of my recollection, here is how the conversation went.
"You can't come in tonight, Doubt," I said. He came knocking on my door late one evening.
"Why not? You always let me in before," Doubt pleaded.
"I have friends over."
"Friends? Since when do you have friends? Well, all the better. Come on. Let me in."
"Look, Doubt, I am on to you. I know what you are up to."
"How would you know what I am up to? Can you read my mind?"
"Right there, Doubt. There you go again. You can't see what you're doing?"
"See what? I don't know what you're talking about."
"Yes you do. That edge of sarcasm. The put down in your voice. I know we have been friends since I was a kid, and it has taken me a long time to figure you out . . ."
"Figure what out? Do you think you are smart enough to figure me out? You're just judging me. How can you be sure? Is my sister in there?"
"Let me ask you one question?"
"Go ahead. Ask anything you like."
"When was the last time you ever built me or anyone else up?"
"What are you driving at?"
"You pretend to build people up, but really, you only tear them down."
"Oh, you are one of those blind faith people, afraid of intellectual inquiry. My sister must be over. You invited her over for dinner but you forgot to invite me. You stupid idiot . . ."
"My faith is not blind, Doubt. I can see as clear as day you standing there in naked arrogance. What you do for a living—your full-time job—is to shut people down, to get them to stop asking the right questions. Isn't that true?"
That's when Doubt swallowed hard. "Stop it," he squeaked.
"You want people to draw conclusions before they possess all the facts, but really you are terrified of the truth. The truth puts you out of business. Isn't that so?"
Doubt looked down and took a step backwards. "You'll never get me to admit to that," he said.
"And that's the key. You are not honest. You mock and belittle. You are sarcastic. You are always in a grumpy, hang dog mood, and you stink. You are a magnet for dirt and scum and you never wash it off. You stink to high heaven."
"Leave heaven out of this. Remember: I play an important role in your life."
"No you don't. You are a poser. Always have been and always will be."
"So you will just leave me out in the cold on a night like this? What kind of a Christian are you? You're the poser. I have my rights you know."
"You can stop now. Our friendship and contact is over."
Doubt paused. "You've been spending too much time with my sister."
"You're right about that. Faith is a wonderful girl. She is honest, always hopeful, always has something good to say about everyone. I can trust her. And she's not afraid of anything. Not even you."
"Pollyanna. That's her real name."
"That's enough, Doubt. That was your last insult. I don't have room for you in my life anymore. You are not welcome here ever again."
Then I shut the door. He screamed like a child on my doorstep for what seemed like hours, but then he was gone. Since then, he has never gotten into my house again. He has come to the door and knocked, but I've never let him in. I am sure he'll keep trying. I keep my door bolted.
I like his sister much better. She's always welcome at my home, along with her other sisters, Hope and Charity. They're triplets.
It's the company you keep.