Not a Runner-Up Prize Apr20

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Not a Runner-Up Prize

Screenshot from Stargate: Universe.
Unrequited feelings are never any fun, no matter which side of them you’re on. Eli Wallace from Stargate: Universe knows what I mean.

After solving a complex mathematical equation embedded in a video game, Eli is beamed up to a starship, sent to another planet, and eventually transported, along with a small crew, onto a ship called Destiny that is light-years away from Earth.

Seems like a good time to make friends and fall in love to me.

He becomes close with Chloe, a senator’s daughter (she doesn’t have much practical use aboard the ship, but I digress). They get along. They enjoy each other’s company. They find each other easy to talk to.

Cue the beginnings of unrequited love music. Whatever that sounds like.

Eli likes Chloe. A lot. Chloe likes Eli. Like a friend. Chloe becomes romantically involved with the good-looking, good-hearted soldier on board the Destiny, and Eli is stuck in an enclosed community he can’t get away from, with feelings for a friend who loves someone else.

If someone genuinely tells me, “Let’s be friends,” it’s not a runner-up prize.

There are a variety of ways Eli could respond here. He could shut Chloe out as much as possible. He could become angry and moody around her. He could be mad at her for not being clear in the first place about what she wanted. He could pelter her with questions of “why not me?” He could constantly ask himself why he isn’t good enough for her. He could be jealous of the people she spends time with instead of him.

These are some of the responses I’ve received when I’ve said no. These are also the responses I’ve been tempted to give when someone rejects me. But oddly enough, none of these reactions have anything to do with love; they’re about feeling entitled to something and my desire for approval and recognition. In short, my pride.

It hurts my self esteem when someone I love doesn’t love me back. I want their approval and my feelings reciprocated. When I don’t get it, I’m tempted to feel worthless or angry at them for not validating me as a desirable person. Also, it is always more tempting to let myself feel anger rather than face my hurt. Anger is easy; acknowledging difficult feelings is hard.

Instead of making any number of proud responses, however, Eli shoves his pride out of the way. He avoids a lot of self-loathing and anguish by doing so.

Though Eli might be a little on the other side of the pride spectrum (he doesn’t realize how awesome he is and that I’d totally date him), he responds to Chloe with the true love of a good friend. At the end of Season One, he even carries her across air-thin areas of the ship because she has been shot in the leg and can’t walk.

When they stop to rest, they have one of those conversations that people have when they’re afraid they might die.

“I used to think I had a lot of friends, but I didn’t,” Chloe tells him. “They didn’t really care about me. And I don’t really care about them, either. Because, until I met you, I didn’t really know what a friend was. A friend is someone who will support you no matter what. Like you. . . . But whenever I say stuff like that to you, you always react like I’ve just awarded you some runner-up prize. And it’s not.”

Eli shoves his pride out of the way. He avoids a lot of self-loathing and anguish by doing so.

Being good friends with someone isn’t simply a matter of clicking “Add Friend” on their Facebook profile. A solid relationship often means sacrifice, vulnerability, and unconditional love. If someone genuinely tells me, “Let’s be friends,” it’s not a runner-up prize.

This doesn’t mean I won’t be hurt by rejection, but I have the option to respond like Eli, with humility.

Personally, I can’t find true humility by simply looking deep inside myself and pulling it out from thin air. There isn’t a humble Allison buried beneath layers of pride. It’s also not a matter of hitting myself with wooden planks in punishment, feeling guilty about how imperfect I am, and reminding myself how I don’t deserve to be loved anyway. You may find humility in other ways, but for me, it comes from believing in a God who loves me despite all my numerous faults and failings.

It’s His perfect love that makes me strive to perfectly love others.

I can love someone without wanting something in return. I can acknowledge friendship, while a different kind of love, has incredible value and is not a runner-up prize to romantic affection. It is my friends who have gotten me through the difficulties of my life so far, after all.

If Stargate: Universe has taught me anything, it’s that pride can get in the way of what’s really important. Eli refuses to let that be the case and I’m perfectly willing to accept my First Place award, hopefully with humility.

Allison Barron

Allison Barron

Commander at Geekdom House
Allison is like Galadriel, offering wisdom where needed but turning treacherous as the sea when competitive games are involved. She is the executive editor of Area of Effect magazine, co-host of the Infinity +1 podcast, and staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture. When she’s not writing, designing, or editing, she is often preoccupied in Hyrule, Middle-earth, or a galaxy far, far away.
Allison Barron