What I'm learning about friendship
READ TIME: 8 MINUTES
Several months ago, I wrote my most popular blog post (at the time) about friendship struggles and recognizing I’ve been a bad friend:
Since then, I’ve published 2 even more popular blog posts about struggling with sexual sin. Do you notice the theme?
We like to read about people’s struggles, and I’d be so bold as to say it’s because we can relate. We need to relate. We need to know that failure is a part of other people’s lives, too. We need to air out those feelings of failure, fear of defeat, and all that comes along with it.
If that is you, keep reading.
What I've learned since the viral friendship blog post
Now, lemme be clear. I’m probably still not winning any friendship awards... I’m a good friend sometimes, and I’m a crap friend sometimes. I’m working on becoming more like Jesus, but Lord knows I’ll never actually be perfect. Progress > perfection, right?
So here are things I’m going to claim in faith, but some of it is more of the ideal way of being than actual perfect application. We’re both fighting this battle, you and I. And we cannot shrink in fear of being called a hypocrite. We can claim bold truths, like those of Scripture, and still struggle and be transparent about it.
Here’s what I’m learning…
Rigid criteria < Real friendships
Friends can be mentors, and friends can be mentees.
Who you are as a friend is as important as how your friends are as friends.
Some friends are only for a season, and every friendship has its seasons.
Friendships are living organisms.
Friendship ideals should be held loosely and open-handed.
Rigid Criteria < Real Friendships
This is where I got it wrong. I’m a hard, definitive, list-creating, box-checking, quick-to-call-it kind of person. There’s benefit to being that way, but there are also negatives.
I like to call things quick and think I actually know what I need. Thank God for “unanswered” prayers! For years I’ve thought my friends had to meet my criteria:
same age + life stage
same spiritual fervor + maturity
will stick around for a minimum of 10 years, but preferably for life
And that’s how I prayed. God, give me this, this and this or I’ll just keep waiting. Yikes! There’s nothing wrong with praying specific prayers, but I have to question whether those specifications are God’s words or my own? Am I praying my desires into reality, or am I asking for God’s?
I’ve been so blessed by a group of friends from my high school days that still talk daily (via Marco Polo). They’re my closest girlfriends from my youth group days. We encourage and pray for each other; we laugh together; we sharpen and challenge each other’s faith. It’s heavenly! But these girls don’t fit my rigid criteria. We are in varying seasons of life. We each vary in spiritual fervor, because let’s be honest… there are dry seasons of faith, and there are rich seasons. But we love each other through it with godly love. Always praying, always encouraging.
I tremble to think about if I would have cut them off for good because “MY CRITERIA” needs to be met.
Lesson learned. Listen to God’s words for any specifics. Otherwise, pray God’s will in. That can sound like this:
“Lord, I’m looking for godly friends. I don’t even know yet what to look for, but will you show me? Will you open my eyes to the friends You’ve placed in front of me who will help me grow spiritually and in any other areas of life You’re growing me in? I trust You, Lord.”
Reference: James 1:5-8 in your prayer time!
2. Friends can be mentors, and friends can be mentees
Mentorship is a really hot word right now. I remember setting up my 2018 goals on January 1st and writing down: “Find a mentor. Meet monthly.”
In my head, I wanted someone who is a good wife in a thriving marriage but older than me (thinking around 40-60 years old), someone who is a good mom and is a successful published author.
It’s not “bad” to want that, but again with the rigid criteria! As I was holding my breath for that “Dream Mentor”, I was missing the wisdom my friends were dropping! I was missing out on the rich, godly responses they gave to me as I shared my problems. I mean — DUH!
I was watching Carl Lentz preach the other day, and he gave his criteria:
“Friends are people you can learn from, laugh with, and lean on.”
Simple, right? I realized then that I already have friends who I learn from, as I would a mentor. And the same friends learn from me, as a mentee. We mentor each other, and we’re stronger for it!
Now, as much as I would love a professional mentor, I’m going to let these friends mentor me through my personal life, and I’m going to be bold and mentor them, too.
3. Who you are as a friend is as important as how your friends are as friends.
In that viral friendship blog post, I shared my struggle with a couple of friendships. I shared how they slipped away, one day at a time, until months later, I hadn’t seen them nor heard from them. But what I realize now is that I NEVER REACHED OUT TO THEM EITHER!
I was appalled at their crappy friendship habits, and I excused my own. They went through busy, life-changing seasons, and I sat on my hands waiting to be noticed.
What that says about me is that I’m selfish and self-serving as a friend. I decided then that I was, in fact, the crappy friend. I decided I would reach out to friends more. I decided to swallow my pride and my needs and be present and available.
Over the last few months, I’ve had several first-time hangouts with new friends, and almost every one has said, “Thanks for inviting me; nobody ever invites me.” And now, I’m able to share that they can invite people, too! This is Sadie Hawkins-style, and we are just as able of inviting people into our lives, and being vulnerable, and creating deep, meaningful friendships — but it’s up to us to initiate the connection we so desire.
I want friendships that are present and available. So I’m going to be a present and available friend.
4. Some friends are only for a season, and every friendship has its seasons.
(For the record, I hate this truth more than any other.)
I love fast and hard. If I like someone, I’m quick to like them. Sometimes I come home from meeting a new acquaintance and triumphantly declare, “I just met this chick! She’s so cool! We’re going to be besties!” And my husband facepalms himself…every…time.
The problem is that I have no clue what God plans for these friendships. I have no clue where she’s headed in life. And if I’m honest, I have no clue where I’m headed. I know where I want to go, where I plan to go… But am I where I wanted/planned to be at 28 years old? Lemme check my bank account… Nope, not a millionaire yet!
If I charted your life, it might look like this:
If I charted you and your friend’s lives, it might look like this:
The only person who you commit to for life is your spouse. Lord willing, you may have a BFF at some point, but there’s certainly no guarantee of it. There are godly, biblical characters who had BFF’s (Moses & Aaron; Naomi & Ruth), and there are those who may or may not have had any good, godly friends — we simply don’t know (Job, Nehemiah). I think there is an unspoken idea that Christians should always have a handful of best friends, but it’s just not biblically accurate. What the Bible does say is:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10: 24-25
Essentially, there may be dry patches in your life where your close friendships are evolving, but we should still continue to meet with godly people.
Secondly, it’s important to allow the friendships that are only for a season to still be the blessing God intended them to be. I’ve been so guilty of pushing out people who are temporary, because I like solid things. I like to list my friends numbered in order of priority. And I like to believe that the list will never change, because everyone will stay right where I put them. …Until someone moves away, and I’m bewildered at how my plan failed.
Ironically enough, God tends to move people out of my life whenever we aren’t helping each other grow anymore. Not that I’m bad, or they’re bad. We’re just not helpful to each other long-term. Every ex-boyfriend I’ve had has moved out of state shortly after the break-up. Even friends I meet who choose different life paths — they end up moving. It’s bizarre, and it still shakes me every time. If I could just finally accept that I’m not the center of the world, and it’s not “My will be done”. Aye ya yai!
As I grow, I’d like to become the friend who “welcomes the stranger” as the Bible says. Who shares a meal with no undue expectation. Who gracefully encourages only-for-a-season friends and moves along (still gracefully).
So there’s seasonal friendships, and then there’s long-term friendships.
I’m lucky — spoiled, even— because I’ve had the same two best friends for 13 and 15 years. For full disclosure: there have been dry seasons in these friendships. There have been seasons where our lives were turning upside down, and we lived 1000 miles away, and each of us needed a local support system. I wanted to be there for them so badly, and I wanted them here with me. But instead in those seasons, we each learned to lean on other friendships, or new spouses, or God Himself! And what a blessing it’s been to have the richness of those relationships, too.
Whether seasonal friends or long-term friends, allow the friendships to evolve as they will. Don’t force it. Allow the Spirit to move in each of you and have control over all of your relationships.
5. Friendships are living organisms.
Friendships need room to breathe, grow and evolve. The best friendships aren’t those in which neither person has grown and therefore, the friendship is a default of lack of growth. The best friendship is when you both grow and help each other grow because of each person’s new insight and understanding.
6. Friendship ideals should be held loosely and open-handed.
As you grow and mature, your friendship ideals will, too. And that’s okay. My idea of godly friendship this year is only as mature as I am today. But next year, as I’ve matured, hopefully my ideals will, too. Just as when I was dating Russell, I wanted him to spend money on dates to prove he liked me. Now, I want him to save some of that money for more important things!
It’s good to know yourself and your ideals, but knowing myself today doesn’t mean I know who I will be tomorrow. Hopefully, I’ve grown a smidgen in between. My personality has changed so much in the last 14 months of being self-employed. As have my love languages over the years. As have my friendship ideals. It would be tough to grow if I had tattooed those ideals onto me as my lifelong standard, right? It’s like high schoolers who tattooed their fave band on their bodies only to find out emo music isn’t going to stand the test of time…
Allow your ideals to evolve as your maturity evolves.
God is the best friend ever
To the One who knows me better than I know myself and still loves me unconditionally, thank You. I’m sorry for when I haven’t represented Your love well in my friendships. Help me to be a good friend as You’ve shown in befriending me. You’re my closest friend forever. Amen.
I hope I’ve said some things that have stirred your heart to re-examine your relationships and figure out how you can be a better friend to those whom you love. If you’re looking for more advice on friendship, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book by Christine Hoover. It’s the best friendship book I’ve ever read, and I’m currently re-reading it!
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