Finding and keeping lasting relationships, at any age, is a challenge. It can be difficult to connect with others in a meaningful way. I often look back at the seasons of my life, reflecting on what brought me together with people, and how we formed connections. What worked then, doesn’t seem to happen as easily now, or even work at all. We can all relate to how friendships formed when we were younger, it was easy. Then as we moved into our 20s, friendships evolved from shared interests, hobbies and work. After that came marriage and the friends made as a couple, or through our kids. After that phase, things started to get murky and a bit difficult. I would like my friend, but not necessarily her husband, my husband may not care for either one of them. Friends made through our kids would end if they were no longer friends. It was a confusing time. What seemed like a great relationship, didn’t always work out. It hurts and it’s hard to accept.
I have settled into a comfortable place in my life, but I also realize it could be a little more fruitful in the friend department. How do I bring about change? I started with: What do I bring to a friendship? It may be time to review: How good a friend am I? We have all heard the saying friendships can be for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I have friends who fall into each category, we all do. To keep friends, it takes work. For my part, I want to make sure I show up, and am not always in a position of taking more than I am giving. Every relationship takes work, friendships are no different.
Over the past 8 weeks, I attended a ladies Bible study called, “We Saved You a Seat,” by Lisa-Jo Baker. It was a course on what friendship is and what it takes to maintain relationships, including walking away from unhealthy ones. It’s all about how we worry about being unfriended, misunderstood, hurt, judged, left out and taken for granted by our friends. It’s also about how we react when confronted with friendship challenges; the disappointment, retreating to solitude, and mourning, when it doesn’t work out. About 10 of us sat at a round table, within a larger class size of over 100 ladies, of all age groups. I think this study struck a chord!
Each week we would meet and share our thoughts on what we learned. We had much in common, facing many of the same hardships and concerns in our friend relationships. In addition to being serious, there were also a lot of laughs. There was a new topic each week to discuss, followed by a video of Lisa-Jo Baker and her roundtable of women addressing hurdles common to all of us. I will briefly encapsulate some of the points made and I hope you find them as powerful as I did. One important point to remember on this journey: This is about being the kind of friend, you wish you had. There was a good deal of self-reflection going on, and that was the goal.
Believe What God Says about Friendship
God was our first friend. He was our creator and we are meant to be social beings. The entire journey of Jesus was to restore our relationship with God, then with each other. We are meant to have solid friendships, this is one of the reasons we are here. If only it were that easy?
Sometimes, years of trying to be friends with the wrong people can leave us bruised, especially with those who don’t want anything to do with us. There are many examples of relationship hardships in the Bible. Sometimes entering a new friendship can be akin to experiencing PTSD, all the baggage from past friendships, shows up. I carry hurts that I fear will be repeated. Don’t we all want to feel safe in our friendships? We must take delight in what works, and shrug off what doesn’t.
Be Willing to Be Interrupted.
This is a biggie. How often do we want to keep our relationships well-defined? Convenient and on our terms? It was pointed out that being interrupted could be anything from not having friends over because the house is messy, or any other excuse not to engage. It’s about opening our hearts and walking away from perfection. Waiting for that perfect time to get together, keeps us apart. I learned this the hard way. I was selfish in my thinking with a friend. I wanted to invite a mutual friend of ours out on our boat one evening, but I was in a hurry and said to myself; there will be other times this summer to get together. It was inconvenient for me. Well, there wasn’t another time. He passed away a week later. I will forever remember that painful lesson. He was a dear friend, irreplaceable.
It Takes Courage to Cry and Celebrate Together.
Friendship is not just about the good times and laughing together. It’s also about being there for the emotional highs and lows that are present in our lives. This can be a vulnerable place to be. Sharing how we feel in the moment or being present for others who are going through a hard time opens us up to judgement, and may reveal old wounds. Not everyone can do this. Nothing is more unpleasant than having a friend who is not there for you when times get tough. It can make the situation for a hurting person a whole lot worse. When a friend wades through the muddy waters with us, this is a good friend, hold onto him or her.
How truthful are we with our friends? I have a few friends that I can honestly say, when asked how I am doing, I can answer truthfully. Instead of responding: Fine and, how are you? I can respond by saying, I’m not having a great day. I am not going to burden them with a constant barrage of my daily grips, but if something is really bothering me, it’s good to have that friend to sort it out with. I also recognized I need to be that person back.
When I look at this word, I see another word –lousy. It is terrible to be jealous of friends, it keeps us from having meaningful relationships. There were a lot of ah-ha moments at the table on this topic. We all suffer from this and it stems from when we compare ourselves to others. With the internet of all things, there is a great deal to compare ourselves to. Go on Facebook or Instagram, how good do you really feel after spending some time there? Be honest.
One way to combat these feelings is to relish in who we are, not who we wish we were. Comparing ourselves to others will leave us defeated and in a state of self-loathing every time. There are examples of crippling jealousy in the Bible, one I learned about was Saul and David’s relationship and what started out as a relationship of mutual interest and admiration, turned into terminal jealousy on Saul’s part. David became the warrior Saul would never be. This jealousy became Saul’s character trait and he was never able to overcome this flaw.
We all want to be accepted. Since we first started attending school, we wanted to be with the “in” crowd. This never goes away and fighting to fit in can leave us dissatisfied with ourselves and overlooking the blessings of other relationships in our path. Trying to fit in causes us to seek joy in all the wrong places. Let’s remember, Jesus and his followers, never fit in. Be authentic.
One of the most important points made for the group as a whole: Become the women who want to see the women around them flourish. It’s important to build each other up and not tear one another down. A simple enough concept, so often forgotten. Daily indulgences with gossip, petty behavior, manipulation, drama, take us away from our best selves. It’s time to dump it, or at the very least be conscious of it and make steps to stop.
This was a great study, it opened my eyes to so many aspects of friendship I had forgotten. One of the most important relationships outside of family, and faith, our friends is something we must check in with to ensure our friendship performance is on par.