We have these Advanced Bible Study sessions at my church on the second Tuesday of every month and I love being there because it is fun to study and then sit down with my brothers and sisters and share what we come up with on different topics. Our topic tonight was Friends/Friendships. This is a topic that is dear to me and I wanted to share some of my thoughts and some of the points we came up with.
A friend is a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. Someone said a friend is someone (other than family) that they love above normal. Someone else said a friend is someone they love just as if they were family. For most of us we throw the word around loosely and we have no real criteria to figure out who gets that special place in our lives. For some of us friendships are conditional and we only give what we hope to get back.
I personally believe in friendships; they require loyalty and investment. I think that a friendship is guided by love. And love is two things to me: unconditional and selfless. For friendships to thrive, the love has to be mutual. There are a few things that are critically important to friendships:
Acceptance – we have to accept the other person the way they are. We each have our own quirks and personalities and no two people are alike. We have different friendships and we can appreciate what each particular friend brings to the table. We have the serious friend, the funny friend, the ride or die friend, the friend that’s always late, the friend you can tell anything to, the friend who has stood you up a couple times and the friend who keeps making dumb decisions with their life. Some of our friends challenge us but we can’t shake the fact that, in spite of their short comings we still love them and have a good time. Not to mention the fact we are not always that kosher ourselves. We accept the great qualities and the flaws in each other realizing that we make each other better.
Friendships bring value – a good friend will bring value to your life. In a sense we complement each other. We might have a lot in common but our differences bring the value. I have friends who are very organized, some who are great planners, some who are fashionistas, some who are social butterflies, and some who are very adept at what they do. I admire these qualities and have no problem complimenting them on it because in a friendship there should be no jealousy or hating. Their qualities bring value to your life and hopefully your qualities bring value to theirs.
Lose the judgment – the beauty of a great friend is that one should be able to be themselves without the other person being judgmental. Not saying that you don’t voice your opinion and tell someone when they are wrong, but there is a difference with voicing your opinion with the love of a friend and casting judgment. Once we’re in a trusted friend relationship then it should be a safe place; free of jealousy, envy, judging and the like.
Be honest – speak your truth. So many times friendships are ruined because parties are not honest about the way they truly feel. We only see the world through our eyes and assume the other person knows how we are feeling. We let things bother us and never say anything. We give off these cues HOPING the other person will catch on, read our minds, and know what to do. This is unfair! It’s an unfair high expectation and it puts too much pressure on the other person. The truth is that we don’t want to be vulnerable and voice how we feel and what we want, so we project that to the other person saying if they loved me they would pay attention and know what I want (without me verbally exposing my need). This is an issue across relationships; especially in marriages. We allow misunderstanding and confusion to creep into a happy home and relationship because we don’t want to be honest about how we feel. This is your personal problem, not the other person. Voice your feelings and be open, we teach others how to love us. We let them know that I am a person who likes a phone call every now and then; that I am a person who doesn’t like it when you forget my birthday, that I am a person who feels special when you do X, Y and Z. This takes away the mystery, any confusion, unnecessary pressure and you can carry on with a loving friendship.
Give support – you know that friend who you are always there for and when you are in need they are nowhere to be found? Yep, don’t be that person. When I was growing up I always heard this saying “A friend in need is a friend in deed”. Offer your support. Show up and just be there. It goes a long way. Show up at your friend’s graduation, wedding, baby shower, ball game, court date, doctor’s appt etc. These are the times that develop relationships and make them deeper and stronger. Remember, our friendships flow through love and love is selfless. Sometimes we show up when we don’t feel like it, because love won’t allow us to miss it for the world.
Here are my top two bummers for friendships:
Lack of reciprocation – there is nothing worse than a one sided relationship! You giving and giving and the other person taking and taking. We have to be mindful that we are not always the taker in the relationship. Give rather than take. The beauty of this is if we both seek to give rather than take, then everything will always be 100%.
Inability to adapt to change – this is a biggie. Some of us don’t transition well. A fellow single friend might now be in a relationship and we have a hard time adapting to the new dynamics; less time and attention. A friend might have gotten married, just became a new mother or gotten a promotion that has more responsibility. What about if you were friends who each were married and now one of you just got divorced? All of these are changes that require some level of adaptation. These are happy times for the other person but we struggle with being happy for them because we miss ‘the way things used to be’. Well first and foremost, be honest. Maybe ‘hang outs’ now have to be put on the calendar. Or roles have to be redefined just a little bit. A couple months before I got married, my ride or die friend found out that she had MS. This was a change that required adaptation. We couldn’t hang out the same way we used to because both she and I were conscious of my marriage and both she and I were conscious of her MS. We can’t avoid the changes that come with life, but committed friends make the necessary investments to stay friends.
A bigger and necessary adaptation happens when one friend gets saved and the other doesn’t. The other person stopped doing many things that the two of you used to do together and perhaps things will never be the same. Once again the communication path has to be open and honest for the friendship to survive.
Real friends don’t have to talk every day. Friends can not see each other for many years and pick up where they left off when they meet. Friends forgive wrongs and move on. Friendships should provide a safe place for us to be ourselves.
How do we become friends of God? In John 15:14, it tells us that we have to obey God to be called a friend. We do what He tells us to do because we love Him. God is truly the best friend that we could have and then every other relationship should stem from our relationship with Him. When we do this we will see that things fall into place. I read this somewhere today ‘the key to friendship with God is not changing what you do, but changing your attitude toward what you do. What you normally do for yourself you begin doing for God’. Interesting thought…
I must cut this short but there’s more to come. Stay tuned for Part 2.