People seldom fit into logical formulas and dichotomies. Connecting, confronting, and caring in the context of friendship can be challenging, yet extremely rewarding. Of friendship love, Emerson equated the question “Do you love me?” with “Do you see the same truth?” or even “Do you care about the same truth?” Meaningful, lasting friendships are well-tended gardens where the weeds of anger are addressed and buds of laughter blossom.
I asked one of my dearest friends, Lindsey, (who blogs at http://know-my-voice.blogspot.com/) to share her thoughts on fostering and prioritizing meaningful relationships.
When you connect–be it face to face, phone, Skype, text, whatever–the biggest thing that I feel I can do to keep us from just being “fair weather friends” (which, Marilla Cuthbert tells us God does not even want! ) is to not be satisfied with just fluff. In myself or in my friend. Sure, somedays are just fluffy, not much depth in their routine occurrences. I have plenty of those and sometimes when I’m tired, that’s all I can manage to relay to a friend who has been sweet enough to check on me. But I’d bet two lattés and a biscotti there is always something deeper that I could be telling that faithful friend. Something just beneath the surface that I’m afraid to admit, something God’s telling me, something I’m hoping for or mourning over, an option I’m weighing in my mind, a feeling that just won’t go away… aren’t these the kinds of things we spend most of our brain space on if we’re honest? I sure do! So, I try to wait for that stuff. To look for the opportunities a friend gives me to hear it in what they tell me. Because if you’re like me, sometimes it spills out all over the table…and sometimes I have to pry it out of myself.
When it just won’t spill out of my friend (or me!), I think it’s meaningful to ask the questions you want to be asked. “How’s your heart lately?” “What’s happening in that ______ situation?” Awkward or whatever. Listen to Nike. Just do it. Be the friend who steps out with some or a big ‘lotta vulnerable content and see what happens. When I’ve done that with a kindred spirit, it’s awkward at first and sometimes funny, but ultimately, it builds your friendship, right? Because you laugh together about it? What I’ve also noticed in some cases when the spill happens more smoothly, is a friend was truly just waiting for someone to care enough to ask the hard questions. Not always easy or comfortable if you’re the one doing the asking. But when I’m the one receiving the questions, it’s so meaningful when someone cares enough to risk the uncomfortable just to help me open the door of my heart. Whether a friend does that from across the bistro table or on the phone or through a sweet note sent from far away, I want to share a heart chunk of life and listen to yours too. Win, win.
Letting Go of a Friendship
This one’s hard because I inevitably spend a period of time feeling guilty, like I didn’t do enough when the friendship seems to be dwindling away or maybe is on the rocks. That’s never helpful though and I admit that it slows down my acceptance that perhaps this friendship truly was one He meant for a season, not for a lifetime. Ouch. As I think about the friendships I have that have become more distant or that I’ve let go of completely, there’ve been a few common factors. First, my friend not liking coffee…just kidding. Sorta. We can overcome that, surely! Seriously though, and as harsh as this may sound in light of what I’ve claimed above, the biggest factor I see in the dwindled friendships in my life, is neither of us spend the time or effort to relate to each other when we’re in a season where we have less in common. An example might be me experiencing some big heart change or reshaping and my friend not “getting” that or wanting to acknowledge it.
It’s About Growth
To stay meaningfully connected, I think you have to let each other grow. Heck, challenge each other to grow, right?! In my mind, that’s what friendship love does. It loves me for being me but fully expects (and is excited!) for me to grow into His plans for me. That’s the friend I want to be. The one who says, “HURRAH for who you are in this moment. You are enough, sweet friend. Really. And HURRAH for what this current joy/struggle/challenge/heartache/job/dream/etc is going to mean for who He’s making you into. He’s so not done with either of us yet…and I can not wait to see who you’ll be this time next year.”