What Friends Do
Yesterday, I read an article by an author I love—Georgia Shaffer. It was about the importance of cultivating friendship. You can read it here (after you finish this post, of course.) Receiving it felt extremely timely. I’d just been appreciating the many nice friends that God has blessed me with, especially one.
Last week, I had coffee with a friend who is beyond dear. We used to spend time together on more of a regular basis, but these days we get together when we can and connect via text and Facebook in between.
We spent a big portion of our coffee date talking about how thankful we were for each other. Our friendship began while I was at my neediest and most wounded, so it could have been a disaster in the making. There really is nothing quite like a new friend who just lost everything. I had abandonment issues, trust issues, and … well, let’s just say I had… okay, have… issues. For a while we also had an annoying habit of going through hard stuff at the same time. Don’t true friends know to take turns? Yet our friendship has survived. It has more than survived. As we talked and laughed, acknowledged times when we’d probably driven the other crazy, and agreed that we needed to get together more often, our bond felt stronger than ever.
God has blessed me with many wonderful friends, but I’ve probably learned the most through this one. Here are a few of the most valuable gems:
When a friendship starts doesn’t matter nearly as much as what happens after that. The fact that this coffee buddy and I started hanging out together when I was reeling from divorce, bankruptcy, and moving back in with my parents only makes our story sweeter in my opinion. She proved early on that she could handle painful stories, tears, and a lot of insecurity. If a friend starts out seeing us at our worst, it’s all up from there, right? She earned my trust, was patient with my fears, and showed me that she meant it when she said, “I want us to be honest with each other.” I’ve discovered that if keeping a friend requires keeping her happy and comfortable at all costs, that isn’t a friendship. Why did I have to wait until I was 40-whatever to grasp that?God has blessed me with many wonderful friends, but I’ve probably learned the most through this… Click To Tweet
Friendship takes time, including time apart. Some experts might say that we spent too much time together too quickly. But that time was valuable to us, I needed it, and we enjoyed it. A year ago, when I realized that we wouldn’t have one-on-one time on a regular basis for a while, I was too busy being sad to consider the possibility of it benefitting both of us. As it turned out, I needed to branch out, get to know some of the ladies at Bible study and in the choir, and deal with some stuff. We needed a break! Now, when we get together, we appreciated it even more. Sometimes friends need time to miss each other.
Friends are there for each other, but also know that we can’t always be and give each other the benefit of the doubt. I try so hard to be sensitive to my friends, especially considering how supporting they’ve been to me. But I’ve learned over the past year that I occasionally miss signals, Facebook posts, and even clear expressions of need, not because I don’t care, but because I’m consumed with something else. A few weeks ago, I updated my coffee friend on a situation only to learn that she’d never heard about it in the first place. My e-mail got lost in a sea of other messages. Thankfully, I’d already assumed exactly that, or that, because I sent the message right before Christmas, she didn’t have time to respond. She would never ignore a message like the one I’d sent! This doubles as a reminder that…
We get a lot further with our friends when we don’t flip out over every little slight or perceived slight. Please say I’m not the only one who must constantly remind myself that 1) my friends have a life outside of me, and 2) not everything that happens is about me.When a friendship starts doesn’t matter nearly as much as what happens after that. Click To Tweet
Good friends allow change, including changes in each other. Over the past few years, I’ve had to learn not to panic over changes in schedules, how often we spent time together, and awkward conversations that felt like conflict but usually weren’t. My very patient friend has had to learn to accept changes in me. I’m not the same needy, wounded woman that she started spending time with four years ago. I’m stronger, happier, and more settled. Fear, insecurity, and bad past experiences no longer drive every decision and conversation. Some, but not all. This means that I’m also bolder at times. Sometimes I even shock myself. Who invited her? It turns out that she likes the new me! Not everyone can handle it when a compliant friend suddenly starts standing up for herself or her opinions, but she can! What a relief!
Thank you to the many friends that I wouldn’t have survived without, and who have taught me what a healthy friendship looks like. And thank you, Georgia, for reminding me why I make time for friends—because we all need them.
Who are your most special friends? What has God taught you through them?
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT)