Tears poured, apologies and confessions were spoken. As words came, misunderstandings were unearthed. Things began to make sense. Our hearts were mending. Forgiveness was quick once we muddled through communicating. It wasn’t easy, but oh so much healing followed.
You know Carole Ann, my “Ana Duo,” the one who travels to do ministry with me, and the one I’ve been friends with for nearly 10 years? Yes. That one! We had spoken only briefly and hadn’t spent time together for about a year. It was a deeply hurtful time. I’ll spare you the details, but we clearly could’ve given up.
Oh there have been so many times we could’ve said forget it. But love. We love each other, and we know God hand-picked and knitted our friendship together. And when we begin to doubt, He shows us. He confirms over and over again. Giving up is easy. Seeing people through their healing and their yuck is not. Love really is a choice, which means so is friendship.
In my lifetime in regard to “friends,” I’ve experienced betrayal, rejection, manipulation, the whole gamut really. I’ve had friends leave me, and on a couple of occasions, I’ve had to be the one to leave. For me, walking away from a close friendship was one of the most difficult things of my life because I’m loyal (not a quitter), and I hate hurting people. Unfortunately it’s okay, even necessary, to call it quits if the relationship isn’t healthy. Going separate ways may be what’s best for both people.
Fortunately with Carole and so many others I’ve been blessed to call friend, we’ve chosen to stay the course and love one another through our stuff.
So what defines a healthy friendship, and how do we get there? I write, not as an expert, but definitely from personal experience.
1. Bring real, honest communication. Who needs a counselor when they can have the listening ear of a true friend? So listen carefully and always nurture trust with honesty. Speaking the truth may hurt, so do it in love and gentleness. Approach is key.
2. Forgive quickly. A real friend knows your junk. They’ve seen you at your worst and choose to love anyway.
3. Be positive. Don’t be a life-sucker but rather a life-giver. Who needs an energy drink when they can have a good belly laugh with a friend? Encourage one another and laugh often. It’s like throwing fertilizer on the friendship garden. It will thrive in this environment.
4. Minimize expectations. We expect friends to treat us the way we would treat them, right? I mean it only makes sense. But maybe their standards are different from ours. Or maybe they just don’t know any better. As difficult as it is, try to get rid of any expectations. They only frustrate the friendship and everyone involved.
5. Lay down insecurities. Trust one another. Don’t compare yourselves to one another. Don’t compete. And don’t smother. We can all have more than one friend. It’s ok. Really! Just because your closest friend has other friends doesn’t mean she loves you any less. No one is going to take your place. As a matter of fact, they can’t. You fill a place with your friend that only you can fill.
6. Let your friend in. Have you ever met one of those people who want to know all of your dirt but they keep you at arm’s length? They only let you get so close, then they shut down? I’ve met her. She frustrates me. Transparency and openness come with trust, but they are a necessity to have an intimate friendship. End of story.
7. Create healthy boundaries. Don’t try being a savior. As women, we desire to be needed. Needy people are often drawn to people who want to be needed. (Hope you followed). This can create a perfect storm for co-dependency. Depend on no one but God for your fulfillment and self-worth. He’s the only one who can meet all of our needs. And if you’re married, put your marriage before any friendship.
8. Don’t force it. Ask God to pick your friends. The Creator of the universe is completely capable of pairing you with the right person. Use discernment, wait for His timing, pray, and He will provide a friend for you. Then, let Him confirm it once it happens. Forcing friendships never works. They either end up difficult, empty, or both.
9. Get over yourself. The world doesn’t revolve around us (or the other person). Selflessness is a requirement for any relationship to thrive.
10. Keep God at the center. Pray, discuss, study the Word together. Invite God into your time and friendship. Make Him a priority. He’s the glue that holds friends together for life.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” ~Ecclesiastes 4:12
(Let Jesus be strand number one of your three-stranded friendship. It works!)