Tag: friendship

True Friendships

Relationships are the marrow of life, and friendships being a very important aspect.

Seems to me though, maybe we throw the term “friendship” around a bit too freely. Just about anything qualifies for the term, “friendship” these days.  The person who knows a person who knows a person that you know… boom, that’s a friend.  The person on Facebook who you can’t even remember how you were “friended” in the first place… there you have it, another friend. The term “friend” could mean just about anything today and describe a wide variety of levels of intimacy between people. Nothing necessarily good or bad about that, just our cultural reality.  We all want to be “friend” heavy.

Yet, though we may know a lot of people, call a lot of people friends, and love to increase our “follower” and “friend” totals on our social networks, I would venture to say we are a culture lacking in “true friendships.”

The truth is, especially in our culture today, that over a life time you may have only 1-5 true friendships. And after reading further, you may realize you only have one or two, if that. The irony is deep as like never before we have so many ways to connect with people, but yet we lack true friendships in our life.

This is not anything necessarily new I guess, Jesus (while on earth) only really had three (Peter, James, and John).  Yet, I would say we are less prepared as a culture to develop and maintain true friendships, not because of a lack of ways to connect, but rather because of a kind of aversion or maybe even inability to connect at the level of true friendships.

What are the hallmarks of a “true friendship?”  Here are 5 ways to know if you have one…

1) You don’t have to inspire nor solicit them to be interested or engaged in your life-  If you have to be the primary one to keep a true friendship going, you don’t have one. In a true friendship, you don’t have to work to keep them interested and interacting with you. They have their own energy to be consistently interested and involved in your life. It’s never a one way street. You don’t have to drag them along into having a genuine care, concern, and consistent investment in your life. It’s not a “we only talk when I am the one to call” deal. Both of you are holding up the relationship, not just one of you. If you feel a consistent imbalance in the shared energy towards the friendship, you don’t have a true friendship.

2) They are with YOU- If a person is merely “with” something about you, you don’t have a true friendship.

The foundation of a true friendship is to be “with” that person, for life. Most people with whom we are friends, though they may be “with” something about us (our vision, cause, opportunity, shared interest, work, children, neighbors, project, etc.) that is shared in common, they are not “with” us.  Given the removal or diminishing of what they are “with” about us (vision, cause, job, opportunity, or benefit we bring, etc.) they would likely not be truly be “with” us.

In a true friendship, there is a deep loyalty to be with YOU above all else. By your side (where possible), on your side, with you. This is true whether you are right, wrong, up, down, or somewhere in between. Whether circumstances, settings, locations, etc. remain the same or change.  It is an unconditional devotion to be with YOU.  All relationships have ups and down and times where things are going well and when they are perhaps not, but a true friendship always lands “with you.” Any moments of tension are few, and that, quickly remedied. Oh, and by the way, you can be by somebody’s side and on somebody’s side without agreeing with them. This is a special dynamic, nuance, and skill of true friendship.

3) They have your best interest at heart- Because they are “with you” they want what is best for you. They rejoice when you rejoice, and mourn when you mourn, not the opposite.  They want to see God’s work in you come to completion to the point they highly invest themselves into you that you might be blessed. Theirs is an investment of themselves into yourself. And if ever push comes to shove or a crossroads is met, they put your best interests even above their own. They have your back, your best interests, and will protect what God is doing in and through you at all costs. They are givers in the relationship, above and beyond being a taker. This is a cornerstone of true friendships.

4) They speak the truth in love- These are not people who are playing you, saying what you want to hear, or flattering you because of what you bring to their table or can give them down the road. These are people who speak truth into your life. When they do, they wrap it in love.  You can trust that what they are saying, however hard to hear, is coming from a pure place and a pure agenda. They show up for the relationship with openness and honesty, always chasing any darkness in the relationship out of the shadows and into the light.  They are willing to confront you when you are wrong, and willing to confess to you when they are. They don’t let things fester or go underground, bur rather value having a clear and clean atmosphere in the relationship. They don’t just tolerate you, they love you.

5) They believe in you- They are your greatest fans and encouragers. They assume the best, not the worst. And when you fail, their hope remains. They do not give up on you.  No, they may not believe in everything you do or don’t do, but they still believe in you. There is a loyalty to you that is unbreakable. They want to lift you up, not bring you down, cheer you forward, not gloat when you fall backwards. They believe in you. They see God’s divine hand upon your life and the Master at work.  They see you as God sees you, like only a true friend can and would. They love you, like you, and believe in you. They bring out the best in you, and call you away from the worst. They aren’t perfect, the relationship isn’t perfect, but they are a true friend.

That being said, a couple questions…

Who are you true friends?

To whom are you a true friend?

Developing Close Relationships

There is obviously bucket loads of things that can be said about the nuances of developing close relationships.  Most people want close relationships, but realize that it is an endeavor that can be easier said than done.  Here are some things that are helping me along my journey of learning to love the Master and master His love as I seek to develop close relationships.

Don’t have unhealthy expectations:  We should never turn to a human being to meet needs in us that only God can.  When we place that kind of pressure on our relationships, we sabotage the very thing we desire to build… close relationships.  No person can complete you, make you happy, heal your soul, nor be your sole strength and security. Leaning on others for how we should feel about ourselves is a classic example of where we turn to people to meet needs that only God can and should.  For certain, close relationships involve the blessings of giving and receiving  as we carry each others burdens and do life together. But understanding the limits of what we should expect and what we can experience in our earthly relationships, and turning to our relationship with Christ  first and foremost for our core needs is critical.  This enables us, ironically, to be free to love and be loved by another. We don’t try to fix nor be fixed, change, nor be changed, rescue, nor be rescued, complete, nor be completed by another. Rather, we can truly love and receive love.  Healthy expectations increase the potential for close relationships.

Discern to Develop: I find it interesting that Jesus had only a handful of people He developed close relationships with.  He was friendly and caring to the masses, but only had a handful of close relationships.  These relationships took time and investment. We see with Jesus that the essential ingredients of close relationships such as trust, honesty, and honor were developed over time, much of it spent together.  Peter, James, and John were among those whom Jesus drew close to Himself.  Were any of them perfect? No, hardly.  Yet we see in Jesus and the counsel of God’s Word, the value of being discerning of those whom we draw closely and to do so over time.

As an example from my own life, I have found 5 commonalities in the awesome people whom I have close relationships with.  I share these with you not to foster a “what’s in it for me” attitude toward developing close relationships. But rather to show the kind of mutually given dynamics that create an atmosphere where close relationships can develop. It’s in giving that we receive.

1) They are careful with my heart: I see in these people the presence of having my best interest at heart. It is truly humbling. They want to see me succeed and care about my well being. When I rejoice, they rejoice, when I mourn, they mourn with me.  They do not take advantage, use, manipulate, or disregard. They are not driven by agenda nor see me or our relationship as disposable or transitional.  They are not malicious, abrasive, nor shady, but rather humble, gentle, and encouraging.

2) They are open and honest: I see in the people a care about keeping things within the relationship well communicated and resolved. What a deep blessing this is. They assume the best and clear up the unknown. The speak the truth in love and avoid concealing issues in the shadows. They are people who assume the best and are willing to lovingly confront with the worst. They are real people, with real emotions, real faith, real flaws, and real lives. They are direct people who value good conversations where truth and truthfulness can flourish.

3) They freely invest their time and energy into the relationship:  I see in these people an undeserved joy in being with me and a sharing of many of my values. This is indeed gold for the soul.  I have found that the people I am closest with I spend the most time communicating with. These are people I don’t have to try to pull into my life and get them to take an interest in me, nor keep it. Their energy for me and our relationship is self-fueled.

4) They honor and respect the vision God has for my life: I see in these people the reality that though we may have our differences, they value what God is doing in my life and want to encourage and support what God is doing.  How good it is to have spiritual support and encouragement. The people closest to me have a thriving, growing relationship with Jesus and value His presence in our relationship.

5) They stay by my side:  I see in these people a knowledge of my strengths and my weaknesses, my failures and my successes, and yet they still desire to remain an intimate  part of my life. What a gift from above.  For them, the relationship goes beyond what they can do, gain, or accomplish with me or from me, but rather is anchored on the deep value they have placed on simply being together in life; emotionally, physically, and spiritually. These are loyal people, even when I am wrong or faltering. Their interest in me and my life remains in all seasons. They are gracious and forgiving, with an earned mutual trust that our deepest desire is to see God work in each others lives and to encourage and protect that, along with the relationship God has given us.

It suspect it would be rather difficult to develop a close relationship without the 5 things I mentioned above. If you have the sense that a person just isn’t willing to bring one of these 5 things to the table, they may not be a person where drawing close will be met with wholeness. Yet, even more importantly, in creating an relational atmosphere where closeness can develop, it is just as vital (if not more) to give these 5 things as it is to receive them. Do not expect to receive what you are not willing to give. Just as you would do well to look for these 5 aspects within the relationships you seek to draw close, you would do all the more benefit to make sure you are willing and able to give in these areas.

Pour Out Your Life  There are always risks involved with relationships. At first, when you are developing closeness with a person, the risks seems to increase. In truth, it actually does. Yet, once closeness is tested and established overtime, the greater risk  becomes not making the most of the relationship through your investment.  With the people who are closest to me, I feel little risk because I know those relationships are secure. It is indeed a mistake to pour yourself out too soon into a relationship, closeness can’t be rushed nor fabricated. Yet, it is equally a mistake not to pour yourself out to relationships that desire it and will steward it.

God calls us by His example to be the one to initiate this pouring out of our lives into people.  We love because God first loved us. Will it always be returned, received, or respected? No. But all the times it is abused, rejected, and disrespected are worth the sacred times when it takes root and grows into a lifeline of intimacy and togetherness imaged by the Trinity itself.   Does God want us to be careful with our lives and the sharing of such? Yes, absolutely. However, pouring you life out into people is never a waste for you. Love is it’s own reward. It can only be wasted by others.

Don’t expect to get a relational return without a relational investment. On the right soil, love gives birth to love, trust gives birth to trust, and pouring out gives birth to mutual blessing. Don’t focus on dry ground encounters, rekindle your hope for a harvest. Pour out your life.

 

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