Friendship for Any Season
Since I can remember I’ve had trouble finding friends. I mean true, ride or die friends. Self admittedly I am not the easiest person to love. I am opinionated, which rubs most people the wrong way, I used to be unforgiving and I can be stubborn. I’ve grown a lot over the years but just like anyone else, there is still work to be done.
When I was in high school I made friends with lots of different kinds of people. Some were from classes I was in, some were from earlier years and some were from different towns nearby. I wasn’t the best friend that I could have been in those years. I struggled with so many different things: finding my place among people that I was so much alike yet so different from, needing my mom to confide in and learn from yet not having her, wanting the approval and acceptance of my peers and navigating my relationship with my father among so many other things. There were times that I thought I was being a good friend only to have it backfire. I remember a friend of mine telling me that her and the others in our group of friends were upset with me because instead of just listening to their problems, I gave advice. This baffled me, because another little tidbit about me is that I’m a “fixer”. If there is something wrong that is making you upset or hurting you, I want to fix it. At the time, I could not understand for the life of me why this was a bad trait. The reason I couldn’t understand why it was bad is because it’s not. I’m compassionate and caring and I want to serve people. Those are all good things. But, it’s not always the solution. Some people just want to be heard. Listening allows us to gain understanding for a person’s story. It allows us to hear what is on a person’s heart, their sadness, their struggles and their joy. Sometimes all we need is for someone to listen. There is power in listening. I used to give advice because I honestly felt like I was being helpful, but as I mentioned earlier the friend that I was offering advice to, did not think it was helpful. I wanted them to know that I was invested in the friendship; that I cared for them and their struggles. But receiving unsolicited advice does not always feel like love. What does feel like love? Listening and asking questions. I believe that had I asked more questions it would have served a better purpose. It would have opened a new door in my friendship thus allowing it to grow. Asking questions would have expressed my interest and investment in them without being overbearing.
Years ago I decided that I didn’t need friends at all. I didn’t need another person to please or spat with or another person to give up on me. I had my husband and kids and they were all I needed. That didn’t last incredibly long. I put myself out there and began to try to make friends with people that I saw often and enjoyed in the short spurts of time that I shared with them. I was looking for real friendships. You know the kind where I invest in you and you invest in me. Often I would hear people in passing say things like, “I’ve got my own problems, I can’t take on so and so’s too.” To me that was all I needed to hear to be turned off of making friends again. People apparently had so many problems and responsibilities that the thought of investing in another person was a burden. That certainly was not what I was looking for. So once again, I quit friendship. Two of the people that I sought out I remain friends with while all others remain acquaintances.
I’ve learned that not all friendships are meant for the big leagues but that doesn’t mean that we can’t accept people for what they are. Does this mean that you or I should allow ourselves to be treated poorly by people that should be showing us love and lifting us up? Sometimes it is necessary to walk away from people in friendship or otherwise. We can accept what a person is without agreeing with what they are about. Before making such judgments though, look at their heart. What does their heart tell you? Do they want the best for you? Do they support your successes and lift you up out of your failures? Are they who they say they are? Are they there for the real stuff? Are you? Have you been the best friend to them that you could be? Do you make each other better? Do they keep you focused on living like Jesus or do they pull your focus from it? Where are they guiding you? I have had people in my life that have brought me great anguish; people that have made me a worse version of myself because of who they chose to be. I continued to stick around them because I thought that somehow, someway my husband or I could be the light to their darkness. I believed that we could meet unkindness with kindness and see their boastfulness and raise them humility. I thought that leading by example could turn people from evil but that is not always the case. Some relationships you just have to let go of and realize that God is not using you as the one that turns them to Him. It may be that His plan is to put that burden on another person’s heart.
As an adult, I’ve realized that there are different friendships for different seasons of your life. There are childhood friendship and high school friendships. There are friendships that you have as a young adult and friendships that develop after marriage and having children; but, what about the friendships that can weather any season? What I have come to realize is that when you become of a certain age (which is probably different for everyone) friendships of true quality don’t usually come in groups. I can count my true friends on one hand. These are the people that are there for the ups and more importantly the downs. They are the ones that know my heart and understand that its contents can sometimes be questionable. They are the ones that call me out when I’m being unrealistic, am acting like a jerk and not handling a situation they way a daughter of God should. Friendships are not all about someone telling you how great you are and clapping at your every move, true friendships dive deeper and when they do it is always done out of love. Friendships of this quality come at unexpected times from unexpected places and bring joy you never expected to have. They are worth every bit of your investment, your heart and your love. I feel blessed to have finally found these people.