In a world where women can unfriend each other with the swipe of a finger, how do we find friendships that we can trust to last? Maybe by first becoming those kinds of lasting friends ourselves.
So instead of rushing into friendship with a backpack full of sky high expectations, it’s worth taking the time to pause and decide what we’re not going to do this time around.
Here are a few friendship mistakes we’ve all made and some suggestions for how to avoid them:
1. Assuming a friend can be all things at all times to us.
If we are constantly disappointed by how our friends don’t live up to our need for encouragement, the problem might be that we’re expecting the kind of soul validation they’re not equipped to give. The kind of soul validation that one person who may have had a bad Monday and already feels stressed by her kids or her looming work deadline can’t possibly provide. Instead, we need to bring our identity to our friendships rather than try and take our identity and validation from our friendships. Entering friendships firmly rooted in our faith, our family, and our identity is the healthiest way to start any new friendship.
2. Forgetting that we all bring baggage into friendships.
Whether we like it or not, we all haul some kind of baggage with us into our adult friendships. And we all need to be reminded that we’re not responsible for the luggage that other women will bring with them. But that we will be impacted by it and should be ready for when those suitcases of junk inevitably explode at inconvenient times when all you thought you were doing was making plans for a kids play date and instead you end up down a dark and twisting conversation you never expected. At the end of the day, it’s not your job to fix your friends. It’s your job to love them, while maintaining healthy boundaries that serve you both.
3. Setting unrealistic expectations for a friendship.
We can’t connect when we’re setting all the terms. So it’s essential we identify the often-unrealistic expectations we bring into friendships – and how those can disappoint us before we’ve even begun. We must sacrifice our long lists of wants, demands, and expectations. We must lay them down and be willing to have them completely upended. Crumpled. Rearranged. Messed up. The best friendships don’t try to squeeze you into that uncomfortable pair of skinny jeans, the best friendships let go their expectations and fit you like your comfy, ratty Sunday afternoon jeans with plenty of room to breathe.
4. Refusing to let friendship get beyond “fine.”
If we want real friendship that goes beyond politeness or carpool or small talk, we must be willing to admit how we’re really doing. We must be willing to invite friends over when we’re not ready for company. We must sacrifice the pretty perceptions we’ve built of others and ourselves. And we must answer the question, “How’re you doing?” with the truth instead of the polite default of, “I’m fine.”
5. Worrying about what our friends will think of us instead of trusting them with who we really are.
For many of us women, our craving for connection is in direct conflict with our obsession with perfection. If our houses need to be tidy, if all the laundry needs to be put away and all the floors need to be swept or vacuumed and the candles lit before we’re comfortable inviting someone over, we’ll never be up for it. Because, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”
That standard of entertaining means that we’ll be too busy cleaning and prepping to remember that friendship works best when we show up just the way we are. Putting too much pressure on our appearances – whether in the mirror or in our houses – means that we’ll get tired of all that frustration and busyness and we’ll collapse on the couch and shrug and say, “It’s just not worth it!”
Because it isn’t. Because friendship shouldn’t equal entertaining. No, friendship should look more like yoga pants – comfortable, old, worn in, and stained. I think we can do it. I think it’s easier than we think. But it starts with our willingness to open the door whether we’re prepared or not. It starts with admitting that our quest for perfection is a gift to no one. Real friendship will insist on getting past that front door of perfection until it finds that closet or drawer that’s stuffed full of our junk and it will insist on opening it.
And if we’re willing – if we’re willing to lay down our expectations and open our front doors and our hearts, just the way we are, the honest truth is we still might get hurt. We still might get disappointed. But as a dear friend reminded me this morning — “It is worth it and God has to be in it.”
Dear friends, we come to friendship admitting our flaws and lowering our defenses not because we’re promised we’ll never get hurt again. We do it surrendered to the truth that even though friendship might hurt us, we are called to love other people. So we bravely, vulnerably, deliberately choose to do so. Just like our Jesus showed us how to do.
Some of the best and hardest work God calls us to do is to love other people. One day, one woman, one misstep at a time.
We take the time to figure out friendship not because it is easy. But because it is necessary.
Question for you: What would you add to this list — what are the mistakes we can help each other avoid as we head into new friendships? I’d love to learn more from your own experiences in the comments today.
Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
All I can say to your list is Amen! Lose the expectations…our friends aren’t mind readers and so we need to let our struggles and needs be known. I have to learn not to jump to the “worst case scenario” like when I don’t hear from a friend and I assume that she’s obviously out having lots of fun without me…with her other “better” friends. In reality, SHE may be really struggling and need ME to be that friend to her. Lose the expectations and don’t assume.
Having moved around the country a lot, one thing I’ve learned about friendship is that if I want to have friends, I need to be one first. It might involve me stepping outside my comfort zone and extending my hand in friendship first rather than waiting on friendship to come to me. Have I been hurt by lack of reciprocation? Yes, but it doesn’t mean I’m a loser, it just means I haven’t found that kindred spirit yet.
All great stuff here this morning Lisa-Jo!!
Pam Seipp says
The best friendships don’t try to squeeze you into that uncomfortable pair of skinny jeans, the best friendships let go their expectations and fit you like your comfy, ratty Sunday afternoon jeans with plenty of room to breathe.
This really hits home and was a blessing to read this morning. Thank you!
All I would add is if you do get hurt try not to dwell on it. I only add this because I have been guilty of it. forgive speedily and amen to the rest Sister!!
Lazondral Nelson says
You just don’t know the volumes that this spoke into my life! Thanks so much for allowing God to use you to speak to me today. I love and appreciate the family of God!
Jessica Watkins says
I would add “Assuming the other person is burdened by your real-ness”
I struggle with letting others get to know the real me – not because I’m trying to put on a perfect show, always have things together, etc. I want people to see my mess and my brokenness and need for Jesus! But so often the enemy gets in the way and I believe the lies that my friends/mentors do not want to be burdened by my problems, struggles, issues, etc. I don’t want to take others time or be a nuisance to them.
I try to remember that when I reverse things, I so desire for my friends to be real and honest with me, and regardless of what they are struggling with or celebrating, it never feels like a burden or a distraction! I welcome and desire it!
LisaAnn Berryhill says
YES!!! What she^^said!!
Great stuff my friend!
I have developed a wonderful friendship with a lady in the recent years. Our kids went to school together but diffiernt grades. Our sons were in Cub Scouts then Boy Scouts together but we’re in different dens or patrols. We get together when ever we can to walk and talk. Some weeks we don’t meet, some weeks we walk five days in a row. She has been the best to listen to me cry about feeling the lost of my husband (my husband had a fatal heart attack at 55 years old, six years ago), pushing to get attorney to resolve my battle with my husband’s sister over their mother’s estate and sharing the joy of my son graduating high school with five school honors. I have been there when her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer – the hospital had wonderful garden walkways, her daughter failing numerous high school classes and hearing about her trip to Italy to see her son when he was studying aboard…and everything in between.
The thing that makes this friendship walk so wonderful, there are NO expectations and no hard feelings. We listen, offer each other suggestions, we push a little or back off and listen some more. Topics aren’t discuss on Facebook later or spread through our larger circle of friends. I think, it’s the loyalty and respect we have that makes this such a lasting friendship, looking forward together time. We have friends who have joined us, who don’t seem to understand we have one unwritten rule you dishes it out, you need to spoon it up too.
I think, what hurts so many friendships, is the lack of loyalty. If you offer suggestions, then you must be able to accept suggestions, even when you are being encourage to jump a higher hurdle than you want. Fighting back with battle words and not truly listening to the other person’s thoughts, or asking for clarity, I think is when the lack of respect starts breaking up a friendship.
I couldn’t agree more! Just showing up, being willing to listen & encourage & allowing them to have the freedom to really feel completely loved & accepted just as they are is what true friendship is all about!
Nancy Ruegg says
I appreciated your comment about loyalty and respect. Two great words to guide us through the ups and downs of friendship. Thank you, Tricia!
Melissa Allen says
Loyalty and respect! Yes, I so agree. Both are so vital to a true friendship.
Barbara Higby says
Excellent! Well said, Lisa-Jo.
I appreciate your wisdom on this topic so much. For a long time, and through many seasons of friendship, I have struggled to “bring my identity to my friendships rather than trying and taking my identity and validation from my friendships.” I am quick to base my own emotional temperature and sense of worth on how my friends feel and act toward me, but I long for a healthier path that places my worth in God alone while still loving my friends well. Do you have any practical tips on how to not fall into this temptation? Or how to pray through this?
Thankful for those who are on the journey with me!
Glee J LaVroff says
Thank You So Much Regarding Friendships! I Have Lost Several Friends, Who Are Christian, But Have Changed! One Of Them I Have Known For Years, It Has Been Hard For Me, One Friend Who I Made A Year Ago, I Baby Sat Her 3 Kids,(I Don’t Have Kids, My Choice) Did Not Compensate Me For It, Tried To Get Together With Her, She Has No Time, But She Would Have Time For Someone Else At The Church! My Mom And Sister, Who I Am Not Close Too, Everything Is About Them, Not Me! So It Is Really Important For Me To Have Friends! You Just Made Me Realize, I Really Need To Be Praying For God To Send Me Friends, Who Will Be There For Me And I Can Be There For Them! Thank You Again For This Blog!
Gloria G. says
A friendship must be mutually respectful and loving. If you do not get that, she was a friend “for a season,” but I know you have learned from rhis “friend.” Move on, but do not forget the lesson. My “friend” would babysit my kids, but it was not free, and I was okay with that, but we looked ended up finding someone else when she blamed one of our kids foe something she left in her “kid-friendly” bedroom…it was a lot of money! Some people just do not understand nor value kind friends, and do take advantage of thwm, Glee. Sad, isn’t it?
Nancy Ruegg says
GREAT reminders, Lisa-Jo, about factors that contribute to healthy, helpful, joy-producing friendships. I especially appreciated the one about expectations. GOD is the One I want to set the expectations, not me. As I allow “plenty of room to breathe,” he can do his work through the relationship.
All the above!! One additional thing that I have learned…is its okay to disagree!! I had a situation with a close friend (going on 20 years) where we could not agree on something(sad is I cannot even remember what it was) but we both were not budging. So we decided to agree to disagree. We dropped it. It didn’t affect our friendship one bit. We kept it movin’ and we still love each other to pieces to this day.
I enjoyed your down to earth, sensible, common sense advice. Thank you. To have a friend you must first be a friend.
Marlene Daley says
Friendships take time and energy. Close friends who are dear to my heart arrived there because of their honest spirit. They are important to me which is why I try to show them in so many little ways what their friendship means to me. I don’t have mny close, close friends, just dor that reason . . friends take your heart, your mind & your soul in such a beautiful fashion. I love people and have many who I consider friends. People that I would drop what I was doing to help. But there are special people with whom you have an immediate bond where words are not always necessary, where you feel the love.
Rebecca L Jones says
Sometimes, I have to remind myself to listen, because I like to talk. And sometimes I may come on strong about things I assume they know, and are surprised to find out they don’t. We are all at different places in faith and life. Jesus met people at their level and loved them. I agree with Bev, there is at least one kindred spirit for everyone, the person, you feel as if you’ve known for ever.
Good words! I would add that sometimes friendships are for a season, and that’s ok! You don’t have to have a big fight, or do something wrong, for a friendship to go from “very” involved to “not at all” involved. There can be natural cycles where you stay friends, between bouts of no face to face time. It’s unrealistic to think that you have to do things together to keep the friendship going…. but how sweet it is when you DO get together for fellowship, fun, or prayer time!
My best friendships also stay connected despite the miles and my many moves! I’m so grateful for technology!!
” At the end of the day, it’s not your job to fix your friends. It’s your job to love them, while maintaining healthy boundaries that serve you both.”
I totally agree !
The problem is that the meaning of “healthy boundaries”, and even the meaning of “to love others” are not the same for everyone.
And we can’t force a person to understand our definition. Love never forces.
That means “patience”, a risk of remaining understood. Like Jesus, yes !
The other problem is that , unlike Jesus , we also have our own luggages, our own NOT-YET-healed wounds.
We have seen a counsellor, prayed at church, cried during nights at home for healing . But it’s God’s time not ours.
Just to say that sometimes, we ,simply and honestly, do not have this godly patience and strengh.
What to do in such circumstances?
To move a little away : to stay with Jesus only, just to avoid an aggravation of our not-yet healed wounds ? and then protect a relation, a friendship ?
Will this be understood as such (as the definitions are not the same) ?
Beth Williams says
I’m really loving the book “Never Unfriended”. You write so honestly about life and its frailties. We need to let go of any and all expectations. Put the friendships into God’s hands and see where He leads you both. Don’t forget to be a friend to the other one. Ask them how they are doing and don’t just accept “fine”. Dig deep and ask if they need anything or could use some prayer. I have found out that just being me and letting all of me hang out helps make some of the best friends.
God will put the women in our path that He wants us to befriend. Go beyond the comfort zone and say hello. Talk with them-they may be hurting just like you.
How do you handle a friend who is married but values time with family different than you? Recently I learned from a friend of many years she was having a conversation with another about me. The conversation was along the lines of, “I made sure to not allow my marriage interfere with my friendships”. It was the sort of the thing that slipped out. I believe this iabthe mother way around. Friendships should not interfere with your marriage.
This was pretty hurtful and made me feel like I could not trust my friend anymore.
Beth Williams says
Praying for you. Pray and ask God if perhaps this friendship needs to end for a while. Things and people change. May God bring you more friends who value time with and care about you!
I’m a sensitive person in regards to noticing my surroundings, I love sending cards and remembering people and loving people; so I struggled with a friend who was not very sensitive to my needs of depression when she was fully aware of what was going on, (she and her husband prayed for me at our home). I also feel to be sensitive to others is what a Christian does, but ?? I guess I put more expectations on her than I should have, because she now admits she is insensitive. I love the comments about loyalty and respect, if we do not have that I feel it is hard to be a friend. I want to love friends well and let go of expectations and accept them for who they are. (This is hard to do I think) But Jesus met people at their level and loved them SO I know deep in me, I need to do the same. Love and agree with a lot of the comments, thank you!!