“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
Why is it sometimes easier for me (and you) to believe the deceit of a liar than the truth of a King?
I know I’m not alone (though I wish I were for your sake). I’ve been writing in this space long enough to know too many of us can relate.
Sometimes we behave like we’ve forgotten things we know to be true. There’s this pesky disconnect between what we profess and the holy Word we esteem, in contrast to how we live and respond.
Maybe we’re paralyzed by worry, drowning in a pool of envy, defeated when everyone around us seems to be winning at life. Our enemy is a cruel and cunning heart-breaker. We may have heard “comparison is the thief of joy” a million times, but sometimes it takes our friends to speak the truth we already know, truth we may have forgotten in the moment. Could this be one reason God invites community, of course, with Him, but also with others?
I remember a season years ago when I felt like an utter failure. The funny thing to me now is I cannot remember the “failure” part; what I vividly recall is my friend Rebekah turning me toward her, looking me unflinchingly in the eyes and firmly declaring, “Robin . . . YOU are not a failure. You failed at ____ but you are not a failure.”
She repeated those words until she was sure my heart heard them as clearly as my ears. It was a subtle but important distinction that reoriented my thinking and freed me from the bondage of mental self-flagellation.
I want to be the kind of friend who lives her faith by extending grace and liberty, speaking truth, and loving well. Isn’t that essentially the way of Jesus?
Flesh and blood girlfriends help us remember who we are and Whose we are.
In John 15, Jesus is talking with His disciples, His dear friends, about what great love looks like. He uses word pictures and metaphor to engage them: Himself as the vine, God as the vinedresser, Christ followers as branches. He talks about abiding (finding life) in Him, bearing fruit, keeping His commandments, giving your life for the sake of another. Love. The best of friends demonstrate deep love when they’re willing to sacrifice themselves for another, and soon after speaking these words, Jesus surrendered His life for his friends. For you, for me.
Most of us will never be in the position literally to lay down our life for our friends. But sometimes there’s risk attached to truth-telling; bruising or losing a significant friendship is no small thing. But true friends express love when they abandon telling you what you want to hear in order to tell you what you need to hear, even if it risks your friendship. Maybe especially when it risks your friendship.
They help you to see that you failed at a task, not that you are a failure. They find a way to help you consider a more accurate or healthier perspective.
A good friend is willing to speak truth because they care about and love you, not because you’re wrong or off base.
Motive makes all the difference in the world.
My pastor once told me the most unloving thing we can do when we see a sister or brother struggling is nothing, even when the something we need to say or do might offend our friend. It wasn’t a suggestion to go around pointing out planks in all my friends’ eyes, but lovingly and with gentle humility to help the friend see where they were blinded.
It’s as important to be this friend as it is to have this friend.
To have a good friend we must be a good friend. Though I don’t often return to the King James Version or NKJV of Scripture, I love their translation of Proverbs 18:24:
A man who has friends must himself be friendly . . .
A lesson I think I’ll be learning the rest of my life is not everyone I’d like to be friends with wishes to be friends with me.
Despite all the ways I reach out with the hope of cultivating friendship or finding meaningful connection, some relationships never gain traction. My overtures are not reciprocated. This has been the case in both my real and online lives. And though it might be painful, I’ve realized this is okay. If a friendship doesn’t materialize, or an existing one falls apart, I’m learning to return my focus to Christ and trust that whatever happens is, indeed, best for me and the other person. Rather than dwelling on void or rejection or wallowing in, But why doesn’t she want to be my friend? I cherish more closely the women who love me and sow into my life. I look at that overflowing glass of what I do have.
We’ll be the best kind of friend to all of our friends when we friend like Jesus —
quickly forgiving . . .
sacrificing ourselves for the good of others . . .
extending grace instead of holding grudges . . .
and loving without condition.
Resist the enemy of your heart, the prince of lies, and the one who steals, kills, and destroys good things including friendship. Cling to Jesus and those rare friends who point you back to Him and help you remember you are beloved and beautiful. Praise God for the women in your life who friend you well.
Let’s go and do likewise.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
It’s a big risk to step into a friend’s area of need and then to speak gritty truth. Thank you for arguing that this is TRUE friendship — a gentle rebuke to all the lazy substitutes I fall into.
Robin Dance says
What I’m finding is truth – love = judgment. But truth + love = friendship. I’m learning this best from women who love me enough to challenge me with ideas that sometimes differ from my own.
Interesting, your phrase of “…lazy substitute….” That has a lot of truth in it because it requires incredible intention (and prayer!) to follow through as this sort of friend. (I don’t wanna be lazy!! 🙂 )
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I wish I could have read your post yesterday. Last night I found myself in a position of having to speak truth into the life of a dear friend. I am one who will avoid confrontation at all costs and I almost chickened out about saying something, but you’ve reminded me of what we need to do first before we can speak truth. We need to earn a right to speak truth if you will….first we need to love well – with the sacrificial love that Jesus poured out on us. We need to be grace extenders….assuming the best and not the worst in our friends actions and words. We need to be humble and realize that we, too, are sinners. Then and only then can we speak truth with love and then be prepared to extend grace and forgiveness. I tried the best that I could to follow Christ’s example (if only I did that more often) and last night went amazingly well. My friend was thankful for the truth I shared and we know that if done in the right way, we can hold each other accountable as Christ did with the disciples. May we all speak light, life, and yes, even truth into the friends lives that God has given us. Loved this post (even though I needed it yesterday, it’s great assurance today). Much needed.
Robin Dance says
Oh, Bev…I know how hard that must have been (said Chicken McChicken 🙂 ). But I’m proud of you, and I do pray that she will receive your words as those extended with grace and love. Praying before you go into any conversation/confrontation paves the way, too; it prepares your heart as well as the receiver, and for me, rightly aligns my thinking and motives.
I have a friend that told me the truth about myself and I was hurt. Because of the pain of truth, I thought he was not my friend because a friend would not have hurt me. Instead he would have sided with me or let me wallow in my thoughts of being a victim but then I read proverbs that talks about friends and if you lie to someone you hate them. I prayed and God allowed me to see the truth in my friend’s words and I had to go back and apologize to him and to God and receive the truth and changed my ways. If your friend doesn’t accept the truth at first, pray them God will allow them to see the truth. If you are that friend that has been hurt by the words of a friend, ask God if there is truth in them and if it is help you to change. Truth frees but sometimes it is painful.
Me too – Tina. And yes, I’ve come today to all that you said – realised after reading your comment – so thank you for commenting as has helped me. God is good – he has used you.
Thank you Robin for writing about this – God’s words.
Robin Dance says
Louise, what an encouragement you are to Tina and me this morning. Thank you.
Robin Dance says
You reminded me about something I’ve written about (and lived) previously, wise counsel from a friend who was helping me navigate a messy situation. She said “there’s your side of the story, her side of the story, and the truth lies somewhere in between.” I’ve had some friends deliver body blows with their sharp, cruel words, not always delivered in love or grace (but anger, bitterness, etc.). Even in those, you’ve reminded me it’s good to pray over those kinds of things, to ask God if there’s something I need to hear, can learn, or something he wants me to see. We DO learn from pain, so how beautiful that although you were bruised in this exchange, you ultimately said good and God in it :). Thank you for sharing.
So well put!
So very true!
Thank you for being open and honest and Real with us!
Kathy Cheek, Devotions from the Heart says
I was having lunch with a very close friend and was discouraged because my efforts to get a devotional book published have all been met with rejection and I was on the verge of tears and blurted those same words out that you did, Robin.
I am a failure.
Stacie slapped her hand down on the table and in a very strong convincing voice assured me I am not a failure because my book hasn’t been published. She gave me a good talking to and encouraged me and reminded me of many things God has done through my writing and I began to feel pretty foolish for declaring myself a failure!
I still hear the enemy trying to convince me I am a failure, but I am choosing not to listen to that lie – and remember the words of encouragement from my friend.
Thank you Robin. You touched on a very hard subject about not everyone we’d like to be friends with wants to be friends with us. I too struggle with this. I immediately look to myself as to the reason/cause for this person not wanting to be friends with me. I guess it’s normal to take it personally but maybe it’s the insecurity of that person that keeps her from accepting my friendship? I love what you said about turning your focus back to Christ and trusting that it’s for our best!
It hurts to lose a friend. It’s hard to find that truth somewhere in between our differences but is worth the effort. My friend would not make any effort to make things better and I am still mystified by that. She dropped all mutual friends leaving many people hurt and not understanding. I’ve moved on but still look for some reason for her refusal to repair the hurt feelings of so many.
Thank you for the wonderful post! This is so true and really speaks to me, especially in the season I’m in. I’ve been learning who my friends are over the past few months and also figuring out how to not view the loss/distancing of a friend as rejection towards me. Instead I’m attempting to view it as these people entered my life for a reason and they are helping me to become who I ultimately will be. I’m finding that looking at it this way makes the “rejection” not as painful. I really appreciate your post today!
Thanks for the insight that God has a purpose for our friends. And it is to make us better (and that sometimes requires pain).
Summer Rae says
What a blessing your words were to my heart tonight… I often find myself repeating 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 to myself, more specifically, the part about keeping “no record of wrongs” …it is so much easier to compile a list of reasons, of tiny/minor incidents, of why we can’t get too close to x, y, z person rather than forgiving them and moving forward. I have been praying, hard, for an answer regarding a friend and I believe I may have just gotten part of the answer from you, right here, in plain black and white. The reason why said friend is always correcting me is because they care enough to say something. If they didn’t love me they wouldn’t care about the things I do or if I do them correctly. I am so grateful to have someone who cares enough to say something… Likewise, I am learning the importance of speaking up when someone comes and talks to me. Our time on this earth is too short to be anything but honest for the glory of our God. I want to, truly, thank you for sharing your heart here Miss Robin, I pray you and your family have a blessed day.
This side of heaven,
Rebecca L Jones says
God bless your wonderful friend, Rebekah. You most certainly are not a failure. It was Jesus that was punished for us, if only we could accept that in ourselves and each other.
Beth Williams says
It is so easy to believe the lies. Comparison is his worst trick yet. Much harder to believe that God could love even when I mess up. Thankful to friends who lovingly correct me and care for my well being. Correction must be done in love & not out of jealousy or anger. We must remember we are all sinners saved by His merciful Grace!