July 24, 2013

What Is Friendship?

Friendship.  It gives us comfort.  It gives us happiness.  It gives us acceptance.  But it can also give us pain.  The other day I was on the receiving end of a rather one-sided conversation.  A dear friend of mine needed someone to talk to and, sensing that there was great distress in her life, I made myself available.

I was happy to be someone she could trust and I was happy that I could encourage her.  And soon after, the crises in her life passed.  A little time later another crises emerged and once again I hurried to her side.  And soon the crises past.  And a time later another arrived.  And another.  And another.

Life is difficult and I don't agree that we should turn a blind eye to people when we know they're hurting and need comfort or support.  As Christians it isn't an option to just walk away and not do something to help.  Unless we want to experience the same in kind.

" Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble."
~ Ecclesiastes 4: 9+10 

But what should we do when friendship becomes more about one-sided endurance rather than mutual support? In this case my friend was in yet another difficult life situation and although I wished to be an encouragement to her I soon realized that I couldn't be the answer.  I was beginning to feel overwhelmed and burned out.

While she was in the midst of her latest crises I was there for her but I also began to pray and ponder what scripture has to say about the responsibilities of friends.  I recalled examples in the Bible. Some were wonderful and others... not so much.

Job had close friends but they didn't know how to comfort him.  They actually made things worse.  Perhaps they're reactions were a reflection of their inner turmoil and exhaustion in trying to take it upon themselves to find answers for him. 

And there was David and Jonathan and Naomi and Ruth.  Their friendships were glorious!  Exactly what I imagine friendship to be.  Solid.  Steady. Honest and supportive.  Certainly mutual all the way around.  And I realized that my friendship was not this way.  I was beginning to feel frustrated.

So I prayed and soon  I realized that a true friend doesn't try to be everything or even have most of the answers.  A true friend realizes that if their spiritual gifts don't fit they will burn out trying to give what they don't have.  And perhaps, in cases such as mine,  in order to preserve friendship I first had to protect my personal emotional and spiritual needs.

I couldn't sooth her deep inner pain because I was never meant to.  Only God can do that.  And when a friend begins to treat you like their personal twenty-four hour counselor more often than not it becomes an exhausting experience. Friends, I had to learn, are not personal twenty-four hour counselors... they are friends.  This requires mutual respect and bounderies.

So when the next crises arrived I listened but then pointed my friend to her true and perfect counselor, God.  I prayed with my friend and shared verses that have encouraged me.  I also began setting boundaries for my own well-being and wasn't always immediately available the next time she needed to vent.  A little distance can be healthy when done right.

It was a huge turning point for me and a matter of growth.  I'm still learning how to be a good friend and I expect my friends to be open and honest with me too.  It can be a tricky balance sometimes.  But with true friends, if you mess up they'll forgive and accept you anyway.  And my friend and I are enjoying the growth in our relationship.  True friends are so, so precious.

What lessons have you learned about friendship?  

Blessings to each of you in your relational journeys.

" There are 'friends' who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother."
~ Proverbs 18:24



Denise said...

Good post.

Stephanie said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. I have always admired Jonathan and David's friendship.

Have a beautiful day.

Parsley said...

This is a great post and one many need to read.

Brenda said...

Hi Sincerity,
I think it is difficult sometimes to know what to do to help a friend, and sometimes the best thing is to pray. I know that sometimes friends welcome a listening ear and sometimes, they need a quiet time alone with the Lord. Even though I have been married to my husband for forty seven years now, he still wants to do everything for me when I am not feeling so good, and yet even though I appreciate what he is trying to do and welcome a cup of tea, I find being left to seek the Lord in my situation the best 'medicine' for me. I suppose we are all different, and I don't feel right if people are worrying over me.

T-Childs said...

Friendship, like life itself, is all about balance. And sometimes, like I have experienced in the past, people are selfish and want their needs taken care of and when that happens they have little time for anyone else. I don't have many friends I now see regularly. We all need friends.


Denise: God bless you.

Stephanie: They're relationship is such a fantastic role model of friendship isn't it? Naomi and Ruth and Elijah and Elisha are also very powerful examples to me.

Parsley: Thank you. May God use my words as He sees best. Blessings to you.


Brenda: I'm the same way. I tend to withdraw and desire to be alone when I'm really struggling. Not always the best thing to do in my case. But you are correct. Each person is different and sometimes allowing others to help us is the best way we can show love to them.
47 years of marriage is such a blessing from the Lord! That's awesome!


T-Childs: I agree. Balance in all things of life is key. But it can be very difficult to find it at times. That's something God can always help us with.

I'm glad to hear you have at least a few friends you can relate and reach out towards.

None of us were meant to go through life alone, married or not. Being connected to other Christians is so important for personal growth. And its the best way to encourage others too.

God bless you.