Close friendships: the alternative to self-sufficiency
One area of my life that is drastically affected by my pride is my relationships. I’d rather be self-sufficient than have to depend on people. I don’t want to be vulnerable. People disappoint. I’ve been burned too many times.
“Proud people often have no use for close relationships, thinking that the trouble outweighs the benefits. They may see themselves as so self-sufficient that they do not need other people.” (Stuart Scott)
Not wanting to be vulnerable…
One reason we may not want to get close to people is what if they don’t like the “real me”? If I show you my true feelings will you still accept me? If I show you my weaknesses, my past hurts, my failures, will you still want to be my friend?
Another reason may be that we have been hurt by people in the past that we’ve confided in. What if I share something very sensitive with you and you then think it’s yours to share with others? How can I trust that you will keep my secrets?
Seeking the perfect friend…
We all desire the perfect friend. Solomon wrote, “What a man (or woman) desires is unfailing love.” (Prov 19:22). The Hebrew word for “unfailing love” is “hesed“. We want people in our life to provide: mercy/kindness AND faithfulness. We need people to be both kind and loyal.
But people disappoint and we get burned…
My friends have let me down. I’ve let my friends down.
Friendship has a natural ebb & flow of extreme closeness and drifting apart…both with a degree of discomfort (too close–>need space; apart too long–>miss each other). Dee Brestin in her book, “The Friendships of Women”, pointed out “If we interpret the natural drifting apart as betrayal then out of hurt or anger, we may become the betrayer.”
Dee also uses an analogy that I love of “roses & alligators”. She said women are like roses, beautiful, unique, dazzling, but “lurking beneath the glossy, green leaves of roses are surprisingly nasty thorns.” Dee goes on to say, “when a rose gardener is jabbed by a thorn, she realizes the rose had no personal animosity toward her but was simply born with thorns.”
photo credit: erin & camera
Sometimes we treat our friends like “alligators”. As soon as we experience something hurtful we run away instead of covering offenses or confronting lovingly. I’ve been guilty of treating a “prick from a thorn on a rose” as if it’s a “bite from an alligator.”
What do we do to maintain close relationships?
1. Be vulnerable: Don’t be afraid to start in the middle. Don’t stay at a shallow level. Ask thoughtful questions (“How did you see God in your day?”). To help others who are struggling to share, be willing to be vulnerable yourself. However, if a friend easily talks negatively about others be careful sharing your intimate details with them (Prov. 20:19).
2. Realize God is the only true source of hesed (unfailing love): “When a friend lets us down, we show our theology is off-base when we’re overcome with shock. When people let us down it confirms what Scripture says, we are all sinners and none are righteous.” (Dee Brestin)
When God is the center of our lives He becomes our base of security & source of hesed, we don’t look to others for security and unfailing love. When we find true hesed in our relationship with God, we are then free to have close friendships…giving the grace when they fail us and realizing that it is usually unintentional when others hurt us. When God is our source, we are free to see others with Christ’s eyes…see that they have past hurt/pain & that we are all a mess in need of a Savior.
3.Cover offenses or confront with love: “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). If you are “pricked by a thorn”, instead of running either forgive or confront. If you want to confront a friend, Dee Brestin makes the following suggestions:
- Pray–Will confrontation change that person’s behavior? What is your motive? Ask God to help remove anger associated with the offense.
- Make sure the anger has been healed.
- Ask God to help plan your words…what you are feeling & then what do you want to happen between you.
- Confront only if you want to save the friendship.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7
The reality is that I need friends. I need women in my life to encourage me, to bring me joy, to share the pain and the joy of each day, to grow in my faith. God created relationship and does not intend for us to be self-sufficient.
Do you struggle to have close relationships? Have you been burned by friends? Do you run when someone hurts you, even if it’s unintentional? May God work in our hearts to put full dependence on Him so we are free to enjoy the gift of friendship.