A few weeks ago my friend Crystal and I sat at a little downtown café to sip coffee and grab a delicious farm-to-table lunch. We sat for almost 3 hours. We laughed a lot, cried a little, and caught up on each other’s lives. I had my husband’s blessing to spend the money, take my time and enjoy myself- and I did!
During those three hours of chatting, eating, and sipping coffee, we talked about the important things: our marriages, our kids, our dreams, our recent successes and failures. And we both left feeling understood and uplifted. It was pure friendship bliss!
I met Crystal about 3 years ago, and we have so many commonalities: we’re both in our mid-30’s, and both desire to draw closer to Jesus, and find more order, peace and wholeness. We are both kind-hearted, sensitive and reserved about who we get close to. She is a GREAT friend. We both love to get dressed up and go out with our husbands together for Mexican food- or we can call each other in a crisis.
Friendship really can be the best of both worlds: The fun and the celebratory, and also sharing the deepest, hardest, most sobering moments.
If you are a tactful lady who desires to find this kind of friendship (with one or a few other women), I can really break everything I’ve learned about making friendships wonderful into 3 parts.
1. People don’t need you to be like them- they need you to be like you.
I remember one evening many years back, having a new-years, goal-setting session with my husband. I was feeling lonely at the time because I was not really connecting with any other women in our church. I told my husband:
“I just feel different from them. Like I don’t fit.”
I always felt a strong desire to serve and love Jesus, and even though these were other church women, I didn’t feel like many shared my passion.
“They don’t need you to be like them. They need you to be like you.”
I remember in the moment feeling a sweet, emotional connection with my husband, but also a distinct sense of purpose. Yes, I was not going to let other women’s styles and interests dictate who I would become. I felt strongly called to some kind of spiritual leadership- and if I was ever going to step into those shoes, I needed to be okay standing there alone. I think God really used that season to solidify my convictions, and maybe he is doing the same right now for you.
You have Jesus, you have your family and you have your convictions. Stay true to those three things and many of the more shallow relationships that you have will fall away. And that is a good thing because it will open up some space and breathing room for the right ones.
2. Put up distinct boundaries.
This is so key to good friendships, ESPECIALLY if you are introverted like I am. I will share with you two distinct scenarios that helped me learn this lesson. I have a feeling you will relate…
Back in my early 20’s I would sometimes find myself in situations with a certain friend that were WAY outside of my comfort zone. Driving around with no plans, or stuck at someone’s house, as we ran around all over kingdom come on her agenda. I often didn’t have the backbone to speak up and say: “I’d like to go home now, please.”
This was literally a different lifetime ago for me. But I can remember that icky, out-of-control feeling, and I NEVER want to feel that way again.
Another time in the not-so-distant past, I became close friends with someone who was always having marriage troubles. She and I would talk a lot about these issues. I would listen and then gently counsel her in the things of God, or sometimes just offer to pray with her over whatever the current situation was. This was a godly friendship, in a sense, because we were both believers, but I did not put up clear boundaries for myself, and because of that, I became overwhelmed.
As a self-protective introvert, this friendship began to suck the emotional life out of me. I felt bullied in a way, but I wasn’t being bullied- I had just allowed things to go to such a level where I felt like I couldn’t speak my mind, and I couldn’t say “no” without feeling like I had to make up an excuse. We should be able to say no. But if you are sensitive and accommodating like I am, sometimes you feel you’ve been pushed into a corner before you even realize it happened.
Some people are always in a new crisis and seem to expect you to take on their sense of urgency. Maybe they call you and expect you to spend a long time on the phone, and you feel you are being “dumped on” again. Or maybe there is yet another emergency where they need you to watch their kids, or loan them money or your car, or whatever. And it’s such a struggle! Because we don’t always know whether it’s time for grace and sacrifice, or time to say a hard “no”.
In my current stage of life, I cannot handle “needy” friendships. I am always here to talk, and pray and offer a helping hand because my goodness I know that life can be so stinking hard. But I have to be realistic to the season of life I am in, and with four needy children and a husband, I just don’t have the capacity to be available for someone else 24/7.
I know that we are all different, and for some people being available 24/7 is what friendship is all about. But here is what I am encouraging:
Know what season of life you are in and what you are capable of giving, and build awesome, give-and-take friendships that fit within the realities of your life, your budget, you schedule, your family and your priorities. You will love and enjoy your friendships so much more this way!!
With the right boundaries, friendship really can feel like a cool glass of water.
3. Take the lead in getting real.
If you want to build friendship where you really know each other- be brave and take the lead in speaking honestly, sharing struggles and being yourself. Even if you’re weird. We’re all weird!
I’m very blessed to have a gaggle of women in my life who I have made it a practice to be honest with. I may not have all the time right now to get together with each of them- but there is nothing like being able to pull up to soccer practice, unload my kids and have a couple of girlfriends who I can just get right to it with- cry, laugh, celebrate, vent a little. Sisters-in-Christ are just the best like that! What a blessing!!
Pray for a loving, genuine heart toward your friends. It is high time to rise above any gossip or mean-heartedness in your friendships. We have bigger fish to fry and we need other women to laugh with, cry with and understand all of the things about us that our man cannot!
It’s time to create beautiful friendships!