change, lessons learned

Authenticity

Many years ago, I had a close friend. Our kids played together. We worshiped together. We complained about our husbands together. We homeschooled together. We had coffee together. I thought we were best friends.

Then she started pulling back. She didn’t always answer her phone when I called. She started being busy when I tried to plan coffee dates. The real blow came when she and another friend went on a trip and didn’t invite me. We had been talking for several months about it, but hadn’t settled on a date. At least not that I knew about. I was crushed.

She refused to tell me what was going on. Our friendship quietly dissolved.

Years later, she told me why. One of her children was developmentally disabled and didn’t keep up with the same milestones that my same-age child did. Her husband was not saved and refused to attend church; mine was the youth pastor. She felt that her life was inferior to mine.

I was flabbergasted, but I learned a valuable lesson. True, deep friendship cannot flourish without true authenticity. 

If only I had told her that my marriage was also far from perfect: the youth pastor had a serious addiction to pornography that deeply affected our marriage and my own feelings of worth. The child who appeared to be academically advanced for her age had ADD, and I eventually found myself unable to homeschool her for several years because of it.

My pride and natural reserve kept me from enjoying and benefitting from sharing life with a valued friend.

Iron sharpens iron,
    and one [wo]man sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)

We always kind of wonder how people could really love someone (like ourselves) who is such a hot mess. But here’s the thing, when we open up about our hot messes, when we invite others into our less-than-perfect spaces, we invite others into a shared authentic space.

It’s in that shared authentic space that true love (romantic or filial) and connection blossom. We feel true communion when someone says, “Me too.” Friendship can’t grow in the sterile environment of perfectionism. 

A [wo]man who has friends must [her]self be friendly,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24 (NKJV)

Do you need to make an adjustment in any of your relationships?  I might need to make a few more changes myself.

anxiety, grief, healing

What to Say Instead

Nothing! Yes, often the best thing to say is nothing at all. But that’s so hard for this fix-it society. In fact, I caught myself opening my mouth to spout a fix-it verse just the other day. We often feel like when someone says something, we have to respond. Right that second. Don’t.

Stop. Listen. Think. Respond. Silence is not always a sign of a lack of wisdom. Sometimes it’s the greatest sign of wisdom. Use your filter!

While you’re saying nothing, try just sitting with your friend. Offer a hug, a shoulder, and a tissue box. Actually ask if she wants to talk about it, or what you can do to help. What do you need? What can I do for you? And then respect the answer. Or try a simple I’m so sorry.

“When you make one other human simply see they aren’t alone, you make the world a better place.”

Lysa TerKeurst, Facebook, Sept. 10, 2019

But what do you do about those pesky feelings? It’s ok to feel that way. God isn’t mad at you for feeling that way. Me, too (but don’t hijack the conversation). I understand (but only if you really do – “tired” is not the same as chronic fatigue syndrome; “my husband is away for a week” is not the same as not having one). I can’t say I understand your struggle exactly, but I will certainly pray for you!

I don’t want to give the impression that reciting Bible verses is wrong, but do so judiciously. Don’t offer bandaids for bullet holes. Do offer a relevant Scripture or two, but don’t try to make the issue go away or minimalize it with the “magic” of Bible verses.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Bonus responses: I’m on the way with chocolate ice cream! Let’s meet at Starbucks; I’m buying. 

Seeking to understand is always better than trying to give answers! How are you planning on encouraging someone the next time the need arises? How do you need to be encouraged yourself? What works for you?