The One With the Kingdom-Minded Friendship Question
What does it look like to be a kingdom-minded, healthy, and loving friend?
Everywhere I turn, I find countless opinions on healthy friendships. You can read articles on the topic in any leading magazine, with wordy quotes from "friendship experts." And I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets at least one email a month from a lifestyle site about how to achieve "ultimate girl-gang" status.
I'm currently watching Friends for the first time (I know, I know - I'm late!) and Reed and I are obsessed. This show is fantastic, each episode wittier and more consuming than the last. We each have our favorite characters (Reed: Chandler, Me: Tie between Joey and Monica), but it's really got me thinking about friendship. I know that kind of flawless camaraderie has writers and producers behind it, making it unattainable in real life. I know that the practicality of something like Friends just doesn't even add up (When do they work? How do they have money? Does Rachel even age?), but still...do healthy friendships even exist?
Let's call this "episode" of Victoria, Truthfully: The One With the Kingdom-Minded Friendship Question.
You might be thinking, "Yes, of course they do!" and I'm sitting right next to you on that optimism train. But with the amount of books on "mastering friendship" lining the shelves at Barnes and Noble, I have a hunch the rest of the world is still searching...and still asking.
I certainly learn valuable lessons from books and other resources, but as a Christian woman, I have to wonder...is the standard different for me? Do the Scriptures call me to something more? Whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by culture's angle on a particular topic, or even unsure about where I stand...I return to God's Word. There, I find the authority I live under, guidance leading the way, and a fruitful lifeline in a sea of selfish alternatives.
When I can't trust myself, and I can't trust the world - I can trust His Word.
Just the other day, I found myself feeling bombarded by the amount of quotes, opinions, and angles on friendship all around me. Friendship is no easy thing - a part of life that includes ample amounts of growing, learning, serving, adjusting, and good communication. But in the same breath, you find all the things that make friendship worth it: beauty, belonging, understanding, fun, and companionship - to name a few. Over the years, I've learned that friendship is not a "one size fits all" experience, but translates very specifically to who God has designed you to be. As Christians, we are called to love everyone, to do our best to be at peace in community - but friendship has a unique expression. Friendship is a personal, mutually cultivated relationship, that when healthy, includes sacrifice, vulnerability, and commitment. Not everyone in your life is owed this, nor can you assume that you are everyone's cup of tea.
Perhaps, like me, you're learning more about what friendship looks like for you. I encourage you to sit with your Bible, spend some time sharing your heart with the Lord, consider seeing a counselor for your own personal development, or ask a trusted person about your blind spots. It can feel overwhelming at times, but I assure you, God will speak. What he says may challenge you. His standard or direction for you might vary from what you see all around you - and it may require you take an honest inventory on who you've let in, or on the kind of friend you've been.
But if there's anything I've learned it's this: He knows best.
So as I took some time to sit on my bed that morning...I plopped my Bible open, logged out of Instagram, quieted my mind, and cleared the way for God to speak. And oh man, did he speak.
I promise I'm not attempting to be a "friendship expert" myself - but I found these moments with the Lord to be clarifying, convicting, and encouraging. And who couldn't use a little of that?
Here are some of the thoughts I wrote down after I listened, read, and asked this question:
"What does it look like to be a kingdom-minded, healthy, and loving friend?"
1) It looks like wholeheartedly celebrating them. Not from afar, but with. Knowing that their victories, breakthroughs, lessons learned, and the fruit in their basket are for them from God, and take nothing away from you. (James 5:13)
2) It looks like listening, and I mean really listening. Not to fix, not to parent, but to understand. It looks like listening for common ground, listening for pain that might need encouragement, and listening just to let her know that her words, thoughts, and heart matter! (Proverbs 18:12)
3) It looks like being openhanded with the changing seasons. Friendship doesn’t have one look, and putting people in boxes where they don’t fit will only hurt, and won’t work. Celebrate the variation in your friendships - those just blooming, those deeply rooted, those near and far, and those journeying down different paths. And don't compare! (Especially around other friends - that can be really hurtful!) Simply, appreciate what you have in this season! (Amos 3:3)
4) It looks like having realistic expectations. Is your friend newly married? Transitioning in a new position at her company? Not putting in as much effort as you're used to? Going through a season of grief? As you get to know the friends in your life, and watch as they navigate the very special, very specific, and very personal seasons God has placed on them, adjust your expectations for what they can do for you. They don't exist for you, they don't need to accommodate your every whim or bad day, and they may have a limited capacity right now. Not to mention, they could just be a different friend than you are! Don't punish them for that. Don't require them to make any vows to you, give from an already empty bucket, or fit your ideal. I'm not talking about having zero expectations, I'm just talking about living with open hands, being compassionate towards the ebb and flow of your friend's life, and being in tune with your own neediness. (Psalm 62:5)
5) It looks like praying for them. All too often, we say we will, and never do. This is a perpetuation of our own narcissism - to say we’ll do something to appear supportive, but never follow through in private. We may even mean well but completely forget! Prioritize prayer...it reminds you that your problems are only SOME of the problems, it hold you to your word, and it keeps your heart tender to the things going on in their lives. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
6) It looks like returning to simplicity. No matter how you’re wired, every woman needs more fun, more lighthearted conversations, more laughter, and more of the simple stuff. Don’t only go on coffee dates where you drone on about your issues...go to Target, walk around your neighborhood, listen to a playlist from high school, and help each other with house projects. When we reduce community to just the deep stuff, we lose much-needed balance. (Proverbs 15:13)
7) It looks like pulling them out of their pits. Sometimes, laughter, listening, and praying are not what the Doctor ordered. Sometimes, you need to say the hard thing - the thing they don’t want to hear, the thing they’re avoiding, or the thing that makes them think. We need to lift each other's heads! You don’t have to change them, you don’t have to make them listen, but heck - if we can’t speak the truth in love, what are we doing? Real talk doesn’t always include an agenda, and without it, our relationships will be like the seed scattered on rocky ground...enjoyed for a moment, but never fruitful. (Proverbs 18:1-24)
8) It looks like believing the best. Have you ever sat across from someone who just relentlessly thinks you are out to get them/hurt them/disappoint them? I've been in both seats - the accuser and the accused. Healthy friendships are built on believing the best. Before jumping to conclusions, ask yourself what you know to be true about that person, what you love about them, and how you are feeling in that moment. Your friend may not be the root cause of that feeling - it could be that you're having a stressful day, feel let down by someone else, or sat in traffic for an hour. Countering your emotions with truth is YOUR responsibility, and the same is true in reverse. It's not an unrealistic expectation to hope your friend vets her feelings before dumping them all on you. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
9) It looks like learning from their differences. Being friends with women who think, live, and love like us is necessary in doses, but too much of the same thing will make you comfortable. Before you know it, you’ll be unaware of your blind spots (10 years later!), indifferent to how you need to grow, and stuck in judgment towards those who are different than you. (Proverbs 27:17)
10) It looks like watching Friends together. Okay, okay - God didn't say this...but how good is that show!? And how could I possibly give you a list of odd numbers? What a travesty that would be! ;)
Some of these practices certainly come easier to me than others...but I feel more ready than ever to pursue and cultivate friendships that honor God, add value to my life, and teach me a thing or two. Who's with me?
Which thought challenged you the most? What is one thing you value in a friend? Share in the comments below!