BY CHARLOTTE O
Friendship is a funny thing.
For those (like me) living overseas or even just far from family in whatever respect, it’s common for friends to become family. These are the people we live with, grow with, cry with; those we choose to surround ourselves with, or find thrown together with in circumstances – our loved ones.
I’ve been extremely privileged to call some incredible people my friends.
But what happens when idealism meets reality?
When you’re in a friendship that tears down or exhausts instead of building up?
When you only talk to your friends once a year?
When you realize you have nothing to talk about anymore?
When you people move on – to different geographical locations, phases in life, faiths, priorities, people?
What do you do when you see friends making choices that are not the choices you would make for them?
When your friends say horrible things about themselves they would never say to another human being?
When your friends experience pain and loss that passes beyond words?
How do you remain a good friend to someone?
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but here are some things I’ve been thinking about:
1. You can’t be God to someone
As much as you want to help and be there for your friends, it’s more important to encourage them to seek God. You can’t make decisions for people, change their hearts, or become their salvation. But you can remind them that God sees and hears them, testify to his work in your life, and pray with them. Some of my most blessed moments with good friends have been when we stopped rehashing problems, situations, or frustrations over and over again and just prayed.
2. You can’t live in the past
As the rhyme goes: Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver, the other gold.
But the truth is, people change, friends drift apart, and keeping in touch is HARD. It’s ok to let people go, and it doesn’t invalidate the time you had together. It’s a truly wonderful thing to have those friends with whom you can just ‘pick things up where you left off’ which for me is a necessity since I only return to Canada about once a year. But I’ve also had to come to understand that life is happening during those in between times, and I may or may not be a part of that. I believe that God brings people into our lives at different times, and we should do everything we can to build up those around us and learn from them while we have the fortune of being part of their stories.
3. You will need to be honest
Friendship requires vulnerability. Truly connecting with someone means letting them see both your good and bad, and trusting them not to judge you. Will you get hurt? Probably. Does that mean you should give up on people? Probably not. I’m starting to wonder if people-pleasing is, at its root, an honesty problem. We want people to see some made up, ideal of ourselves so that they will like and accept us. But a true friend will see your potential, and be willing to help you get there.
4. You will mess up
Friendships can become a place where we are very selfish; whether that means expecting another person to fulfill our needs, or whether we surround ourselves with people who make us feel good and avoid those who are harder to love. I know it’s been said many times, but people, even the best of friends, will always let you down. We really need to stop keeping score in our relationships. If we started applying a measure of forgiveness to others, we might remember that we have already been forgiven much.
5. Life-giving friendship is a taste of heaven
Part of being image-bearers of God means that we were made for relationship. We were not made to live in isolation, and friendships at their best can truly reflect God. When life-giving, God-glorifying community happens, healing occurs, people get saved, and memories are made. I don’t know about you, but for me, coming to a relationship with God didn’t involve an intellectual decision as much as a community of believers who came alongside me and showed me what life could be like.
Maybe one of the most well known Bible verses about friendship is this one:
We need the light, warmth, acuity, and simply the spark from others to pass through the flames and become a more useful instrument in the hands of our Maker.
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