I'm that girl that always feels like I stick out- and not so much in a good way all the time. I'm either too tall, too loud, not loud enough, misunderstood, or just "too nice". I've been told that my personality can be "too sensitive", and mean girls have told me that I am unrelateable. Ahhhh.... connecting with other women has always been a challenge for me... but also a great interest and desire of mine; which is why I find it so incredible that the Lord has blessed me with two daughters! What a sense of humor He has!
Women are complicated beings, aren't we? Some of us love to binge on Reality TV and all the girl drama that comes with it, but we'd be mortified if such occurrences happened in our own friendships. We'd rather play it safe. We cower from each other out of intimidation, we compare, we gossip and sometimes, we even do and say mean things. I think, though, deep down we want to love each other. We want to be loved and accepted and appreciated by other members of our marvelous sex, but too many of us have stories of the opposite experience.
Why is that?
In elementary school, anyone who was in your class or sat beside you on the bus or slid down the slide with you was your "friend". Kailyn, my 2 year old, considers anybody under the age o f 10 to be a "friend".
"Hi, friend", she'll say, with a wave, at any random child that she sees in any random place. Oh, honey, if only it were that easy, right?
But maybe, it's not as difficult or as restrictive as we sometimes make it out to be. Past disappoints from fall outs or separation caused by a change in life can cause us to box ourselves in from the openness of friendship. But, in my 30's, I am learning so much more about true friendships than I ever have at any other point in my life. It's not only about shared interest, common goals or mutual lifestyles. Friendships can come in all shapes and sizes and the more unique the friendship is, the more unique experiences there will be in shaping your life and your heart.
But it won't come easy. We tend to only want what we find comfortable, predictable and controllable. That is human nature, but seeking such traits as reasons for friendship will prove superficial in the long run. Take some inventory. A genuine friendship is entirely unselfish and wants nothing in return. Is this true of your friendships- of yourself?
We cannot control people, any more than we can control outcomes, so first and foremost, if we are desiring to be a good friend and to build strong friendships, we have to be realistic about the common complications we will eventually endure when we choose to share our lives with others.
1. True Friendships Aren't for Convenience
We need to grow up. Friendships aren't purposed for our "good time". Our culture depicts "Best Friends" as women who hang out and have fun. Though that is definitely apart of it, friendship is first and foremost about love and love must exist weather the wine glass is empty or full. Life is tough. It's not always Lucy and Ethel. Sometimes, our friends really need us- like, for real need us. Broken hopes, broken relationships or just plain BROKE! Whatever the need may be, our reaction is always a reflection of the validity of the relationship. This is when we must be willing to put our self-interest aside and value others above ourselves (Phil. 2:3). Friendship can be a personal inconvenience a lot of the time, but when we call someone friend we are agreeing to love them, in and out of season.
2. Good Friendships are Like Gray Hair
Most of us have colored our hair a time or two before. Maybe we do it to change up our look, or perhaps to disguise the effects of aging. But, have you ever seen a woman who has completely grayed? I mean, that stark white or silvery color? There's this woman on an AARP commercial, who I thinks is absolutely fabulous! Think, "Miranda Priestly" from the Devil Wears Prada- glorious gray! Who's ever gray halo you are picturing, she didn't earn that striking crown over night. Nope, it took time.
As any dynamic duo will tell you, friendships aren't cultivated instantly. We can get along with someone, instantly. We can make instant connections, yes. But a true friendship- the ability to know one another, inside and out- well, that takes time and investment. God clearly stated that it is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18). This is even more true today, as our world becomes increasingly more artificially and superficially focused. But true and meaningful companionship takes time. We can't expect a truly fulfilling friendship without putting in the time. I'm not saying that a friendship is defined by being in each other's face all the time or spending every waking moment together- that's not the case ( or even realistic) at all. I, myself, have several friends in different states- 2 in different countries. But, even if friends have to maintain a long-distance relationship, it's only able to withstand because it has been built, in progression, over a period of time and investment in one another’s lives. Microwave friendships will eventually fade, like any hair color you apply. But a friendship that's been patiently built over the years through experience and time, well those sister-ships are the ones that shine!
3. Friendships are like Deep Waters
I can't swim. I've always been tall enough just to stand or float in the 6 foot waters of the pool. I took lessons, a couple of times, but it never stuck. I can glide under water... but if a shark was after me, I'd be dinner. So, on our honeymoon, though I had paid for 7 months worth of swimming lessons to prepare myself for Hawaii's beautiful oceans, I was very intimidated to join my husband among the waves. I stayed as close to the beach as I could- dipping my toes into the shallow parts, and waving at him with a forced smile. I wanted to venture out, too. But the shallow end seemed safer. One day, with some very serious coaxing, I agreed to join him for a snorkeling session. He assured me that I would have a life jacket and there would be life guards and he would be right there by my side. I agreed and I lavished in that experience! There, in the deep, deep parts of the water, I saw a new world of colors, creations and brilliant fascination; none of which was in the shallow parts of the ocean.
In any relationship, if we are only interested in the safe places- in the laughs, the selfies, the parties and the joy rides- if this is all we seek, then we will have very shallow friendships. Everyone has a dark side. EVERYONE. And we all go through moments of uncharacteristic proportions. Sin is the great equalizer and our common enemy and, in time, we will certainly see some ugly things from one another. Friendship is designed for growth in godliness and this means helping each other identify and fight our dark side, together (Eccl. 4:9-12). In order to do this, you need to know their heart and they need to know yours. When we mask ourselves, or just smile and wave from the shallow end of the pool, we are inhibiting ourselves to be known and to truly be known by others. Yes, you've got some issues- so do they. Yes, you're not always very interesting- niether are they. But, there needs to be a willingness to open up our lives and hearts and let others have access in. Hiding who we are is a reflection of insecurity and refusing to get to know another person could be a result of intimidation or jealousy. No one is perfect, so no friendship will be perfect. We have to love one another enough to share in the good, the bad and the ugly. Shallow friendships might be easy, but going deep will open up a new world for both of your lives.
So, as you consider your friends and your ability to be a friend, I want to go over one last checking point with you and with myself. Currently, I am in a place where many of my friends are moving away. Jessica is going to California, Ashley and BB have moved to my hometown- where I so desperately want to be. I have old Model-Mates that are still living in New York and a college friend of mine keeps traveling the world in her career. I am happy for them all, of course, but with so much change, I don't want to fall short in being a good friend or being present in their lives. So, know that I am writing all of this as a reminder for myself, as well as for all of you!
1. Minimize "Counterfeit Connections"
Counterfeit connections are one-dimensional. Think: that girl at work I talk with to pass the time. That's not a friend, that's an acquaintance. We can have "friends" on Facebook, Instagram buddies, and text messaging conversations—but none of it is real communication. The words are there, but the deeper experiences and intimacy don't exist. If you don't know their heart, then the friendship has no sustainable foundation. Cut the counterfit actions- get to really know your "friends".
2. Variety is the Spice of Life
Are all your friends like you? Do they all dress like you, think like you, talk like you, live like you? If so, you will never, ever grow. You will stay the same, because everyone around you is the same and things that stay the same are basic and eventually rot. We've got to step out of the box! Be open to meeting people from different backgrounds, different faiths, different races and different lifestyles. There is so much we can learn from others and grow as a result.
A mannequin is lifeless and dead- she does not move or excel or elevate. Open yourself up to different types of people, not cookie cutter versions of yourself. It might be comfortable and easy, but you will cheat yourself out of a full life and the beauty of an array of friendships.
Business women can make beautiful friendships with stay-at-home moms. A college girl can learn so much from a working woman. Single women, you should have some MARRIED friends to seek wisdom and advice from. Married women, are you friends with anyone who isn't even in a relationship? Do you have any foreign friends? Do you have any strange friends? Do you have any significantly older friends?What about you out there that consider yourself "Slayed"? Are all the women in your circle of friends socialites, or do you make time for the quiet girl, who might need some extra encouragement? Until we are willing to mix it up and let go of our judgmental and preconceived notions about potential friendships, we will miss out on a lot of interesting relationships and opportunities to be well rounded women.
3. Authenticity is Always in Style
My friend Ashely is very inappropriate! She says the most wildest things- to anyone. I love it! She is always herself- unfiltered, unashamed and uninhibited. I so admire that. So much of my life, I have cowered in concern that someone might not understand me or mistake me for being stuck up or think that I am a "goody too shoes". I spent much of my 20's trying to not disappoint others or trying so hard to prove to people that I have their best interest at heart and that I was a person worth getting to know. Now that I am in my 30's, I'm honestly learning how not to care so much. I am learning that abandonment of self-consciousness is freeing me in ways I never would have dreamed of.
"Love the people who love and you pray for the ones who don't get you", my friend Jessica Gray told me over an Olive Garden lunch one day. Those words really shed a light in my heart.
Ladies, we have to be authentic if we expect to be known by others. If we want to have powerful, intimate and life lasting relationships with others, we've got to be courageous enough to be ourselves and compassionate enough to accept others for who they are. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't encourage people to grow or change for the better. In fact, according to scripture, if we love someone, then that love must propel us to tell the truth. If we have a friend in our lives that's making bad choices, it is our duty, as a friend, to correct them in love and encourage them to mature by making wiser decisions. But, unless we are able to be authentic, then we stand no chance of helping others or being helped by others. Be yourself. Let other's be themselves and watch your friendships flourish from meaningless social camaraderie and into purposeful and fulfilling relationships! No, not everyone will like you and not everyone will want to get to know you- their loss! #Seriously But being authentic, I am discovering, isn't about winning social trophies or recruiting a large entourage, it's about living in the abundance of the woman tha