My last post, “When a friend becomes a frenemy,” generated a bit of a buzz. Way too many of us know exactly what it’s like to have a frenemy. And some wonder if they’ll ever be able to make a real friend again.
Nearly every close friend I’ve ever had were actually frenemies. As a result, I have been unable to trust women enough to develop close friendships for the last 28 years. Thank God for my precious husband, my best friend. I would love to have a healthy friendship with a few women but doubt I even know how to “friend” anymore. Needless to say, I’ve lacked discernment in this area.
Thanks for the article. A follow-up on what to look for in a healthy person might be helpful.
“Lisa” is not alone, more and more of us have put up some pretty substantial walls so that we can’t be hurt, again. So what a pleasant surprise to get another email with this blog, Air, Water, Food and Friendship, as encouragement
Having friends is a requirement for healthy living just as much as food and water. We can go somewhere around three days without water. Much longer without food. We can go our whole lives without friends, but not without damage. We are social animals. It’s not optional.
People know this intuitively. Many do not understand, though, that the best way to make a friend is to be a friend. Giving of yourself to another builds good will. Good will blossoms into willing reciprocation. The cycle finds its fruition in caring.
Caring is the key. Not giving. Not service. Not obedience. Caring trumps them all.
Impressed with how Greg Sanders put into words what so many of us struggle with, building healthy friendships, I called him up to talk more about what made him realize the importance of friendship.
It actually came to me late in life. I’ve always been introverted, having attended 12 different schools by the 12th grade. I grew up expecting to be alone. Then, working on a doctoral seminar, writing on the difference between solitude and loneliness I had an ‘aha’ moment realizing maybe I needed friends worse than I thought I did.
Sanders says through life he’d always been healthy. His wife of 33 years, on the other hand, had suffered through and survived open heart surgery and breast cancer. It was during those times he began to be more conscious of how his wife’s friends, and their friends, were really there for them with meals and watching their children.
Life was taking a turn from his ministry work in Florida. He had done some contracting work around the country and met a friend in Colorado who would bring him onto jobs. It was Eric who referred him for a position he would later accept as a contractor in Colorado. Seven days after the deal was signed, he had a doctors appointment and discovered he had cancer. Devastated, he called his new boss to tell him the diagnosis, and when he suggested the company rescind the offer, his new boss said ‘no, things will stay as they are.’ He would come to Colorado and battle the cancer here. His salary and benefits started on that day. All Sanders could think was:
Who does that? My friend, Eric, and my new boss went above and beyond anything I’d seen in my 26 years working in the church. My new definition of friends became ‘caring trumps all.’
Establishing a friendship doesn’t take place overnight. For so many of us who’ve had to move for work or family or life circumstances, it seems like we have to start over on the friendship quest every few years. When you’re a child, moving with your family, making new friends is very different from having to do that very same thing as an adult.
Every now and then you may meet someone and something clicks, usually because you share common interests. But if you’re like “Lisa”, who says discerning a healthy friendship and developing solid relationships has escaped her for years, here are a few things Sanders suggests to keep in mind:
- Recognize it takes time. Even if you meet someone who fits your ‘friend’ criteria, there’s often hesitancy to move forward.
- Put yourself in a place where you are more likely to meet people with similar interests. So if that’s church, or a drag strip, frequent that location until you recognize someone as a possible friendship candidate.
- Spend time with people who value honesty, allowing you to be honest. It’s tough when our culture puts very little stock in honesty, but it’s that vulnerability with another person that lets you know you can both be real.
- Be reliable, because that builds trust. I know with Eric, my reliability and lack of drama on job sites made his life easier. Making his life easier made me someone he wanted to be around.
I’ve lived in Colorado now for 13 years. There’s no doubt it’s taken time and energy to create a life with friends who I know will be there for me, and I for them. I most certainly lean on friends who live hundreds and thousands of miles away, and while that doesn’t bother me one bit I know how valuable it is to bond with people where I live, where I work, where I hang out. Even with friends here, finding new things to do together to encourage and deepen that friendship is challenging. That’s why you’ll find a group of us occasionally at a swing dance class on Friday nights. The laughs are priceless and it’s a blast.
There is no 1-2-3 friendship course that has worked for me. I can find all sorts of excuses to keep me from broadening my scope: work, family, extended family, responsibilities, you name it. Establishing yourself in a neighborhood, immersing yourself in a place of worship you connect with, finding a hobby/activity you can do with others, reaching out beyond your comfort zone and learning from masters, like real gardeners, demand my time, common interests, honesty and reliability.
And I know it’s worth it. Since I’ve been in Colorado, Jeremy has followed me on email through each of my positions with enormous encouragement. Thank you Jeremy for wrapping up this piece:
I think it is true that it is good to have good friends.
Lois’ Living Through It blogs are posted on Mondays and Thursdays. Join her Monday mornings around 8:45am on Good Day Colorado.Follow @LoisMelkonian AlertMe