Written by Morgan Clark
When you hear the word ‘friend,’ who is the first person that comes to mind? Maybe it is a lifelong pal, perhaps it is someone that you just recently met; you might even think of a sibling. The reality is that all of us have a different understanding of the term ‘friend.’ As a result, navigating the waters of friendship can be difficult because each person has their own expectations. Recently, God has been teaching me a lot about friendship, and there are four things that I have been learning that I think are helpful to the development of healthy relationships.
1. Know your own identity.
Stop for a moment and ask yourself these questions: How do I define myself? Do I define myself by how many friends I have? Is my identity based on what others think of me? This summer, I learned a hard but important lesson. Over the course of those four months, God slowly peeled back each layer of how I defined myself. He showed me that I had gotten it all wrong; I am not defined by what people think about me. The way that a friend responds to me does not determine my worth.
At six o’clock a.m. on a beautiful summer day, I came to the realization that my identity was rooted in other people. On that morning, I learned how to say no to the fear of being both the object and the subject of disappointment, and yes to living in freedom as a child of God. This has enabled me to be a better friend because instead of wasting so much time worrying, I am able to invest more time in those that I care about. Instead of trying to mold myself to the expectations of others, I am able to see how our different perspectives are unique and beneficial.
2. Invest in people who will invest back into you.
This is not a selfish perspective! Relationships are meant to be give-and-take. Sometimes you might have a friend who is not doing well, and it may require you to give more than you receive; by no means am I saying to let go of them because they have hit a rough patch. However, constantly chasing after people who do not want to invest back into you will leave you dry and exhausted. Instead, pour yourself into those who are willing to go deeper with you; whose desire it is to know your heart and not just the shell of your being. We all have a yearning to be known, and though it is only God who fully knows us, our relationships on earth shed us a glimpse of this perfect knowledge.
3. Hard conversations are necessary.
Confrontation might seem scary, but it is crucial. Asking for forgiveness and extending it to others is far from being easy, but it heals. Over the summer, I was confronted by a friend. Was it awkward? A little bit. But as we sat in her car and talked, we were given the opportunity to open our hearts to one another. I think that both of us would agree that this did not hinder our friendship, but rather strengthened it as we learned how to be more honest about our feelings. Looking back, I am so thankful that she trusted me enough to be vulnerable. Never take that for granted.
4. God has perfect timing.
Sometimes friendships fall apart; something happens and you do not know how to fix it. It is important to discern when to act and when to wait. Sometimes, the best thing that you can do is give yourselves time and space to process, heal, and grow. Maybe things will not change; we need to learn to be okay with that. However, you might be surprised to find that God is writing a new chapter that you never expected.
So yes, navigating the waters of friendship is not an easy task. Yet, we were made to be in community; we are relational beings. So go, do life together, grow together, and learn from one another. It is an adventure worth taking.