Friday, January 31, 2014

Character qualities for Close Friendship

One of my favorite characters in literature is Anne of Green Gables.  I especially love the relationship that Anne has with her friend Diana Barry, whom she calls her "bosom friend."  That kind of friendship is the rarest, most precious treasure of friendship that we can have, I think.

I have had the privilege of having some really close, "heart-to-heart" friendships with other women that God has brought into my life, but I will be honest in saying it's been a LONG time since I have had that kind of relationship.  Joe and I have reached a great place in our marriage, and for that I feel incredibly blessed and thankful, but I don't believe anyone apart from God is meant to fill EVERY need in our lives.  Joe is not my savior, nor would it be realistic, or even healthy, for me to expect him to be.  It's taken me a while to figure that one out, I admit.

So, while I am not lonely in my marriage, I confess that I would like to cultivate God-honoring, deeper friendships with at least a few ladies to hold each other accountable, to help me to grow into a more Godly wife and mom, and to just spur each other on to good works in Him.  I've had trouble at times in the past in recognizing when a relationship I had with someone was one that I could pursue as a deeper relationship, and when someone didn't really want to be more than an acquaintance.  Thinking about this made me consider what qualities I would be looking for in the kind of friend I am talking about, and then the idea of making a list of those qualities appealed to me, in order to clarify what I am looking for in a deeper friendship, and hopefully it will call out to those ladies I know who might be hungry for this as well.   So without further ado, here are the qualities I am looking for in a close friendship with other ladies, and that I also would wish to cultivate in myself to be the kind of friend that I would want to have:

1.  First off, you have to WANT to have close friends yourself, and not feel satisfied by what friendships you already have, that you have closed yourself off to additional, deeper friendships.  This is NOT an attack on those who already have close friends and want no more; I recognize that we all have limits to what we are able to handle and maintain with regards to relationships, and sometimes the fact of the matter is that some people have no more room in their heart or life for any more additional close friendships.  I get that.  While I do think in a more general way people, most especially Christians, should seek to be inclusive rather than exclusive where they are able,   I  don't expect that everyone I meet should make room for me to be in their "inner circle".  Even Jesus chose the apostles, and from then, he had an inner circle of guys that he was more intentional about pouring his life into.  If this is how he was in life, why would I expect to be different?  So if you are reading this post, and your life is too full already, I understand, but apparently we are not called to be best friends.

2.  I value true tolerance, coupled with honesty, truth seeking, and humility.  In other words, if you want to be my bestie, you do NOT have to live your life just like me.  You can work 9 to 5, your kids can go to public school, you can eat cereal and Dominoes for dinner every night of the week , you can be an organic vegan tofu foodie, or you can be better at me than housekeeping (which isn't hard to be, actually lol), you can be a Democrat or Republican (I am libertarian, but I digress), you can have NO children or one child or twenty children, dye your hair purple and be covered in piercings and tattoos (which I find unattractive and don't see the draw of, but again, is irrelevant to my point),  you can be divorced or single or married (though I'd prefer if you weren't married to the mob, but again I digress), you can believe evolution is true or intelligent design.  Here is the deal: you can be almost anything that I am not, so long as you RESPECT what I am, and we are able to TALK about our different points of view without name calling, and you are OPEN to new ideas and wanting to learn something.  If your automatic assumption is that all Christian, homeschooling moms of four or more kids are judgemental and insane, that only backwoods hillbillies who have the IQ of a piece of lint teach their children about creation science, and the lifestyle God has CALLED me to live for MY family offends you, then we are going to have trouble finding common ground.  If every time someone questions something in your life, you get offended that they DARE to say a decision you have made might be detrimental to you, then we also have problems.  I have no issue with people who believe differently than me, when someone I care about brings a concern to me, I try my best to listen to what they are saying, unless they try to FORCE their way upon me or belittle me for being different.  There has to atleast be common ground of mutual respect for each other to have any meaningful relationship.  True tolerance doesn't demand that we all be exactly the same; it says that we can strive to live side by side and pray for one another, even if we disagree or even think the other person is wrong about something.  It says we can discuss and think through ideas, and be humble enough to respect when we disagree, and expect to learn from others.   I want to have friends that challenge me to grow as a person, and even help me to grow in my faith by thinking about things and really examining the reasons I do what I do, and think what I think.  But if it's totally one sided, if they think the only reason they want close to me is to change me, but never honestly receive anything themselves, then I don't see how the friendship will be that beneficial.

3. I will say I am really hoping that the Lord will bring some other Christian ladies in my life, to have this sort of friendship with, that we can help each other grow in our faith.  I don't mean that is a requirement to be my friend, or even a close friend that I will love deeply, just for me, it would be a blessing to have a friend of like faith, one who also WANTS to grow in their walk with the Lord, and KNOWING Him more and more.  And for this particular kind of friend, I would love for us to have the common ground of LOVING the WORD OF GOD more than our own opinions and ideas.  Sometimes, as a Christian, it can feel like the culture, and even cultural Christianity, are at odds with my faith.  It would be wonderful to have a friend who prayed with me, and valued growth in their walk as much as I did.

4. To be a heart friend, you have to be willing to be VULNERABLE, and AUTHENTIC.  If you are unwilling to admit you have struggles, or questions, or that you sometimes have problems, if you are one of those people who thrives on public appearances and a positive public image, then I am probably not the best friend you want or need.  At the same time, it'd be great to find a person like that who also likes to laugh and looks to have joy and have fun in life.   If we can spur each other onward to contentment in all things, but also see areas of life that need improvement and spur each other on to that as well, then that would be pretty much awesome.

5.  You have to be willing to care about my concerns and needs as well as your own passionate projects.  By this, I mean I think it's great if you have something you feel strongly about; I have those things too.  Isn't finding a cure for Crohn's disease at the top of everyone's list of important things? Also, I think homeschooling is awesome.  Oh wait, you mean not everyone feels that way?  Well, that's okay.  I can respect that your life may revolve around other things than mine.  But if the only time you really care about interacting with me is when I try to understand the passion you feel for your particular passion, then probably we won't be heart friends.  We can be friends who like each other and understand a common passion together, but heart friends like each other for themselves, not just that the other person will listen to them talk ad nausiem about their one particular cause or passion.   This is an area of particular concern in my search for heart friends, because I have been misled in the past.  I have formed friendships with people in the past, sought to understand them through their passionate cause of choice, only to figure out that the care they felt for me was limited to the degree I was interested in their hobby, or cause, or even network marketing company.  There is nothing wrong with sales; it's an honorable profession.  But if you feel that the only way I will be able to grow in fellowship with you is to embrace this secondary thing you do, then it's probably good for me to know that upfront, accept our relationship for what it is (which is fine, in its proper place), and move on to continue looking for those who are willing to be selfless enough to put as much energy in knowing me and loving me as a person, without gain to their cause, as I want to know them.

6.  If you want to be my heart friend, don't marginalize my sacrifices in life, and I'll try not to marginalize yours either.  In other words, don't say, when you hear I have six kids, "Oh wow, you must have the patience of Mother Theresa! I could never do that!  I would just go insane with that many kids, trapped with them at home all day!"  First off, if God calls you to do something, he equips you to do it.  That doesn't, however, mean it's all smooth sailing, or that things won't be hard some days.  I make sacrifices to do what I do.  I know that other people, who have made different choices than I have made, have made their own kinds of sacrifices.  How about if we just accept that God is doing sometimes different things in our lives, and that looks different for different people? I can't imagine what it's like to be a single parent, or a woman whose husband is deployed, or any myriad of things, but I make it my goal to try to understand best as I can, and not trivialize their sacrifices by saying how I am too good to ever be in their shoes.  Since I don't know what the future holds, it would require an immense amount of pride for me to do that. 

5. Walking in love and forgiveness is an essential trait of being a heart friend.  If you are one of those people that holds a grudge forever, then it's going to be really hard for our friendship to grow.  I am going to mess up, and make mistakes, and say something stupid.  And so are you.  If we know each other long enough, the flaws and any sin issues we have are going to be exposed.  And growth is messy.  I want to know that we can have permission to be imperfect and make mistakes, but be slow to anger and quick to forgive.

6. If we are going to be heart friends, gossip will have no place in our relationship.  I want to know  when we share our flaws, that they will not be used as weapons.  No one is perfect, and as someone who has a big mouth, I know what it is to say something you regret.  But I want to know that we will both value keeping a confidence, and that we will strive to see not just the best in each other, but in others as well.

7. The last thing I would really like in a heart friend involves geography, but it isn't the most essential thing.  It would just be really helpful if said friend lived close enough we could actually hang out sometimes.  IF you live farther away, that's okay too, if you are willing to call or visit or just put forth effort to maintain the friendship.  I have several good friends, that were heart friends at one time, but now due to geography and the busyness of our lives, we just are not as emotionally close as we used to be.  And that is just life; I am as much to blame as they are.  I know they know I love them, and they love me.  We are just at different places in our lives now, and that's how life is.

I am posting this, hoping that there are others out there, especially locally, who maybe want that kind of friendship too.  I am hoping soon to start a Bible study soon in my home with ladies who are looking for just that kind of friendship.  If that interests you, let me know by private message.  If it doesn't, that's fine too.  I would appreciate prayer though; I sincerely want to be intentional about loving and building relationships with those God has called me to love, and I need Him to show me and give me discernment and wisdom in this area. 

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