Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Myth of the Perfect Friendship

I think many of us have felt a longing for the perfect friendship: The kind of friendship where we are constantly secure and happy in the relationship and free from all insecurity and frustration.

Now that I'm in a place of having some very strong, healthy relationships, I've discovered something: A genuine friendship with another human is a wonderful thing; but many of our ideas about 'The Perfect Friendship' are based more in myth than in reality.

Myth #1: A Great Friend Will Leave You Emotionally Fulfilled After Every Interaction

This excellent blog post about marriage got me thinking about how our insecurities can also affect our expectations about friendship.  If I feel insecure after talking to a good friend, it's probably not because she did something wrong.  It's much more likely to be related to the lies I believe about myself.  For instance, if my friend sounds a bit more distant than usual (perhaps she has a house full of small children), and if it doesn't happen to be a conversation when she says something affirming to me, it might trigger thoughts such as, 'I'm annoying.  People don't want to spend time with me'.

A healthy friendship will leave me with unanswered questions at times. Frequently pushing for reassurance will hurt, not help, the relationship. It's not a bad thing to be in a place where I don't feel completely satisfied, and where I need to go back to the truth of who I am in God.  

Myth #2: A Great Friend Will Always be Available When You Want Him/Her To Be

I have three small children.  There are times when a high quality conversation with another adult just isn't possible.  There are times when I'm busy because I already have something on the calendar.  I know that I'm not always free to chat or spend time with people.  I imagine the same is true for you too.  But it's easy to feel put out when we're on the other side of things and it's our friend who isn't available for us. 

It's even harder when our friend doesn't have the same availability as we do; perhaps because her time is less flexible, her family commitments are different or because her personality means she needs more time alone.

I love this quote that I saw on the
Grace for Moms website: 'But if your idea of a good friendship is based on accessibility – or, “being there” for someone – then consider this: the Word says a friend loves at all times.  It doesn’t say a friend is always at your beck and call.  It doesn’t say a friend will respond immediately when you have a question, or need to vent about some frustration.'
It can be disappointing when a friend isn't available at a time I'd like them to be. However, life goes a lot better when I give my friends the same grace that I would want to be shown.

Myth #3 A Great Friend Understands You Completely

I'm different from many of my friends in how I think and feel, and also in terms of my cultural background.  That's great because we can help each other by seeing an issue from a different perspective.  It also means that I might need to explain my thoughts and feelings more than I would to someone who is wired the same way or has a more similar upbringing. 

I have other friends who I can explain myself easily to because they think like me, or because they are from the same country.  I wouldn't go into details of my love of spreadsheets with my friend who hates mathematics, but it might be a great connection point with a different friend. 
I don't know if anyone has one friend who they can connect well with on every level.  It's great to have a range of friends; all of our friends might frustrate us in some ways; but each one can also bring something unique to the relationship. 

For the same reason, it's important to recognise that our closest friends will also enjoy and benefit from friendships with others too.  If this makes me feel uncomfortable, it's a good time to stop and look at my own motives rather than letting feelings of ill will linger.

Myth #4: A Great Friend Will Always Take Your Advice

It's hard to see others making choices that we see as being destructive.  I'm slowing learning that it's not my job to fix my friends.  I'm working on turning first to God in prayer, and being more careful about when to speak up and when not to. 

I'm also learning that my friends are free to make their own choices.  Sometimes they need to figure out for themselves that a decision wasn't so great after all.  Often God's timing isn't my timing for bringing a particular issue to someone's attention.  At times I've been blown away by how God has spoken powerfully into a situation in a way that didn't involve me saying anything :-).  And of course sometimes I'm the one who is wrong about what is best for my friend!
I need to love my friends in what I say and how I act.  The outcome is not my responsibility though; It's not my job to make sure my friends always act sensibly.

The Reality:

I appreciate my friends immensely.  However, I know I'm never going to find another human who will meet all my needs, who will always be there for me and who will always understand me and my concerns.  And that's ok.  There is only One who can manage all this; may our desire for the perfect friendship send us running into his arms.      

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