Five Ways to Improve Your Friendships
Five Ways to Improve Your Friendships
A few years ago, my friend Tina called me to ask me if
I could make it to the party she was having that evening.
I told her "yes," and then we proceeded further along in
our conversation. As we talked, she went on to share
some shocking news that has changed me drastically since.
My friend of nearly five years casually mentioned the fact
That she would possibly be moving to another city. The
move would mean a more secure job for her husband and
a closer trip to grandma and grandpa's house for the kids.
But for her and I it would mean the end of a close and
loving relationship we had spent the last few years building.
As the conversation progressed I fought hard to hold back the tears. Tina seemed so happy and I did not want to ruin her moment. After hanging up the phone, I quietly retreated to my room. There with pen and journal in hand I poured out my heart. "How could she leave?" I thought. "In those few short years we had gone through so much, what would I do without my friend?"
That day I realized how deeply I cared for Tina. For the first time I saw the blessing her friendship had been to me. Then my heart pondered through to my other relationships. Vividly, I began to see the beauty that each of them held. This closer look created a yearning within me. I desired to reach out to my friends and express my gratitude. From that moment I determined to become a better friend, directing my focus to establishing stronger and healthier relationships with them.
Here are five ways I discovered to help me to improve my friendships:
Don't expect one friend to meet all your needs. In their book, What Every Mom Needs, Elisa Morgan and Carol Kuykendall wrote, ".just as no marriage can meet our every need for intimacy, neither can a single friendship."3 It is essential that we look to more than one friend to meet our special needs for intimacy. When we look to only one friend to meet all of our needs, we run the risk of becoming too dependent on her friendship. This may cause us to expect more from her than she is capable or even willing to give. We become possessive, wanting our friend all to ourselves. Possessiveness in a relationship suffocates, allowing no room for growth or healthy development. To really have a friend we must first be willing to let her go, giving her room to be who she is. It is important to hold on with a loose grip, never tightly. We can do this by reaching out to several different friends. Each friend offers something unique that can enrich us and expand who we are. Having various friends also allows us to speak to the different aspects of our personality. While one friend may share an interest and love for reading, another may love to go shopping or work in the garden. Each one offers a different adventure to share.
Find value in yourself and others.
"Do not be awestruck with other people," wrote the late Norman Vincent Peale in his book, The Power of Positive Thinking, ".most people despite their confident appearance and demeanor, are often as scared as you are and as doubtful of themselves."4
As a child I remember asking my mother if the people on television really went to the bathroom. I also wondered if they slept in beds like "real people" did. The people on television were not real to me. I thought they never had problems, always had money to buy everything they could ever want, (which is about true), and were so great that they never even needed to go to the bathroom. As silly as this may sound, it is not so far fetched from what we tend to believe about some of our friends.
Have you ever had a friend that exceeded your social economic background? How did you view her situation? It is possible to view our friends in the way that I mentioned above. We see only an image of the reality in her life, we don't look under the surface. If we did we would see the basic similarities that we all share as human beings and as daughters of God. If we feel weak or inadequate we may search for a friend who is strong. Somehow we feel we will gain what we lack from her. Eventually she becomes the source by which we define who we are. She may become our lifeline and we feel we can't make a move without her. Though it is important to look for strength in our friends, we are not to gain our strength from them. The strength we need lies in our Heavenly Father. Instead of seeing a friend as "having it all" we should honor the value in ourselves and in them. Each of us has something valuable to bring to the relationship. When we see both of us as having value we have balance in our friendship and we do not run the risk of losing our identity in the relationship.
Allow friends room to grow. Tina once told me about one of her friends from high school. It was five years before she saw her friend after graduation, and then a couple more years passed before she was able to see her again. But during the time they were together she said, "It was like we'd never left, we could always pick up where we left off." A good solid friendship picks up where it leaves off. I wondered how this could be. Don't we have to see our friends or call them at least twice a day to be close? As I arrived to an emphatic no, I realized that most women barely have time to talk heartily with their friends once or twice per week, let alone per day.
A friendship should be built on trust. We have to trust that our friends do love us and care for us, even when they can't see or call us as often as we would like. When a friend needs to take some time away to minister to others or to further develop, we should encourage her efforts and be sensitive to her need. We should also realize that friendships have seasons of closeness and seasons of distance.
"It is not unusual for God to bring a dear friend into your life for a season," writes Dee Brestin in The Friendships of Women. ".when that season is passed, He may allow you to drift apart, though you may always feel a love for that person."5
Accept friends the way they are, don't try to change them. Have you ever given a friend advice and then found out later that she did not follow through with what you told her? Were you hurt or upset? Did you feel betrayed, like maybe she did not trust you? One day I realized that I prided myself in offering free (and often unsolicited) advice. I always felt that I was being helpful, and none of my friends ever gave me the impression that I was bothering them, so I never thought to be quiet. But later I began noticing that my friends were not following through with some of the advice I had given. They were doing things their own way. Imagine that. This caused me to see that they did not really need me to tell them what to do. And, I felt humbled by their kindness. Now I understand that my only responsibility as a friend is simply to love my friends-not to try to change or fix them. I need to accept them just the way they are. Like me, they too are "under construction," if there are any changes to be made God will make them.
Pray for and with your friends. Prayer with a friend is like a tall glass of ice water on a hot, summer day. It's refreshing. It's cleansing. And, it revitalizes the spirit. I love my friends and I love to pray with each of them. The sounds of their prayers encourage me and make me feel close to them. When I pray with my friends it becomes evident to me that we share more than a friendship, we are sisters, and we share a loving Father. A few weeks after the alarming phone call from Tina, I found out that she was not leaving. Her and her husband decided that where they were, was home. Though initially she was happy, she seemed to breathe a huge sigh of relief when she found out she was staying. So did I. As glad as I was that my friend did not leave, I am even gladder that she almost did. If she had not presented me with the mere possibility of her moving, I would have missed an awesome opportunity for growth. Now I am privileged to know the real treasure I have in my friends and I am thankful.
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