Friendship Hurt

WE'VE ALL BEEN THE BAD FRIEND.

Let's face it. We've all been the bad friend.

We've forgotten to call.

We didn't show up.

We told a secret.

We didn't invite.

We made it about ourselves.

We didn't really listen.

We spoke too strongly.

We didn't speak up at all.

We blame shifted.

We gave the silent treatment.

We were too busy.

We stole the limelight.

We took for granted.

This list could on.

 

So, here's the thing:

new We've all been the bad friend..png

     We've all been the bad friend at some point in someone's life. In fact, there is a strong possibility that someone is out there right now  telling their "Bad Friend" story and YOU are the antagonist.  The hard cold truth is that we have NOT been Mr. Rogers to every person we've ever known. Does this make us terrible people?

No... 

Well,  actually yes...

Alright, maybe.

   Maybe we have been a terrible friend at some point in our life journey but here's what we can do about it:

1. 'FESS UP.

    If we want to be a good friend from here on out, it's important to acknowledge that there has been times where we have been a bad friend. Look at the list above. Which of those things have  you been guilty of? Telling secrets? Forgetting to call? Giving the silent treatment? Take honest look and face your friendship crimes. But don't wallow in your mistakes. Work on them! If you need to make more time for friends, listen to podcasts or read books on the work/life balance. If you need to get better at addressing conflict, talk to a coach or counselor about sharpening communication skills. Fessing' up to your specific friendship crimes will help you know exactly where you can improve.

2. FOCUS IN.

  Focus in on the healthy, consistent friendships you have going on in your life currently. Become intentional at improving your friendship skills. Commit to becoming a great listener! Make room in your schedule so you can show up to your friend's important events! Learn to communicate when there is conflict! Choose to be the cheerleader instead of always trying to steal the show! Be awesome at staying in touch!  It's never too late to become a great friend to the people you are friends with today!

3. FORGET NOT.

     There may come a time when a friend lets YOU down. Don't forget how easy it is to be the bad friend. When a friend commits a friendship crime against you, gently confront them. Give them opportunity to change. Extend grace as one has been a bad friend before. If this friend continues to hurt you, clearly communicate your choice to put a healthy distance in the friendship. It's important that we don't allow others to continually treat us badly just because we ourselves have let others down in our past. Sometimes being a good friend is saying good-bye to an unhealthy friendship.

Sometimes being a good friend is saying good-bye to an unhealthy friendship..png

 

    Yes, we've all been the bad friend at one point or other - but hey,

We can be better.

Your friend, 

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

IMG_8319.jpg

       Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

LETTER TO MY EX-FRIENDS.

Dear Friends of the Past,

      Some time ago, you and I were friends. For various reasons or perhaps no good reason at all, our friendship came to an end. We don't talk. We don't meet up. We do not even connect via social media with a click of a "like" or the annual birthday greeting posted on a news feed somewhere. Simply put, we are not in each other's lives at all

    The research tells us that this is normal - "friendship breaks ups are inevitable". Whether the ending of a friendship is specifically verbalized or the silent drifting apart quietly suffocates the life of a friendship..... the experts all agree that friendships ending is a common social pain. We will all make friends and lose friends.

      The initial anger, confusion, hurt, and shame all faded with time. In same cases, it took a lot of time but each of us made new friends and the loss of what you and I had was filled in with new memories shared with another.

 

       I am not writing to highlight any blame on your part. I know that I carry a good portion of the cause of why we ended in the first place: I stopped showing up, I didn't know how to be there for you, I was to self-preoccupied with my own life, I moved and was bad at keeping in touch, I hurt you with something I said, I hurt you by not saying anything at all, I took the other person's side, I required too much and I gave you too little. Did I miss anything? I wouldn't be surprised if I did.

 I wanted to say that I am sorry. 

     And I wanted to tell you that I remember the good times and the good things you gave me too.

    I remember how you poured me a cup of tea when I landed on your front stoop one early morning, crying my eyes out. I remember how you made me laugh so hard that I literally did pee my pants and then you pinky swore not to tell a soul. I remember our long drives, on our way to a great adventure, with the windows rolled down and us singing along to the music from the top of our lungs. I remember all ways you celebrated my birthday because you knew I have "birthday issues". I still smile when I remember one of our inside jokes and the silly nicknames we affectionately bestowed upon each other.

I remember it all. 

     Truthfully, I don't know if our paths will ever cross again. I am doubtful that we will have some kind of  dramatic moment "of talking things out" or reconnecting "like old times". I am not opposed to this but I am realistic that our lives have moved on.

Most friendships are just for a season but all friendships leave a  life-long impact. 

 

   Although, we are no longer friends, I wanted to tell you that your friendship is meaningful to me. Despite what has "gone down" and despite "growing apart", I recognize the good part of the story you wrote in my life. I am thankful for the good times and the good things you gave me.  I am thankful for you.

  Yours truly,

Noelle

 

FOR MORE ON FRIENDSHIP BREAK UP, LISTEN TO EPISODE 28 OF FRIENDING PODCAST'S "DEATH OF FRIENDSHIP".


ABOUT NOELLE

 

 Noelle is a  speaker, podcaster, and self proclaimed: Friendtor(Friend +Mentor = Friendtor).  She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women find grow in their calling and encourage one another to do the same through the art of friendship.   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.

    

 

THE SILENT TREATMENT: A DEADLY KILLER OF FRIENDSHIP.

   Ugh. The Silent Treatment.

  Good ol' Wikipedia defines the  "Silent Treatment" as the  "refusal to communicate verbally with someone who desires the communication". If you have ever suffered under this form of manipulation, you might understand how it's chief game is to keep you guessing where the relationship stands.

     In friendship, the Silent Treatment is often the precursor to a "silent" friendship break up. One friend pulls away. She stops returning your calls and texts. She doesn't invite you to her birthday dinner that she mentioned she was going to host.  She doesn't even "like" any of the photos you have posted on your Instagram. Although she has not spoken to you about a specific conflict, you understand that something is wrong. Why? Because she is not speaking to you at all.

  

   Here's where I'm going to be brutally honest and expose myself as the jerk friend that I can be:

I have given the Silent Treatment.

   Yes, I have.  I am not proud to admit it and I am not sure if I was always aware of the damage it has caused my friendships. The truth is that when things felt awkward or when I felt hurt, I would pull away.  Instead of addressing the issue, I would simply cut off all communication in hope that the friend would either,

A) Realize their transgression against me and come begging for my forgiveness.

Or

B) Allow the friendship to fade quietly into the distance. 

 

  I know. I have been a complete jerk.

As I research friendship, I often have to process my own "friendship sins" and this manipulating behavior of the "silent treatment" is something that I had to process. 

Why did I do this? Didn't  I know better?

     There are two reasons why I believe I (and many others) have given the silent treatment even at the risk of killing a friendship.

REASON 1: SILENCE IS EASIER THAN SPEAKING OUTLOUD THE PERSONAL FRIENDSHIP HURT

    Let me start with an example: A friend forgets to include me in a dinner party she is throwing. I found out that I am excluded. I decide this intentional. I become offended. I do not confront her because then she will know I was hurt. 

   In the past, I would not want my friends to know how much I needed them or how it hurt me when I was not included. I did not want them to see my bleeding heart. Instead, I withdrew and let the friendship die slowly in the silence. Some friends were more mature than me and would persist with the friendship despite the silence Sadly, many of my "friendship break ups"  occurred because I would not honestly speak about my hurt.     

REASON 2: SILENCE CAN POWERFULLY GRANT US THE ATTENTION WE CRAVE

    "What's wrong? I haven't heard from you in a while." We learn this trick in our younger years. If we suddenly pull back or stop speaking, sometimes people notice. Sometimes it will make them feel nervous about where they stand with us. Suddenly, they start paying attention to us. They try to figure out what is wrong and we have finally caught them in our trap of silence. 

    When my husband and I were dating, I used to do this. Ugh. I cringe as I admit it. If I felt like he was not giving me the attention I wanted, I simply played the all "quiet card". He would take notice and say, "What's wrong? You're not talking to me. What I did I do?" Bam! I would have his attention. Ew. I was such a jerk girlfriend back then.

     Sometimes we use silence to get a hold of our friend's attention. Perhaps she has been preoccupied with her new job or boyfriend. She doesn't text back as fast as she used too. Do we call her and say, "Hey, I am feeling a little disconnected from you"? Nope. We decide to stop talking. She pursues. We persist. She gives up. The friendship suffocates due to lack of communication. We explain the friendship's death with, 

"I don't know what happened between us. I guess we grew apart."

Okay, so now what? How can we avoid using the Silent Treatment in friendship?

1. When we are hurt, SPEAK UP.

    When our friend has let us down, whether intentionally or not, it is OUR responsibility to start the conversation. People cannot read minds. They may sense something is wrong because we are not talking but they won't know WHAT is wrong until we speak up. So, it's on us to grow some moxie, call our friend and say, "Hey, can we talk? I was hurt by something that I need you to know about it."

2. When we feel ignored, REACH OUT.

     If our friend hasn't paid much attention to us, perhaps it's important to ask the question: WHY? Is she stressed out over a project at work? Perhaps she needs us to step in and be a listening ear. Has she had her first baby and is overwhelmed by this new season in her life? Maybe she needs us to invite her to a dinner out with no kids and all grown up talk. The only the way to find out is to reach out. Be the first to extend an invitation to talk... or go out ... or simply reconnect. Constant silence will permanently disconnect the  line of communication between friends,  but we can interrupt the disconnection by saying, "Hey. Do you want to do something?" 

 

   My biggest regret in friendship are the times I have given my friends the silent treatment and ultimately chose to allow the friendship to end instead of being the bigger person by choosing to communicate. I had some very close friends I have let go this way. Sometimes I wonder if it's too late to try to make amends. I dream about ringing them up and saying, "I am sorry for letting you go."

  But, silence has a funny way of clouding up the details of what "really went down". Its permanent side effect is that it's hard to hash out what happened when you try to later on. Ugh. It makes me very sad to think about what I have done.

   Even so, I am moving forward and I am leaving the silent treatment behind in the past where it belongs. From here on out, I am dealing with friendship like a grown up.

  Your friend,

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.

   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.


WHY NOT ME? 7 Questions to Ask Yourself When You are Feeling Left Out.

“The only thing worse than not knowing where she belonged...was knowing where she didn't.”.png

"The only thing worse than not knowing where she belonged...was knowing where she didn't."

-Tess Shaffer, Heaven Has No Regrets

   If you ever felt "left out" of a social group, you are NOT alone. Many of us have experienced the pain of being excluded. A question we often will ask ourselves is, "Why not me?" We want to understand why we are not being chosen to be in a specific friend group.

Here are 7 questions that will help you navigate feeling left out:

QUESTION 1 - Do I really want to be included?

        Even as adults, we still secretly wish to be apart of the "cool group". We think that if we are hanging with the "popular people" we may find validation for ourselves: "If the cool people are inviting me to their barbecues, I'm must doing okay."

        I remember a group of young women getting together to go see a movie. They did not invite me and if I'm honest, I was a little hurt. They were young and hip and I worked alongside them every day. Why did they not consider me to be a part of their group?  I cried to my husband and he asked me a simple question "Did you really want to see that movie at midnight?"  I didn't. Sometimes we need to realize that not every group is a perfect fit. And that is okay. It has no reflection on our worth or validity as human. It simply is not a match.

QUESTION 2 - What are the benefits of being included in this group?

   When we recognize the benefits (or lack thereof)  of being a part of the specific group, we can decide if it's worth taking the extra steps towards connecting with this group. A friend of mine had joined a Bible Study a few months back. When she learned that many of women in the group had a friendship outside of the study, she worried that she was being excluded from coffee dates and dinners, etc. She said, "Noelle, I know that if I was better friends with these women, my faith would strengthen." She recognized that there was a benefit of being included in the additional activities these women were doing together. 

   Not all social groups are beneficial. For example, I had heard of a local Book Club that I was hoping to be invited too. When I really thought about it, I knew that Book Club would be more of a burden than a benefit due to my current time commitments. This doesn't mean that the Book Club is a bad social group. It is simply not beneficially to me at this moment.

QUESTION 3 -  Have I taken steps toward connecting with people in this circle of friends?

     I remember having tea with a woman who was sharing with me how hurt she was because a specific group at her church had not invited her to their weekly "Moms-Get-Together." I was shocked since I knew some of these women personally and would not have considered them to be exclusive. I asked this woman, "Have you invited any them to your home or have you spoken to them after church?" She told me, "No. I doubt they would want to come to my house. Why would I go talk to them if they won't talk to me?" 

     We need to let people know that we want to connect them. We do this by "invitation". If there is a group of women that we want to connect to, why not invite them into our home for brunch? If there is a circle of friends that we would like to be a part of, why not walk over to them and strike up a conversation? We need to be willing to be the first one to take steps towards connecting. Most people are not intentionally exclusive. They simply are not aware you want to be friends with them unless you make it known.

QUESTION 4 - Have I been invited before and have declined?

     A few years back, there was a group of folks who would get together fairly regularly for barbecues.  Nearly every Sunday, they would invite my husband and me to join them. It was a group made up of people who did not have children, so it would have been awkward to drag our two wild kids along (even though these wonderful folk said they were welcomed to come). We always declined their warm invitation and eventually, they stopped inviting us. When I realized this I felt rejected! Once again, I cried to my husband and said, "Look how they have rejected us from the group! It's because we have kids!" He laughed and pulled me into his arms and said, "No. I think you have this wrong. We have been rejecting them."

     It is important to realize that when we continuously decline an invitation from a person or group, they may believe we don't want to be included. If this is the case, we either must accept that we do not have to be included or we must willing to address the fact that we want to be included.

QUESTION 5 - Are there unresolved issues between myself and specific people in this social group?

    This question can feel like an awkward one but it is an important one to consider. We need to understand that tension will always make room for exclusion if we are not willing to tackle it head on.

    A young woman told me about a time when she and her boyfriend of several years had broken up. They both attended the same church and social activities soon became awkward. She had been invited to some of the gatherings but not others... because he would be there. Though her friends at church were trying to protect her, she felt excluded during a very painful time of her life. She finally sat her friends down and said, "I want you to feel free to invite me to any gathering that you have invited him." Her vulnerability and willingness to address the elephant in the room brought the solution to reconnecting with her friends after the break-up.

QUESTION 6 -  What insecurity within myself is being highlighted by the exclusion?

      Pain, if we allow it, can often be an opportunity for self-growth. When we are excluded, insecurities rush to the surface of our heart. This becomes an opportunity for us to address the lies we have believed about ourselves. 

     I once found out that a group of moms I knew had Starbucks together every Friday. I cried buckets over this. They hadn't invited me to join them and I believed it was because they thought I was a bad mother. The truth was that I was feeling insecure as mother and that I believed I was a bad mother. I was able to attack this lie, with truth: I am not a bad mother. This is not the reason why I have not been invited to weekly Starbucks with the other moms.

   Sure enough, one of the moms in the group invited me along to join the weekly date at  "Starbucks". She thought I worked on Fridays and would be able to join them. I was glad that I had the opportunity to address my insecurities and grow as a person. 

QUESTION 7 -  Are there others that I can befriend and include in my circle?

   Let's be honest for a hot second here. We need to stop always waiting for someone to befriend us and invite us into the circle. In fact, being left out of a particular circle of people could be just the gift we need to find our true tribe!  We need to open our eyes and look for the women who seem like they are on the fringe. Who is standing alone? Who doesn't have anyone to talk to? Who is the new girl? Who is the person who no one else is inviting? Let's befriend her! Let's be willing to gather our own circle of women who we can love and be loved by. Being left out does not have to be a permanent destination of our social life. We can be the one who "lets others in" and in turn, find true connection and meaningful friendship! 

Your friend,

Noelle


ABOUT NOELLE

 Noelle is a researcher, speaker, and podcaster. She is the podcast producer/host for Friending Podcast and is a regular co-host for the podcast, Slices of Life. She lives in North Jersey with her hot husband and two wild children. She is a big fan of Constant Comment Tea, the Oscars, and Lesley Knope.

      Noelle is passionate about helping women empower women through the art of friendship.

   For more random facts on Noelle you can click here or stalk her on Instagram.


Do you ache to have a tribe of women who you can share your dreams or struggles with?

 

Well, I am here to say, your tribe is here. 
You found us.

Each Saturday you will receive an email from Noelle that will...

-Encourage you in your personal dreams/mission/calling.

-Educate you on how to become a woman who empowers other women.

-Enrich you with additional articles and podcasts that will deepen your friendships

-Engage you as a member of the "Hold My Earrings" Online Community where your voice will be heard and celebrated.


{This website contains links and references to products and services that may have affiliates, sponsorships, or other business relationships. Noelle Rhodes may receive compensation from referrals or sales actions. Thank you for your support! }

5 WORDS THAT ARE KILLING FRIENDSHIPS EVERY DAY

    As I research friendship, I have discovered there are five words that are killing friendships every day. Chances are, you and I will have said them at least a half a dozen times before this day is over. What are these five words? I am so glad you asked... 

"I have been so busy."

Imagine these 3 scenarios with me:

  1.  Your friend texts you when you are on your way to work and you suddenly remember that you hadn't responded back to her last text. You quickly respond with: "I'm sorry I didn't get back to you earlier. I have been so busy."
  2.  You run into a friend at your child's soccer game. You talk about how you have been meaning to get together but,  "I have been so busy running my kids to their extracurricular activities. It's been impossible to find a spare moment to have coffee with anyone. "
  3. You have been meaning to send your best friend, who lives in another state, a birthday card. Days and weeks go by after her birthday. You finally get a spare moment to call her and wish her a belated happy birthday and you qualify the tardiness of your greeting with: "I wanted to send you a card weeks ago but I have been so busy."

    We have all have found ourselves in some variation of the scenarios above. Why? Because truly, we all are (so) busy. 

 

    Our "busyness" is not a lie or a made up excuse. Sadly, it is the reality that many of us find ourselves trapped in. Barbara Ehrenreich, an author, coined the phrase that captures a place of where many of us find ourselves living in: "The Cult of Busyness".

   The Cult of Busyness is where busyness is elevated as a virtue above the rest: "I am busy, therefore I am important. I am needed. My existence is validated by how much of my time is occupied by doing."  We try to maintain full schedules in order to avoid empty lives: (ahem) loneliness.  The irony is that the busier our schedules become, the less opportunity there is for true social connection. 

    Psychiatrists, Jaqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz, wrote about this problem in their book, The Lonely American:  "It's (a) vicious cycle of staying busy to avoid seeming lonely and feeling lonely because there seems to be no time to cultivate relationships."

    When the words "I have been so busy" are communicated to our friends, we are communicating that their friendship does not hold a high priority in our lives. Time with them is not as valuable as all the other stuff we are busy with. After awhile, our friends get the hint. They stop calling or texting as much. They don't bother us with dates for when we can together. They would never dare to stop by our home without ever scheduling it first. Why? Because we are so busy.

     A young mother sat at my kitchen table in tears. She was very busy with two small children and a new business she just started from her home. While scanning her Facebook feed one night, she saw that a few of friends had gone out to dinner together without her. She was crushed. Why hadn't they called her to include her? She felt left out and cried as she told me, "I am so busy with so many things and yet, I feel so alone." 

    Many of our friends grow weary of waiting for their turn in our lives. They eventually move on.  In a recent survey I did, I found that the majority of "friendship break ups" were not caused by conflict but rather, allowing too much time to pass before connecting with that friend again.

   So, how do we keep the busyness of our lives from starving our friendships to death? Here are three practical keys that we start living out today.

1. PRIORITIZE. 

    Friendship is not only important to our health and sanity but it is invaluable towards achieving our goals and dreams. If we want to be successful in our personal mission, we need to spend time with our friends. The first place we begin in protecting our friendships is by making them a priority.  

     When we set up our weekly/monthly schedules we should intentionally mark out time to spend with friends. I know a woman who is writing a book, finishing her master's and preparing her child for college. She is very busy but she has marked out on her weekly schedule a day that she can grab lunch with friends. Every Friday, her schedule says that it is,  "Friends on Friday". She communicated with her friends, that each week, her schedule is open on that day for them to grab lunch. By setting aside regular time with her friends, she is making her friendships a priority. These weekly lunches have become a source of encouragement for her as she finishes her master's, writes her book and sends her baby off to college. She also has the opportunity to be that same support to the friends in her life. When we make our friendships a priotity on our schedule, we will find greater strength and support to get all the other stuff done.

2. PURGE

    Let's be honest. Some of us are busy with things that we do not need to busy with!  We need to purge our schedules a bit and take honest inventory on how we spend our time. Do we really need to volunteer at our child's school, in our church's women ministry, AND run our town's softball league? Are we doing things because we really want to or because we feel we have to?

    If we cannot find time to spend two hours with a friend once a month, then there is something seriously wrong with how we are spending our time. We are created to be in and enjoy the company of each other. God does not call us to be so busy that we cannot regularly connect with our friends. It's time to purge and cut out some things of our schedule so we can  make room for relationships to grow and deepen.

   I recommend consulting with a life coach when you begin the "purging of your schedule" process. I have done this several times with my life coach, Elise Daly Parker. The value of having an objective and skilled person helping me to craft a healthy schedule has saved many of my relationships, especially, my friendships.

3. PERMIT

   Give your close friends verbal permission to interrupt your busyness. This is counter-cultural. Sebastian Maniscalco, a comedian, talks about how 20 years ago when the doorbell rang in your home, it was a happy occasion. It meant you had unexpected company! Your mom pulled out a cake, made some coffee and no one was ever annoyed that friends had "dropped by". Nowadays, when your doorbell rings, you panic or even a little annoyed because your schedule has been interrupted. 

  We need to allow chosen friends to interrupt our schedules. We need to verbally tell them that they have permission to call us when they are having a bad day. If we can't talk, we will let them know and get back to them later on.  They need to know that if they happen to be in our neighborhood, they should absolutely call us to see if we are home! Their spontaneous presence in our home is welcomed! They need to be told that when they feel like they haven't spent much time with us, they have permission to tell us so.

    We need to permit our friends to have this special place in our lives so that when life does get busy, we have safeguarded our friendships. 

      

 

     If we prioritize friendships, purge our schedules from unnecessary activities, and permit friends to interrupt our busyness, we will find that there will be no need to say, 

"I have been so busy." 

   The allusion that busyness tries to sell us is that busyness will produce success. This is simply not true. At the end of the famous movie, "It's a Wonderful Life", George finds a book that his guardian angel has left for him. Inside the cover of Tom Sawyer, his guardian angel inscribed these powerful words:

"Dear George,

Remember, no man is a failure who has friends."

 

     As we confront our busyness and try to redefine what success in life truly means, let us keeps these words close to our hearts. Our friendships are one of the things God has created in bringing meaning to our lives - without them, we are simply alone... running on our hamster wheel with no end in sight.

 

Your friend,

Noelle

   

 

    

 

   

 

 

    

3 MYTHS OF CHRISTIAN FRIENDSHIP

      Have you ever stepped foot into a new church and your hearted started racing a million miles per minute as you looked for a friendly face to sit next too?  Has a friend from your bible study ever made you feel small or unimportant? Did you ever wonder if you could be doing more for your Christian friend besides simply telling them, "I'm praying for you" ? 

  Yup. Same here.

    I have come realize that I have believed three common myths of Christian friendship. Maybe you have too...

1.  The people in my church will automatically be my main source of friends.

       A young pastor wife pulled me aside at an event that I was hosting. I could tell that she was holding back the tears when she said, "I hear that your researching friendship and are writing a book about it." I didn't know what she was getting at but before I could ask she said, "I have no friends. It's hard to be vulnerable with the people in my husband's congregation. Everyone looks to me to be their leader and always having it all together. The last time I shared in a small group that I was feeling anxious about my children, someone went to the elder board about it. I have never opened up since. I feel so alone." 

   Another woman had been attending a church for three years and even had belonged to the same small group for those same three years. She said that people were friendly and always willing pray for her but no one ever had time for a coffee or to do anything outside of the church.  The friendship was simply limited to church-only activities.

    Church can be an excellent place to cultivate meaningful friendship and it also can be a very difficult place to cultivate meaningful friendship. It does not happen automatically just because we regularly attend. The young pastor's wife was able to find a local group of other pastor's wives that she became friends with. It was there that she was able to share her struggles and speaking honestly about her life.  The woman who been attending the church for three years and still felt friendless, still attends that same church but her expectations have changed. She found a group of Christian women who share a passion for writing. Each of the women come from a different church but they have been able to build a deep friendship with each other. 

2. My Christian friends will not hurt me.

    There is a misconception that Christian friendship is pain-free. We are Christians and because we love Jesus,  we always are loving each other, right? Ugh.  I wish this was true! If we are honest, we know that despite our common faith, we are incredibly capable of damaging each other with our words...our silence...our neglect...our control... our expectations...our abandonment....our jealousy... and well frankly,  the list could go on.

    I remember speaking with a woman on the phone who was sobbing because she had thrown a birthday party for her ten-year-old daughter. Recently, her and her husband and felt like God was moving them on to attend a different church but she had hoped to still maintain the friendships at her past church. She invited several of these friends and their children to attend her daughter's birthday party. Not one of them showed up. This woman was devastated. She called one of her friends from her past church and asked, "Why didn't you come? Is it because we go to a new church?" Her friend answered honestly, "Yes. I think it's best if we let our friendship go since we do not attend the same church." 

  I met another woman who shared that one of her friend's husband had sexually abused her child. When she confronted her friend, her friend accused her of being a pathological liar and for a season,  was able to turn many of her church friends against her. It wasn't until the authorities were able to prove the husband's guilt that people began to believe this woman's story. 

   The pain that is found in Christian friendship is deep. It can ache for a very long time. Though we know that people are not perfect, we often our surprised when others who share our faith, show their imperfections through hurting us.  I know, personally, I have hurt many of my Christian friends. It grieves me to think about it. 

3. The extent of my responsibility to my Christian friends is to pray for them when they need something.

We are required to do far more than just simply pray for our friends.  Beyond prayer, we are called to:

  • Encourage them in their dreams and calling
  • Serve them when there is a need 
  • Give generously when there is a lack
  • Practice hospitality by opening up our home
  • Remind them of the faithfulness of God
  • Keep them accountable to a godly way of life
  • Celebrate them in their victories and when they have experience goodness
  • Mourn with them when they are met with heartbreak and loss
  • Commit to living peacefully together and always working towards reconciliation when there is conflict
  • Speaking honestly to them and about them
  • Allow them to do all the above for us

Prayer is important but true Christian friendship requires a lot more than just saying those 5 easy words: "I will pray for you." 

 

     So, now what? What can we do?  Well, here are three ways we can address these myths...

 1. If we aren't finding friendship in our church we need to decide to be proactive. We either actively try to build relationships with those church people or we can look to find Christian friends outside of our church. It is not a sin to have Christian friends outside of your church.

2. If we have been hurt by Christian friends and are finding it difficult to heal, we need to honest about it. This is where we start. Forgiveness is a journey. and honesty is the starting point. A counselor can be an excellent support as we journey toward healing and forgiveness. Working through the pain will also make us better friends to others.

3. If our Christian friendship is simply limited to praying for each other, perhaps it's time to embrace the privilege of giving more. Starting with small steps, begin to practice ways that you can be more intentional in helping your friend walk out their God-given mission in life. In the same way, become willing to allow them to do the same for you.

   Wrong assumptions about Christian friendship, cause us to miss out on the beauty of truly walking with someone else who loves Jesus.

 

  

 

 

 

A HARD TRUTH: Some Friendships Fade With Time.

 Recently I unearthed a box of old letters from when I was in middle school, high school, and college. I had saved every note, birthday card, and letter from anyone who considered themselves my "friend" from that era of life.  I sat on my living room floor for a good 3 hours reading through each one of them.

    Several times, I would poke my head up from reading and say to my husband, "Oh my gosh! I remember this person! We used to be friends!" Memories of middle school antics would flood my mind and I find myself smiling. In an instant, I could recall all the punch lines to our inside jokes.        

    The were were other times I read letters from high-school boys from other states, and finally realizing at 34 years of age that perhaps they were looking for something more from me  than just a pen pal friendship. I completely missed their not so subtleties when they wrote things like, "You are beautiful. I love you. Would you ever date someone like me?". The degree of naivety I possessed at age 16 alarms me. How am I still alive?

    Then there were the college friends, offering words of encouragement and the sage wisdom they had acquired after a few months of a sophomore year at university. Dear heavens, we allthought we knew everything about everything in our sophomore year of college. Boy, were we all wrong.

     Are these people still my friends? Well, according to Facebook they are. Occasionally, I stalk their present world with a few clicks to see what their spouses look like...and how many kids they have and if any one of them  became what they used dreamed of becoming (rock stars, famous actors, writers, professional athletes, etc). It always makes my day, when I discover that one of them really did pursue their dream.

   But do I talk to these "friends of old"  on a regular basis? No.

    I don't even talk to the mothers I used to be friendly with at the preschool my daughter attended nearly four years ago. Sure, we "like" each other's posts and pictures on social media, but do I have a clue as to what is going on in their lives? Not even an ounce. Does this make me a bad person? A bad friend? I don't know. Probably.

    Several months ago, I gave a survey where nearly 100 women answered questions about their personal experience with friendship. When asked, "What thing do you believe hinders a friendship the most?", the number one answer given across the board (age demographic, religion, race, social economy) was:

"Season of life change."

     It's easy to stay tight with someone who is in the same season of life as you. But what happens when one person's journey moves fasters than yours? What happens when you move on to something completely different and that friend you use to share "life space" with, is still hanging back? Friendships often will fade with time.

    Researchers talk about friendships of commitment vs. friendships of convenience. The stark truth of it is that most of our friendships are made up of  that which are "convenience" (the moms at the bus top, the co-workers at our present job, the roommates we share a dorm with, etc.).

     It is those friendships of commitment, that are rare. I have a friend who is rarely in the same season of life as me. The only thing we share is our age and our faith. We don't share the same city or family dynamic. We are not even close to sharing the same "work season". I work at home. She works at a school and is going to school on top of that.. However, we are fiercely committed to each other. We are friends of commitment.

    The important things to remember is that both friendships of convenience and commitment are valuable to our growth. Okay, so  maybe you are no longer besties with the gal who gave you a "Best Friends Forever" "halved heart necklace" in sixth grade. However, the friendship she extended to you back in those days were important in shaping how you give friendship today. Maybe you don't talk as much to your old college roommate, but when she does call, those  20 minutes of reminiscing reminds you of the person you used to be.... and how far you've come and how much you have stayed the same at the core. Perhaps, you are not in regular contact with the old co-worker that used to share a drink with you every Friday after a long week of work. Honor the fact that you had someone who you could complain to, celebrate with, and survive  5 days a week of the 9-5. Sure, these were friendships of convenience but they were necessary to surviving that season of life you were in.

                Yes, some friendships do fade with time. It would impossible to keep up with them all. Some, we wish we could have held onto longer, but regardless, the value of those friendships still remain. They may be here today and gone tomorrow, but deep in our heart they are kept safe for the keeping. Like a box of old letters, they remind us that we were loved and continue to still be.

 

Your friend,

Noelle