How Admitting Personal Struggle Cements Friendship
It took the "know-it-all" in me a long time to figure out that very few people want to be close friends with a "know-it-all". Who wants "Ms. Perfect" around to make sure your inadequacies are continuously highlighted? Um. No one.
I remember the days when I was avid in giving "expert" parenting advice to my friends. Of course, these were days well before I was ever a parent myself. I distinctly remember the time when I told a sleep deprived friend to simply let her restless baby "cry it out at night". The daggers that popped out of her eyeballs were unmistakably pointed towards me. I wish I could go back to that very moment and tell my "pre-parent" self to simply, "Shut up."
Here's what I've learned:
It's not our good ideas or helpful advice that cements our friendships. It's not even our talents or above average abilities that deepen our friendship . No, in fact, it's ours struggles that tighten the ties of our hearts together. It's our problems that give us reason to talk and walk through life together. It's those moments when we realize that we are not the only ones who feel utterly inadequate that we find a friend....
C.S. Lewis couldn't be more right when he said,
“Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
The temptation is to appear as though "I have everything under control" so that I am likable to others. People who have it "all together" are not looking for friends...they are looking for fans. So, if I am looking for friendship, it will serve me well to remember that authenticity is attractive in friendship.
I should mention that that there is a risk in "being real". Someone could be careless with our struggle and bruise us with their words or worse... their silence. This is the kind of hurt that really stings. Even so, I have found the alternative to being authentic (distant, aloof, and well-guarded) has caused me a deeper pain ... the painfulness of being alone.
I remember a time when I had confessed to a group of women how I had a serious habit of worrying about everything. I thought sharing this bit of information about myself would automatically put me in the "crazy lady category" but just the opposite happened. Women who had never gone beyond the "surface" of conversation with me, now had started to open to me up their own struggles! One woman said to me, "What? You too? I thought I was the only one who deals with panic on a daily basis. Do you want to get coffee sometime?"
And we did get that coffee. Years later, we are still good friends.
Perhaps you feel that your current friendships are shallow or you feel as though you are walking this path alone. Take the risk today, to call a friend and speak your struggles to them. Ask them to take your hand and help you through. You may be surprised to find that she will say back to you,
"I need help too. Let's do this together."
I promise, the risk is worth it.