In a world where women can unfriend each other with the swipe of a finger, how do we find friendships that we can trust to last? Maybe by first becoming those kinds of lasting friends ourselves.
So instead of rushing into friendship with a backpack full of sky high expectations, it’s worth taking the time to pause and decide what we’re not going to do this time around.
Here are a few friendship mistakes we’ve all made and some suggestions for how to avoid them:
1. Assuming a friend can be all things at all times to us.
If we are constantly disappointed by how our friends don’t live up to our need for encouragement, the problem might be that we’re expecting the kind of soul validation they’re not equipped to give. The kind of soul validation that one person who may have had a bad Monday and already feels stressed by her kids or her looming work deadline can’t possibly provide. Instead, we need to bring our identity to our friendships rather than try and take our identity and validation from our friendships. Entering friendships firmly rooted in our faith, our family, and our identity is the healthiest way to start any new friendship.
2. Forgetting that we all bring baggage into friendships.
Whether we like it or not, we all haul some kind of baggage with us into our adult friendships. And we all need to be reminded that we’re not responsible for the luggage that other women will bring with them. But that we will be impacted by it and should be ready for when those suitcases of junk inevitably explode at inconvenient times when all you thought you were doing was making plans for a kids play date and instead you end up down a dark and twisting conversation you never expected. At the end of the day, it’s not your job to fix your friends. It’s your job to love them, while maintaining healthy boundaries that serve you both.
3. Setting unrealistic expectations for a friendship.
We can’t connect when we’re setting all the terms. So it’s essential we identify the often-unrealistic expectations we bring into friendships – and how those can disappoint us before we’ve even begun. We must sacrifice our long lists of wants, demands, and expectations. We must lay them down and be willing to have them completely upended. Crumpled. Rearranged. Messed up. The best friendships don’t try to squeeze you into that uncomfortable pair of skinny jeans, the best friendships let go their expectations and fit you like your comfy, ratty Sunday afternoon jeans with plenty of room to breathe.
4. Refusing to let friendship get beyond “fine.”
If we want real friendship that goes beyond politeness or carpool or small talk, we must be willing to admit how we’re really doing. We must be willing to invite friends over when we’re not ready for company. We must sacrifice the pretty perceptions we’ve built of others and ourselves. And we must answer the question, “How’re you doing?” with the truth instead of the polite default of, “I’m fine.”
5. Worrying about what our friends will think of us instead of trusting them with who we really are.
For many of us women, our craving for connection is in direct conflict with our obsession with perfection. If our houses need to be tidy, if all the laundry needs to be put away and all the floors need to be swept or vacuumed and the candles lit before we’re comfortable inviting someone over, we’ll never be up for it. Because, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”
That standard of entertaining means that we’ll be too busy cleaning and prepping to remember that friendship works best when we show up just the way we are. Putting too much pressure on our appearances – whether in the mirror or in our houses – means that we’ll get tired of all that frustration and busyness and we’ll collapse on the couch and shrug and say, “It’s just not worth it!”
Because it isn’t. Because friendship shouldn’t equal entertaining. No, friendship should look more like yoga pants – comfortable, old, worn in, and stained. I think we can do it. I think it’s easier than we think. But it starts with our willingness to open the door whether we’re prepared or not. It starts with admitting that our quest for perfection is a gift to no one. Real friendship will insist on getting past that front door of perfection until it finds that closet or drawer that’s stuffed full of our junk and it will insist on opening it.
And if we’re willing – if we’re willing to lay down our expectations and open our front doors and our hearts, just the way we are, the honest truth is we still might get hurt. We still might get disappointed. But as a dear friend reminded me this morning — “It is worth it and God has to be in it.”
Dear friends, we come to friendship admitting our flaws and lowering our defenses not because we’re promised we’ll never get hurt again. We do it surrendered to the truth that even though friendship might hurt us, we are called to love other people. So we bravely, vulnerably, deliberately choose to do so. Just like our Jesus showed us how to do.
Some of the best and hardest work God calls us to do is to love other people. One day, one woman, one misstep at a time.
We take the time to figure out friendship not because it is easy. But because it is necessary.
This article originally appeared at LisaJoBaker.com. Check out Lisa’s new book, Never Unfriended.