I’m sure as you are reading this series on friendship, you are wondering if I am horrendously calculating regarding my friendships. I know it seems that way since I’m going into some detail that many of you probably never even take conscious time to think about.
The answer to the calculating question on my part is, “No. I’m not terribly calculating regarding my friendships.” However, since I’m writing about aspects of friendship here, I’m trying to start “from the inside out” so to speak and think through things I’ve learned. (I never used to think at all about the time and energy a friendship would take until I got involved with some major ones that sucked me dry emotionally and took more of my time than I had to give.)
BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING: YOUR HEART ATTITUDE
If I start telling you about all the external aspects of friendship: what it looks like, how it operates, and even what I think the Bible has to say about it, we won’t get to the most important consideration when it comes to friendship. That is your heart attitude! That is always the important issue…always.
When I start from the outside, it more often leads to some form of legalism. I ask myself, “How am I measuring up?” The sad part is that it breaks down to “How are YOU measuring up? You aren’t meeting my friendship needs in the way I need you to!”
ILLUSTRATION OF NOT TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY OWN BEHAVIOR
Of course, the classic illustration of that is what we do with all the Biblical teaching on marriage! (Remember, it falls under the category of a type of friendship.) What do we tend to do? For the women, we often say we can’t submit because our husbands don’t “love us like Christ loved the Church.” For the men, they can’t love us that way because we “aren’t submitting as to the Lord.”
Don’t even talk to me about all the extreme definitions of those two items. I’ve heard enough crazy definitions of the two to make my hair stand on end…at both ends of the spectrum of extremes! All we’re doing is trying to find loopholes to avoid taking responsibility for our own behavior. It will not solve one single problem. The starting place has to be where does God want me to change in this situation? That is the only place we can find hope. We are totally unable to change other people, no matter how close to them we are. That is a work only God can do.
RELATIONSHIPS GET MESSY
OK, back to making friendships into a list of rules. If you want a real friendship, you must be willing to have a relationship…from the root word relate. Probably was originally latin or greek- relateo in greek, relatias in latin. *joking!* Anyway, you get my point? There is no neat list of rules for friendship.
The thing about relationships is that they are not neat. If you have a relationship with someone of any type, it will not be neat, tidy, organized or stress-free.
If I had known that earlier in my life, it would have saved me a lot of agony. Honestly! I thought that a good friendship meant the absence of any strife or disagreement and the presence of lots of warm, fuzzy feelings toward the person. I have come to believe that often the ability to deal with disagreement and conflict deepens a friendship rather than ruining it.
PERFECTIONISM: KILLER OF RELATIONSHIPS
But there is a huge killer of friendships…of relationships of any kind. It works on our heads and makes us feel that we are fantastic (though we would never say it). And all the world, or most, are not up to our personal standards. What is the name of this malady?
Some other synonyms could include self-righteousness, pride, arrogance…at times, contempt, to name a few. Ugh! sounds awful! It is! Our hearts are full of sinful motives and thoughts. One of the questions we are asking ourselves re friends or potential friends is this: Are you worthy to be my friend?
SETTING OURSELVES UP TO JUDGE THE WORTH OF OTHERS
In order to ask and answer this question, the person sets herself up to judge the other person’s worth in regard to being their friend. That is not our job to do! The only person qualified to judge people is God alone. Sometimes we get so involved in our own personal small agenda in our own small little worlds that we don’t see what is happening around us. Friendship is often a tool God can use in the lives of others to minister the gospel to them…or encouragement, or love or whatever it is that He has plans for.
PERFECTION OR GRACE? I CAN’T HAVE BOTH
Is my perfectionism getting in the way of the work God wants to do in and through me? Is it negatively affecting the lives of my friends or family? my brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I using it to build a wall of protection and isolation around me? By my perfectionistic attitudes, am I portraying a wrong picture of Christ?
I speak as someone who has lived in that setting and who has many of those perfectionistic tendencies. These attitudes are very hard on relationships of all types and do not reflect the love of Christ that has been shown to us.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)