In my teens and early twenties, like many people, I struggled with the maintenance of friendships. I want to discuss the very important topic of friendship. Let’s talk about some of the areas that cause us mental anguish and cause us to put up walls that are sometimes necessary but, sometimes isolating. There are some behaviors and attitudes regarding friendship that I have come to know are very healthy for us to have in our personal toolboxes. I had such a terrible time figuring friendship out that I have read many books about the topic, some of which I have shared with you on my “Friendship Builders” page of this website. Other things I have learned by observation of others and lastly, the most powerful teacher…experience. Experience is scary because it requires a bit of faith in order to trust the process and walk through the process. One of the best nuggets of advice which came from a friend of mine was to let me know that there are different reasons for friendship. There are friends that may be in your life she said, “for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” That has stuck with me all these years and allowed me to open up my heart.
You may be wondering why my heart was closed. Well, let me tell you two out of my laundry list of reasons. I had a “best friend” in middle school who, in my opinion, did something treacherous to me. Looking back it’s kind of funny. She didn’t vote for me for some student body position that I had run for. If I had a little more wisdom it the matter, I would have said “Hey, maybe this isn’t the best person to befriend,” or perhaps I would’ve understood her reasoning behind her choice and forgiven her. However, at the time, I was devastated. How could she say she was my best friend and not have my back? Friendship, I thought was overrated. Around that time, I had a family member also betray my trust by telling my mother something that I had shared in confidence. That family member doesn’t even remember it to this day but, for me, it was a life altering incident. From then on, I began to think that no one could be trusted with my thoughts. No one could be trusted to actually support me. Nope, I could only rely on myself. I only needed me. I became an island unto myself. Now, I will not have you think that these two people were the cause of my behavior but, these events did add fuel to the fire.
I didn’t like myself very much and I didn’t like most other people at all really. I didn’t have any real friends in high school and when I got to college, I would say I had a few but, I was a terrible friend to them so I use the term “friend” loosely. I used my sense of humor primarily because everyone enjoys a good laugh but, also to avoid sharing the things that made me cry. I was a chameleon, taking on the likes and dislikes of whomever I was with for the most part. I would break commitments I had made at the drop of a hat if something else I’d rather do came up, even if it was at the last-minute. Of course, I wanted people to like me so I had to come up with some lame excuse as to why I was being unreliable yet again. I would cut people off in mid-sentence and forget what they were talking about. I had poor active listening skills. I was a bit of a self-centered, jerk to tell you the truth and it is no surprise why I didn’t have many real friends. I have discovered that if you want to have good friends, you should probably try to be a good friend.
“It takes one, to know one.” When I say this, I must offer a word of precaution because, I know some people can get this twisted. I’m not meaning to do things for people to manipulate them into doing something back for you…that’s codependency. It’s also not good to expect that all your friends give support and love in the same exact way that you do. However, real friends do give back in their own way so, keep your mind and heart open to receive that. Be very clear here that I am saying, you give love and support as you are led by your inner-man to do so. You give of your time (service), talent (skill/gifting) and treasure (finances) as you see fit and you don’t expect anything in return. One of three things will happen. A person will take the blessing and run, they will receive it and express gratitude or they will take the blessing, be grateful and at some point reciprocate the blessing. Today, I try to be the friend that I would like to have and to consistently be me despite all else. I enjoy the process of being friendly, or friend like, regardless of the response I get. Trust the process, the more you practice these behaviors the more it, genuine friendship, will come back to you.
One last thing of extreme importance when it comes to friendship is to have a balance of types of friends in your life. Everyone should have at least one person in each of the following categories; mentor, co-laborer and a mentee. The mentor is your Ruth & Naomi relationship, or for the guys, your Moses & Jethro relationship. This is the relationship where one person, usually more seasoned that you, takes the time to pour into your life. They share from their experiences with you, they spend time with you and serve as a guide in your life. You may have multiple mentors for different areas such as your spiritual walk, your career or maybe even marriage advice. The co-laborer, for lack of a better term, is your Mary & Martha, or your David & Johnathan, type relationship. This relationship is more of a give and take when it comes to encouraging one another. You can learn from each other in different areas. Iron sharpens iron so to speak. Lastly, after all this sharpening and being poured into, you have an obligation to pay it forward. Identify the young men, for the guys, and young women, for the ladies, who have been placed in your life that may need a little guidance. Be careful here because just because they need guidance, doesn’t mean they want it…and they may not want it from you. The mentee/mentor relationship must be one of mutual choosing. It may take you both some quality time to decide wether or not the relationship is one that you should engage in.
That’s it folks. In a matter of paragraphs, I have shared with you much of what I have learned from years of experience, conferences and a whole lot of reading. I hope this helps someone. If you like the read…join the following through email or by WordPress.
– Latice Devonne 2014