I’m not sure what your definition of friendship is, but mine has evolved as I’ve learned more about myself, the lies I believe, and how I try to cover my shame.
For a long time I was content to call a friend anyone who was willing to overlook my flaws and wanted something from me. Friendship was something that took from me. My lie has been that I am unnoticed, so I’d confront that lie in a relationship by doing something to be worth noticing.
Raising a child will also help you confront your lies, sometimes for the good and sometimes not so much, as you see what you are passing on for another generation.
Spiritual changes and helping a daughter navigate middle school have helped me create a new definition of friendship.
A friend wants what is best for you, even when it is not best for them.
The practice of friendship is tough. In a previous post, I walked thought what the biblical book of Ecclesiastes says about friendship. Here are some practical, mutual expectations of friendship.
1. A friend forgives.
When you are seeking a friendship to sustain you in some issue of identity – worth, significance, or comfort – then forgiveness will not be possible. Rather, shame will dominate the relationship. When one’s identity is not fulfilled and shame is exposed, the response will be to point out the value deficit in the other. A shame cycle. A debt must be paid to restore value.
There is penance, but not forgiveness.
Friendship puts your faults on display. There is no way around this because we are all broken image bearers. In a friendship, both parties will let the other down. It comes with the territory and is why not placing the weight of your identity on the shoulders of a friend is so important.
Then we can forgive the other without diminishing out self.
2. A friend serves.
In any relationship there will be seasons on needing to be served. But, if that season is all the time, they you are not in a friendship – one of you is a servant.
Friendship is not about taking or about what is always best for your self; rather friendship is self-less. It is about building the other up. Encouraging the other person. Putting their needs alongside your own.
If both are doing this, then neither friend will feel depleted.
3. A friend pursues.
When one friend is always chasing the other – making calls, sending invitations, asking for time – that is boosting the esteem of the one being chased. In this case the relationship is less friendship and more worship.
Friends want to spend time to each other. And like forgiveness and serving, this goes both ways. Continually offering your self to another without reciprocation will leave you feeling drained and used.
A friend longs for your time just as you long for theirs.
What aspects of friendship, when off-balance in your relationship, cause you to feel depleted?