Overcoming Fear in Friendship
Friendship is a God-given gift that produces accountability and encouragement. Female friendships are essential to walking out your relationship with God. We are called to live in community; a community that is genuine and edifying. So what do you do when you aren’t surrounded by women who are genuine and edifying? The best way to prevent these types of relationships is learn how to exhibit Godly characteristics in your friendships and by becoming friends with women who also exhibit these qualities. Our best example of friendship comes from Jesus. The characteristics that He exhibits should be portrayed in our friendships both from our friends and from ourselves. Following Jesus’s teachings can foster strong and healthy friendships.
Share in One Another’s Struggle
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3, New International Version)
Jesus is a great example of sharing in one another’s struggles. In John we see Lazarus, one of Jesus’s close friends, die from an illness. We often associate Jesus with being detached from His emotions in situations like this. As He comes to raise Lazarus from the dead, our Bible tells us “When Jesus saw her (Martha) weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’” (John 11:33-36, NIV). Jesus was so moved by the death of His friend and the hurt his other friends were feeling that He cried, even though He had the power to change the situation He still felt the grief of those around Him. As friends, we are to stand with our brothers and sisters when they are going through a trial. Don’t allow yourself to become hard and disconnected from emotions when it comes to your friends. Our Bible reminds us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15, NIV).
Quick to forgive
“Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (Colossians 3:13, New Living Translation)
The closer we get to people the more our faults and their faults begin to show. We must be quick to forgive when it comes to our relationships. A lot of the time women’s fear of developing female friendships comes from a place of unforgiveness. We have to remember that being a Christian doesn’t make us perfect; people make mistakes and they are going to hurt or rub you the wrong way. But we can’t allow ourselves to carry that hurt into our other relationships. There will be times when harsh words are said, offensive actions are done, or you slip someone’s mind. But as Christian women we must stand together and be quick to forgive, but also quick to apologize. Go to that person, “do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26, NIV), discuss the offense and clear the air. True friends are able to withstand confrontation.
We need to surround ourselves with women who will keep us accountable, and we need to become women who keep others accountable. The world’s standards are different from what our Bible tells us, we are called to be set apart. If we aren’t living a life worthy of the call, as Paul would say, then we need to have a group of women that are willing to pull us aside and point it out to us with a loving rebuke and we need to be the type of women that don’t get offended when someone we love points out a dangerous habit or situation that we are living out. Keep in mind, if you are in a situation that you feel the need to discuss someone else’s stumble, do it in a loving way. Leave the arrogance and pride at the door and come to them humbly as their sister in Christ. Have their best intentions in mind, not your own agenda.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2, NIV)
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1Thessalonians 5:11, NIV)
Genuine encouragement is one of the most important aspects to a healthy friendship. Words carry a lot of power. What you hear, you eventually believe. If you have a friend that is constantly tearing you down, then you’re going to claim that criticism as your identity. If you have a friend that is continually building you up, then you’re going to claim that praise as your identity. The words that we hear, and the words that we speak determine the status of our heart, self-esteem, confidence, and relationship with God and others. Find friends that give encouragement that highlights your God-given qualities and compliments your strengths – not just your new outfits. Don’t get me wrong all types of encouragement is important, but learning to encourage talents and abilities is a great tool for edifying the Kingdom of God. Not only do we need to have friends like this, but we need to be that friend.
In my early high school years, I struggled with female friendships. It seemed like every time I got close to someone I was having rumors spread about me, verbal abuse, or being excluded for their own enjoyment. I prayed to God nightly that He would just send me one friend, and eventually He sent me a group of strong Christian girl friends but I carried around a fear of rejection thinking that every friendship would end the same, with me crying out to God in a state of discontent. God has healed me of this and has given me relationships that exhibit these qualities in a very pure and genuine way.
Unfortunately, because we are human some of the women we come in contact with rub us the wrong way, or hurt us either on purpose or without mal intent. None the less we develop fears and offenses that keep us from creating healthy female friendships due to past hurts and the fear that we will be hurt again. But overcoming this fear, and becoming a fearless friend is essential to opening up and sharing life with other female Christians. Be willing to overcome the fear of friendships, and you will find yourself surrounded by a community of women that will not only help you grow, but who will also help you thrive.