How to Build Healthy Friendships
A few weeks ago, my friend Crystal and I sat at a little downtown café to sip coffee and grab a delicious farm-to-table lunch. I had my husband’s blessing to spend the money, take my time and enjoy myself - and I did!
We sat for almost three hours. We laughed a lot, cried a little and caught up on each other’s lives. We talked about the important things: our marriages, our kids, our dreams, our recent successes and failures. And we both left feeling understood and uplifted. It was pure friendship bliss!
I met Crystal about three years ago and we have become great friends. We both love to get dressed up and go out with our husbands together for Mexican food, or we can call each other in a crisis. Friendship really can be the best of both worlds - the fun and the celebratory, as well as sharing the hardest, most sobering moments.
If you find yourself desiring healthier friendships, I can break everything I’ve learned into three pieces of advice:
1. People don’t need you to be like them, they need you to be like you.
I remember one evening many years back, I was feeling lonely because I was not connecting with any other women in our church. I told my husband, “I just feel different from all of them. Like I don’t fit.”
“They don’t need you to be like them. They need you to be like you.”
My husband was right and I knew I had to rise above these feelings of insecurity. I couldn’t let other women’s styles and interests dictate who I would become. I felt strongly called to some kind of spiritual leadership and if I was ever going to step into those shoes I needed to be okay standing there alone. The same goes for you.
You have Jesus, you have your family and you have your convictions. Stay true to those three things and many of the more shallow relationships you have will fall away. That is a good thing because it will open up space and breathing room for the right ones.
2. Put up boundaries.
This is so key to good friendships, especially if you are introverted as I am. I will share with you two distinct scenarios that helped me learn this lesson.
Back in my early 20’s I would sometimes find myself in situations with a certain friend that were way outside of my comfort zone; driving around with no plans and going places where I didn’t feel comfortable. I never had the backbone to speak up and say, “I’d like to go home now, please.”
This was a long time ago, but I can remember that icky, out-of-control feeling, and I never want to feel that way again.
Another time in the not-so-distant past, I became close friends with someone who was always having marriage troubles. She would call me every day to vent. I would listen and then gently counsel her or sometimes just offer to pray with her. In a sense, this was a godly friendship, as we were both believers. But I did not put up clear boundaries and because of that, I became overwhelmed.
As a sensitive introvert, this friendship began to suck the emotional life out of me. I had allowed things to get to a point where I felt I couldn’t speak my mind or say “no” without making up an excuse. We should be able to say no. But if you are sensitive and accommodating as I am, sometimes you feel you’ve been pushed into a corner before you even realize it happened.
Some people are always in a new crisis and seem to expect you to take on their sense of urgency. Maybe they call you and expect you to spend a long time on the phone, and you feel you are being “dumped on” again. Maybe there is yet another emergency where they need you to watch their kids, or loan them money or your car, or whatever. And it’s such a struggle! Because we don’t always know whether it’s time for grace and sacrifice, or time to say a hard “no.”
So here is what I am encouraging:
Know what season of life you are in and what you are capable of giving. Build awesome, give-and-take friendships that fit within the realities of your life, your budget, you schedule, your family and your priorities. You will love and enjoy your friendships so much more this way!
3. Take the lead in getting real.
If you want to build friendship where you really know each other, be brave and take the lead in speaking honestly, sharing struggles and being yourself. Even if you’re weird. We’re all weird!
I’m very blessed to have a gaggle of women in my life who I have made it a practice to be honest with. I may not have all the time right now to get together with each of them, but it is so nice to have a few women in my life who I can call up and just be completely real and honest about what I’m going through. Sisters-in-Christ are just the best like that. And what a precious blessing they are!
Pray for a loving, genuine heart toward your friends. It is high time to rise above any gossip or mean-heartedness in your friendships. We have bigger fish to fry and we need other women to laugh with, cry with and understand all of the things that only other women can.
It’s time to create beautiful friendships!