One of the top three things God has given me in my life are my friends. They are glorious. A rainbow of colors and beliefs, totally flawed and yet totally perfect. They make me understand how God can love us, in spite of knowing who we really are.
Being single I think perhaps my friends take on an additional role in my life. It’s hard to maneuver through this world alone. Being an introvert, they become even a bit more significant. My nature would have me holing up and avoiding all of the terribly terrifying situations that come from having to “get out in” people. In these situations, my friends serve as my anchors. (Or maybe sometimes I am their anchors. When particularly nervous I practically attach myself to their person. They pretend they are not ready to drown.)
But in this day of electronic media and all its cruelty, being too busy to think things through, and waning social skills, we sometimes fail to detect who our real friends are. Our friends are those folks who are picking us up and not letting us stay down on the ground.
Sometimes this is difficult to detect. They’re acting nice to us, saying great stuff, they’re supportive and reinforcing within us the things that we believe to be true. But what if we are believing wrong? What if we have gotten off course? What if we have lost our way? What if we have fallen? Are they helping us or hurting us?
If you are in a bad place and some one is keeping you there, they are not your friend. Picture yourself having fallen on the ground with a broken ankle and someone saying to you “I am so sorry this has happened to you. It has to hurt. It looks like it may be broken. I remember I broke my ankle once. It about killed me when the doctor set it. I’d hate for you to go through that.” And they let you continue to let you lay there. The ankle continues to swell, you continue to be on the ground and in pain, and yeah….it’s almost as though you were alone. But worse….because you’re not. They want you to stay exactly where you are, because of their own fears. They don’t realize you are in pain, and will be in worse pain the longer you stay where you are. They can’t look beyond themselves.
The real friend is going to assess the problem and say “Let’s get that checked out.” They’re going to gently get you in the car, get you to the emergency room, and get that ankle on the road to healing. They want you to feel good for the long term. They want your ankle to heal. They want you to be whole.
We fall. Often. It’s OK….we’re human. Are your “friends” there for you, constructively helping you up and helping you out? Do they show up when you need them, or are they nowhere to be found? Do they even notice when you have fallen down?
I’m the “tough love” type. I admitted in an earlier blog this week that my nature is to want you, yes all of you, to pay consequences when you do something wrong, sometimes at the expense of mercy. But mercy is important. Oh there is nothing wrong with us having to pay consequences, and a real friend will guide you and support you through the process, but they also care about your pain, embarrassment, and humiliation.
Friends are those who know your truth, but love you and support you in spite of it. (Yes, there are people in the world you can trust in this way.) If you cannot share your truth with them, the whole ugly truth about yourself, maybe they’re not a friend. Or maybe you’re not.
Your friends know you broke that ankle because you chose to wear five inch heels you weren’t used to….and may point that out to you as they are picking you up (well, most of my friends would feel the need)….but their first thought is for your good. They want you to be a healthy high quality person living a healthy high quality life. They still pick you up. They will not leave you on the ground, but they will also not be your crutch when there is nothing wrong with the ankle. They may tell you to pick yourself up, if they realize you are on the ground due to a dramatic pratfall. But they will be there, giving you what you need, even if it’s not particularly what you want.
If your life is not better, if you’re not better, for having known them, then maybe they just aren’t your friend. If they’re not it’s OK….no need to necessarily cut them off…you need friendly acquaintances, too. Maybe they need a friend like you to teach them. Maybe they haven’t experienced real friendship and are trying to get it right. but haven’t quite gotten the hang of it. Be there for them.
But the mutual friends….those who have mastered the art of friendship…notice them. (Also notice when they step away….it may be for a reason.) Friends are treasures that should be there for you….and you should be there for them. In a good way.
To Nancy and all of my other friends…..you know who you are….thank you. You help me up and build me up. But how about no other challenges for a while? Well, except for those of you who need to be challenged….I challenge you. Share a Bible verse that is meaningful to you for seven days. Go!
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)