Just as I looked at areas for growth in marriage, we need to examine the areas for growth in our friendships. I find one of the hardest areas to grow in my relationships with others is the amount of time that I can invest. I work part time, take care of my Grandson, work on growth in my marriage, try to maintain a relationship with my two daughters and the rest of the time eat and sleep. Okay, so I also do a few dishes, throw in a load or five of laundry and don't forget the grocery shopping, paying the bills, cleaning the toilets and....well, you get the idea. And that does not include being involved in a Bible study and a book club. Time is not a commodity any of us have too much of.
Investing time in a relationship, especially a friendship has to be done with some planning and intent. I have mentioned intentionality before and I will again. All our best laid plans can be easily thwarted if we do not act with intentionality. Webster's Thesaurus uses these words as synonyms for intentional: conscious, deliberate, purposeful and willful. Other related words include: designed, planned, measured and premeditated. A plan is only good if it is actually used. When it comes to time we need to recognize it is an investment and then plan how we are going to contribute to that investment.
My best girlfriend since junior high lives back in Buffalo, NY where I grew up. I make the trip back about two or three times a year as my mother is still living and I have a brother, sister-in-law, nieces and a nephew and their families in that area. Whenever I am planning to make the trip I always connect with Stacey and let her know I will be in town and ask if she has any time to get together. Sometimes we'll spend a whole day together doing things we both enjoy like shopping, eating out and going to a movie. When time is more limited, we might just go for a walk down her country road or park on the couch in her living room and just talk. We are both making an investment in our relationship and it helps our friendship to stay strong and vital. Time is an area that must continue to grow to ensure the long life the friendship.
Another area of growth would be in our ability to be honest. This is not an easy thing to do. Honesty has to be cushioned in love and gentleness for it to be effective. I generally don't have an issue with my own shortcomings. I am pretty good at being honest with my friends about those. What I do struggle with is two fold. I hesitate to be honest about my hopes and dreams with my friends. I often feel as though they have too many of their own struggles so that, I don't want to take up their time talking about my pipe dreams. The other thing I struggle with is being honest with them about their quirks. I am not a prophet, that is my husband's job. I am a mercy shower, so I am constantly looking for the good in people. So, I guess I have just been honest with all of you reading this post. There is always need for growth and being honest with your friends enables them to be better people both as listeners and as comrades.
Finally, a soapbox I must get on is the need for encouragement. Do you know how many suffering, hurting, people there are in the world and a few of them are your very own friends. Encouragement has become a lost art in our world, or at least it seems that way. Life becomes a list of do's and don'ts, a contract made of stone and signed in blood, sweat and tears. We have forgotten the balm of an encouraging word; the oil of inspiration; the gentle touch of stated kindness. Look at these verses with me:
If you have friends, you need to encourage them. If you have any relationships learn how to be an encourager. I'm preaching to the choir here! Find out how to be encouraging. What works for one person may not work for another. According to Webster encouragement means to "inspire with courage, spirit or hope." Isn't that lovely? To inspire with courage, spirit or hope. I'd say Webster put it pretty eloquently. Who needs your inspiration today? Who needs courage to keep moving forward? Who has lost their hope?
If you want to be a true friend, grow these three areas in your life and your friendships will flourish like a beautiful spring garden.