Are There Roadblocks in Your Friendships?

I am sitting at a Barnes and Noble trying to type this post and next to me is a table with 4 women. They are obviously friends. They are smiling, laughing, sharing stories about their lives, families and other friends. It reminds me of my own experience with my own friends. When we get together we laugh, share stories and commiserate. But these types of relationships don't just happen. They take time and effort, just like our faith, our marriages and so many other good things like diet, exercise and prayer. This week I have been looking at things that stunt our growth, first with our faith and our marriages. We also can come up against roadblocks in our friendships. I have found with some friends our relationships continue to deepen and broaden; with others not so much. Sometimes that difference is due to differing personalities or wider age gaps. Once in a while a friendship struggles for other reasons. Today, I'd like to look at four friendship hindrances.


1. Jealousy and competition. There is no worse feeling than to be jealous of your friends. When I was in junior high my best girlfriend and I loved going to amusement parks together. Being in junior high, the hormones beginning to surge, we would often look for cute boys and then follow them discretely around the park. My friend Stacey was a beautiful girl. She had some Native American blood which gave her a gorgeous tan in the summer. She also had lovely, full lips. I was your average tomboy with a bad haircut. I started to notice that boys would watch her and look at her or try to talk to her. I might as well have been a smushed piece of gum on the bottom of her flip flop. I remember feeling very jealous and by the end of the day I would be glad to go home. That attitude did nothing to solidify our friendship. Even as adults we can become jealous of what our friends have or don't have, their homes, spouses, careers or families. We feel that we have to be better, smarter, prettier. We have bought into the philosophy that says, "I am not enough." Having this mentality will push you to become competitive and bitter, because your life will not look like theirs.

2. Unconfessed hurts and sins. If you read my other two posts this week this will sound familiar. If we allow jealousy, competition or other bad attitudes to dictate our actions and thoughts it will, eventually affect our friendships. We need to be honest and we need to ask the Lord to help us in this area. Paul admonished us to be content.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
— Philippians 4:11 (NASB)

Learning to be content takes focus and practice.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,
— 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NASB)

Taking every thought captive. Every time you feel jealous of what your friend has, take it captive and give it to Jesus. Follow this up by being honest with your friend. If they are a true friend they will help you walk through the difficulty rather than running away. Do the same for them.

3. Technology. This is a tight rope walk. Technology can enhance friendships with the ability to text, call , Skype, Twitter and so on, but it really is a double edged sword. It gives us little or no time to check our facts before we send along a piece of news (gossip) about another person. It also allows us to text one friend while another friend is sitting at the same table. These types of activities can lead to misunderstandings and mistrust. Technology also becomes a suitcase full of our own interests and hobbies which we continue to read about, play, watch or listen to, when we are supposed to be hanging out with our friends. Having your phone on in case some one needs to get a hold of you is one thing. Playing with your phone while we are supposed to be having lunch...well, I am sorry to say this, but that is rude! 

4. Busyness. Once again, I must touch on the "B" word. Life is busy. There is no way around that. And in today's face paced, bottom-line driven world it is hard to slow down. However, to maintain and grow our friendships and any worthwhile relationships we need to make a choice to get off the wheel and out of the gerbil cage. Recently a friend of mine had a crisis occur in her family. I texted her, stopped by and went on walks with her. There was a point on one day where I reached for my phone to text her and see if she wanted to get together and I thought, "I don't have time! I need to grocery shop and work on the blog. I have to go to that party tomorrow night and bring food...." I shook my head and reached for my phone. We took a walk that same day and we both benefited. Our emotions benefited. Our health benefited. Our spirits benefited and our friendship benefited. Busyness is a fact of life, but friendship is a choice. 

A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.
— William Penn

When a Friend is Suffering

Do you have friends that are suffering? Unfortunately, we are a people who are good at complaining and not so good at encouraging. We think that if someone comes to us and shares their pain that we have to fix it, or smooth it out, or put it in an ice cube tray and stick it in the freezer! We have to DO something. We can't just sit, not speaking, just allowing ourselves to be present for the suffering individual.

ice cube tray

I don't claim to be a counselor, and I do not have a degree in psychology, but I have been an adult for over 30 years and I have been through pain and difficulty. I'd like to offer a list (I love lists as you are probably starting to realize), of what not to do and what to do when you have a friend who is going through suffering.

What Not to Do:

1. Do not offer cliches or platitudes. (A platitude is basically a banal, trite or stale remark...according to Webster; and a cliche is something that has become overly commonplace or familiar). For the sake of your friend at least come up with some new material.

2. Don't tell them you will pray for them, unless you are really going to pray. Not only are you offering them a cliche (see #1), but you are lying to them if you don't really do what you say.

3. Ignore them, because you think they don't want the company or need time alone. That is just not true! From my own experience, I feel, much better when someone calls, emails or texts me to let me know they are thinking of me, or praying for me, or actually want to see how I am doing. Sure there are times I want to be alone, but not ALL the time.


4. Text, email, send a card or call once to have it off your "To Do" list. Many people who are going through difficult times are dealing with "long-suffering". Note the word: long! How many times have you made a meal for someone who has lost a loved one and then you never talk to or call them again. And I am not talking about a superficial, "How are you?" passing in the hall at church. I mean a real, "I care! I'm committed to walk this difficulty with you."

5. Never, ever, ever tell your friend to "Get over it!" or "Move on!" Are we really that cruel? Do we really care about these people we call our friends?

I am not talking about the sort of thing some call suffering, like chipping a nail after an awesome manicure; or gaining five pounds after a binge; or missing the final episode of your favorite TV drama. I am talking about the hard, real life stuff like cancer, death, abuse, addiction and unfaithfulness. Suffering is hard and your friend needs your help more than your realize.

What To Do:

1. Hug them. There is nothing more comforting than a hug. Of course every situation needs to be considered separately. If your friend is a man and you are a woman, you might want to forgo the hug, unless you are at the funeral for his child or spouse or other loved one, at which point a hug is appropriate.


2. Listen to them. I am talking about active listening. You are engaged with what they are saying. You aren't sitting there thinking, "Okay, this is what I am going to say...this is the advice I am going to give them...I really wish they would stop talking so I can go home..." Show them you are listening by nodding your head, interacting with short phrases and looking at their face.


3. Sit with them. Sometimes, when a person is laboring through another loved one's hospital stay or hospice stay, it gets lonely and exhausting. Just having another person sitting with them, watching the TV in the hospital room, or talking quietly with them about anything, can make the duration more tolerable.


4. Bring them something that will make them feel good. Maybe it's a latte, or some ice cream or even a home cooked meal. Ask if they mind if you stay for a while or even eat with them. Not only does this ensure the one going through suffering is eating, but it shows you are willing to invest thought and time in them.


5. Kidnap them! Yes you heard me right. When a friend of mine was going through a particularly difficult time, another friend and I got tickets to a Chonda Pierce concert. We told the friend"s husband to tell her he wanted to take her out that night so she didn't make any other plans and told her to wear something casual, but nice. My other friend and I showed up at her house, escorted her to the car and we drove to the concert and had a wonderful time. All three of us were going through struggles at the time, so not only did it help our friend, but it encouraged all of us.

There are many other ways to be encouraging to your friends who are struggling, but be proactive about it. Don't let another day go by with you saying, "I need to send so and so a card or give them a call." It may be the Lord is telling you to do it today and today may be the day they need it most.

True Friendship

True friendship is rare on earth. It means identifying with someone in thought, heart and spirit. The whole experience of life is designed to enable us to enter into this closest relationship with Jesus Christ.
— Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest - January 7th

How many people can you call your "true" friends? According to Oswald Chambers a true friend must meet three requirements (or have three layers).

1. We must identify with them in thought.

2. We must identify with them in heart

3. We must identify with them in spirit.

Being able to identify with someone in thought is a fairly superficial layer and relatively easy. We encounter many people with which we have commonalities. For instance, I am a Trekkie...meaning I am a fan of Star Trek, especially the original series with James T. Kirk, Spock and so on. I might have meaningful conversations with other Trekkies and enjoy spending time with other Trekkies, but that does not make us true friends. We have common thoughts about a certain show and the characters in that show.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Trumbull

Being able to identify with a person in heart is a layer below the surface. The heart is often a picture of our passions. This might include causes that we enjoy supporting, or political issues that we take a firm stand on. These areas of heart draw us together. The Right to Life Rally in Washington DC, draws bus loads of men and women who believe in the right of an unborn baby to live rather than be aborted. These friendships revolve around a passion of the heart.

The inner most layer and perhaps the cord that binds them all together is being able to identify with a person in spirit. The spirit was created by God. This part of us links us not only to each other, but to the Creator Himself. Having a common spirit adds a depth to friendship that the other two alone can not have. 

Our lives are filled with various layers of friendships. All of these are good, or at least they should be. Friendships that drag you down, suck the life out of you or cause you to do things that are dangerous or unhealthy are not friendships that identify with your thoughts, your heart or your spirit and most likely should not continue. 

And for those of you who have true friends, thank God for them. They are vessels used by Him to encourage us into the deeper layers of Jesus.