The Power of Friendship...part 1

We all know that friendship is important, that's kind of a no-brainer, because the fact is, no matter what we think or feel, we were created for relationship, and friendship, I believe is so vitally important to our emotional, mental and spiritual health. Might we even say our physical health. I think so. The friends we choose to surround ourselves with have an impact on every area of our lives. Choose wisely!

Friendships are full of twists and turns, crossroads and sometimes, dead ends. Some friendships last a lifetime, while others for only a season. It doesn't matter one way or the other, they are powerful. They leave an imprint on our lives. Sometimes it's a fond imprint, and if we're really honest, sometimes it's more like a permanent shoe mark on our backs that we wish we could wipe off. 

As I look back over the life I've lived thus far and the friendships that have spanned those years (sometimes my memory is not that great and I'm turning 50 this year so that's what, like roughly 44 years of friendships to remember.....yah, not gonna happen) there are things I can remember about different ones that I'll always cherish, no matter where that friendship is today. Memories that bring a smile, a laugh, a shaking of the head, a tear, a twinge of pain to my heart. 

This was taken at a class reunion in 2007, but these girls have been my friends since grade school. We all live away from each other, but will always be friends. 
Have you ever had a conversation with someone regarding their views on friendship? One thing we will always find are vastly different opinions in regards to how they are viewed and how they should work. Here are a few thoughts I've come across:

  • My family is all the close friends I need, maybe a select few others.
  • If you want to be my friend then pursue me (basically one sided)
  • I only need a few close friends and call it good. 
  • I crave friendship, but for some reason close friendships elude me. 
  • I have many casual friends and acquaintances and many would say we're friends but I don't seem to have any real "call me whenever you want to go do something, meet for lunch, dinner or drinks, go away for girls weekend" kind of friendships.
  • I can only be friends with those that are like me or have the same beliefs.
I'm sure there are many others. Do you fit in any of these categories? I think I'm in the 5th category. I'd say my hubby is in the 3rd. 

Friendships can be the source of our greatest joys or our deepest hurts. Unrealistic expectations can kill friendships and cause unnecessary hurt because typically the other person is never aware of our expectations in the first place. At the same time, a lack of expectations can kill friendships because we may easily give up on a friendship or if we fail to set expectations for the kind of friend we want to be, we may never branch out and create them. If we want certain kinds of friendships, maybe we need to start by being that kind of friend. 

In my post about The Power of Connection, I shared a circle graph showing different depths of relationship and I believe in those whole heartedly. I also believe though that if we aren't careful we just might use these to erect walls that keep us from experiencing deep, lasting  or new friendships because we're afraid of hurt, or we've had it modeled wrong. We might say "well, I have plenty of people in my 'close friends' category", or "I don't really need to reach out to more in casual or acquaintances, that has just backfired in the past". 

A few years ago we went through a huge life change that rocked our boat and many friendships. It was the type of thing that made me question what many of my friendships were based on. I began to realize that many had been built upon agreement (ie. beliefs, theology, etc..) or on the seeing of one another at various common events. When those elements were removed from the scene it seemed that the friendships cooled. Depending on how close to the initial incident people were, impacted where the friendship went. It was heart breaking. It also made me realize that quite possibly I had guarded my heart too much and never really opened myself up to deeper friendships, deeper transparency that might have withstood that storm better. For some reason I had gotten it in my head that I couldn't be too transparent, couldn't let too many people in, etc. I mean, come on, I was a leader, I should have been one of the most transparent people and yet, while to some degree I was, to another degree I wasn't. For whatever reason, I chose to put up walls here and there. Could that be why I didn't get many invites to things, could that be why.....insert any thought here and it probably went through my head. I think, maybe, yes. I know it's a two way street and I did reach out before this all happened, but perhaps I was limiting my reach. It's an interesting road to walk when you are evaluating life and choices and realizing "you know I certainly could've done things different".  

Friendships are powerful. Don't take them lightly.  

Give yourself to friendships, don't be afraid of conflict, confrontation or contradiction (I admit I struggle with these especially if not handled right and this played a big part in the shift of friendships when this incident wasn't handled well, as it progressed my walls instantly went up, and then no one reached out to us to better understand, but then we didn't either and when people did ask me to lunch or coffee, I was guarded, questioning their motives or ability to just get together with "me" without the elephant in the room being brought up or them thinking I was so wrong in my thinking I needed So many lessons to be learned in life and often they're done through friends and family.

I love this quote I'm sharing below. Sometimes we have to take a step out of our protected corner of the world. 

"You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes". AA Milne

Dear friend, walk in honor and love and find a place where your friendships are not static on particular beliefs. Yes, we will tend to make friends who share common values, etc...BUT I believe that we can share the same core values but if one of us shifts a mindset from what we once held to something else, it doesn't mean the friendship is shipwrecked or we are off our rockers. We are beings that are always growing and learning. We are not meant to be static or to have static thinking. Some changes of mindset might be harder to "go with" but even that doesn't mean we have to agree with that shift in order to remain friends nor does it mean we should avoid trying to understand where someone is coming from. Could it be we are so afraid of change that we resist it all cost and sometimes that cost is relationships. 

I often joke that it's a good thing that I enjoy my own company, or that I couldn't give up social media because so many of my friends are there. I am a social person, I enjoy connection, I enjoy learning about people and I'm learning that we don't always have to agree in order for friendship to work.  I'm not going to engage with people who are toxic but I'm not going to shut you down because of a difference of opinion or mindset. As long as love and honor and respect is present I think it's doable. We all have something to learn from one another. Don't close yourself off. 

I'm learning this. I'm not there yet. I have a long ways to go! Don't we all. If you google "friendship" you'll turn up hundreds of books, articles, quotes, podcasts, etc. This tells me there is much to be said about friendship and much to be learned. It tells me that they are powerful and take work. It tells me they are worth investing in and we will never know it all or have all the answers. 

May we always keep our hearts and minds open to new friendships, and let us not limit ourselves by age, gender, beliefs and mindsets. May we build friendships that can withstand the fire and the storms that come our way.

I've discovered and this can be another post, that I can talk to a person, read a book, listen to a podcast and while maybe I don't agree with 100% of what I hear, there is something I can take away from it, and it doesn't threaten my "faith" or what I believe at all. It says, "you are valuable and you have something to offer me".

With Joy Unquenchable,


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