People are often surprised to hear that 3 of my closest friends (shout out Vicki, Nina and Reneé) are friends from my Primary School, High School and Varsity days. It’s a bit like telling someone that you still have a Hotmail account. Or a Tamagotchi. And it prompted me to try to understand what is present in these friendships that has not only allowed them to stand the test of time, but that has made them grow. I can tell you it’s not because of me! Most cases it’s in spite of more like! It’s not because any of us are flawless, we aren’t (although truth be told those 3 come pretty close!), or have not hurt one another or let each other down, because we have, and we do. It’s not because we stayed interested in the same things – we didn’t. It’s not because we believe in the same things – we don’t. It’s not because we stayed in the same geographical place, we didn’t. And it’s not because our life seasons have coincided, they didn’t. So it seems to me that all the conventional “rules for friendship” are not necessarily always the structures and behaviours that truly sustain lasting and thriving friendships.
When I started writing The Mommy Diaries, there was no doubt in my mind that I needed to include a chapter on friendship. There are lessons that I learned about friendship pretty late in my life that I wished I had learned earlier. And it seems to me when I talk to fellow moms, women that are younger than me and even women a couple of life stages ahead of me, that friendship remains a deep need and often times a huge challenge for kids and grown-ups alike and especially (and sadly) for us as women.
So here is what I discovered. As far as I can tell there are five things we did, and we keep doing that have helped these relationships survive and thrive. Five things that are reciprocal (meaning both friends do them, not just one), five things we grew into and now consistently do. They are:
We SUPPORT each other:
Support means taking an interest in people’s lives, goals, projects, relationships, career and being there for them through life’s ups and downs. Support means sticking around, even when it’s inconvenient, even when it’s not about you; actually, especially then. Support means getting on board with stuff, listening in order to understand more than for the sake of responding. Support means setting aside judgements and agendas.
We SERVE each other:
Yes, I am talking about actually doing things for people. Service means showing up! Service requires sacrifice, and if Jesus’ example is anything to go by, that is the definition of love – and that is what Jesus calls us to (John 15 v 17) A lot of people only manage superficial friendships because loving people requires too much of us. People are a lot of work – I know I am. I love (and also don’t love) the way Anne Voskamp puts it –
To love is to be inconvenienced.Anne Voskamp
Most often, service is sacrificial, it “costs” you something. Most often, service is a declaration much more than words are, because when we serve people we put them first. And so service is always, always a declaration of love.
We CELEBRATE (with) each other:
When it comes to friendship, you should consider celebration the opposite of competition. Celebrating the victories and wins, the passions and plans of others is a gift we give them that declares that we put them above our own desires, validations and need to be first. It’s hard but precious. If you can’t be happy for your friends when they achieve or obtain things you might have wanted for yourself, your friendship will not survive. Trust me I know! One way to bring distance in a friendship is to allow our own jealousies, insecurities or need to compete to keep us from celebrating someone else’s journey.
We SUFFER together:
As in we share in one another’s suffering. Because suffering cements friendships. Being there for people when they go through something hard or sad or bad will bring you closer together and it builds trust. Now, let’s be honest, friendship becomes very one-sided when one person is suffering. Sticking around when there is little in it for you and when it actually requires something of you is a declaration of your love for that person. Sometimes its showing up (ideally with food, oh and wine, not advice), and sometimes it’s just about sitting supportively and prayerfully on the riverbed of someone else’s pain. And reciprocally, letting someone sit with you in your suffering. Sometimes we lack the courage to be vulnerable with our friends, but when we are brave enough to open up about what we are going through, the relationship is by and large deeper and more meaningful because of it.
We give each other SPACE:
Because it’s good to let things breathe. Just because you are besties with someone doesn’t mean you have to talk all the time, be together all the time, or do everything together or have a whatsapp group (heaven help me!) with one another. Giving people space means we do not put on them an expectation to constantly validate us or our friendship. It means the truth of the friendship is based on more than just how much time we spend together. It means that when problems arrive, we ask, “Will this still matter 1 year from now?” and if not, then we let it go.
It should be clear from this list that all of these things have some element of action to them, that these things take time and effort. Also, considering our busy lives, these things are really hard to “fit in”. They do not come easily, and they do not happen by themselves. And they are all “other focused”.
One of the reasons I wrote a chapter on friendship for my kids in my book is because we often approach friendship with the wrong expectations (i.e this is about my needs), inevitably setting ourselves up for hurt and disappointment. But when we understand that friendship is not singularly about us, our feelings and our needs, but that it has a higher purpose that could bring precious wealth and depth to our journey through this life, then we also approach it differently. King Solomon, the wisest person who ever lived, gave this sage advice about making friends: If you want to have friends, you must be a friend. If you sign up for the effort you will be rewarded not just with a friendship that will grow and thrive beyond your expectations, but you yourself will grow and thrive.
What is the state of your friendships Momma? I can tell you from experience when we make ourselves vulnerable by sowing into friendships, by allowing ourselves to be challenged and by giving of ourselves in service and support, by making the first move and being the ones who place value on people, there is always a reward of depth, a harvest of more precious community. My prayer for you is that you will find the time, scratch that, make the time to make the first move in your friendships, to support the phenomenal women you get to do life with and (re) commit to them, to bask in the safe harbour of female fabulousness amidst your own personal posse of fierce females who have done it all and seen it all and are still right there, walking with you, celebrating with you, cheering for you, praying for you, having grace with you, while you do the same with for them.