Meet my friend Julie (pictured on the right). I met Julie in high school when my family moved my sophomore year. Julie was very quiet back then and I was the new girl, so we actually didn’t really talk. Our senior year we somehow found out we both wanted to go to the same college and we ended up being roommates. That was the beginning of a sweet friendship. Julie often tagged along with Joel and I on dates in college and Joel was always playing practical jokes on her. Two years later she was a bridesmaid in our wedding. She still reminds Joel that she will always be my favorite roommate. We went our separate ways for a while after I got married, but now are both stay-at-home moms and live just a few miles apart. Julie is an amazing listener and is so intentional with her relationships. I love that about her. I always know when she calls that she really wants to know how I am doing. She wants to know what is going on in my life and how she can be praying for me. Julie is willing to be vulnerable and share how God is working in her own life and I am always challenged after spending time with her. I know you will be challenged too when you hear Julie’s thoughts on friendship…
We, as people, want and need to be known and cared for through friendship. After reading Lisa Whelchel’s book Friendship for Grown-ups, I feel fortunate that God has blessed me with wonderful, true friendships and feel inspired to keep these friendships healthy and not let them slip away during this busy time of life while mothering two small children.
Listed below are some points Whelchel made that encouraged me to be a better friend:
• Sometimes, especially when I talk to “old friends,” the conversation can come to a place that is not edifying to others. Whelchel suggests that a person prepare responses ahead of time to steer the conversation in a positive direction when needed. By not talking about others negatively, I will become a safe person and one in whom others can confide.
• Participate in honest relationships. Deal with conflicts as they arise in relationships so that a brick wall is not built between friends. Sometimes I have to have hard conversations with friends to ensure continued openness and honesty.
• Whelchel suggests that a person can only have 3 really close friends, a dozen close friends, and a larger circle of just friend friends (p. 88). I loved thinking about my really close friends and their strengths. Friend A is wise. Every time I talk to her I am encouraged. Friend B values face time. She makes me feel special by wanting to see me every week if possible. Friend C is a go-getter who makes me laugh. We have fun together and she says things like they are. I want to do what it takes to keep these girls close, but also continue to pursue my other circles of friends and make new friends too. This may mean I need to be the one to initiate coffee dates or phone conversations instead of waiting to be pursued (which is my natural tendency and preference).
• Be a present friend. When meeting with a friend, make eye contact, turn off my cell phone, and listen completely. I find this easier said than done with small children at foot. Sometimes I leave a conversation and cannot remember what was discussed. I hate that. Perhaps I need more girls’ nights or need to schedule phone calls while the kids are napping. Seriously, how can I be attentive/present to a phone conversation when my dear son is in the dining room peeling off wall paper and causing plaster pieces to fall all over the carpet?
The only major point in Whelchel’s book that I disagreed with was the issue of popping imagination balloons, or imaginary conversations in your head, by telling your friend about them to see if they are valid (p. 157). For example, if you call a friend and she is distracted, you might think, “I am annoying her. She doesn’t really want to talk to me. Who would?” According to Whelchel, you should say to the friend, “When I called earlier, I felt like I was annoying you and that you didn’t want to talk to me. Is there any validity to that?” I personally believe that those imaginary conversations need to be disregarded in friendship. Most often, when I am guilty of having imagination balloons, it is because of my own heart issues and insecurities. I think that love puts others in the best possible light, assumes the best, and forgives. This is backed up by Proverbs 17:9 which says, “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” All that to say, do bring up issues that are causing a brick wall between you and a friend; but, if it is something going on in your own head that is probably not true, overlook the offense and think about what is true.
Overall, I felt like this book encouraged me to strengthen and protect the rich relationships God has blessed me with and also reach out to other friends in intentional and meaningful ways.