Cultivating Life-Giving Relationships: Friendships
Good afternoon dearest Reader!
Well we finished our Cultivating Femininity series, so I thought it was time to start diving into a new Tuesday Topic! The topic of relationships has come up a lot ever since Valentines Day, and I thought it would be fitting to do a deep dive into how we can nurture and tend to the relationships in our life in such a way that they become LIFE-GIVING to us.
Relationships have a huge impact on our daily lives, for better or worse, and I believe we need to be very careful about who we invite into our lives, and how we handle those relationships.
I believe that life-giving relationships are often the pinnacle of a woman's life, as women tend to build their relational connections and networks much broader than men do, and are in turn, very impacted by them. This series will cover friendships, romantic relationships, and familial relationships. Stay with me for these next few weeks, as see your relationships change!
To kick off this Tuesday series, I thought we would begin with "Female Friendships."
I left a lot of my lifelong friendships behind in Canada when I began college in the United States. I had the same best friends in Canada from when I was 2 to when I was 18. We rode the same busses, played on the same teams, went to the same church, same youth group, and same schools: they were everything to me.
Unfortunately, college friendships were not that easy for me. I felt so alone, frustrated, and misunderstood by a lot of my "default" friends in college. You know... the girls you're only friends with because you live on the same floor, or because your roommate is friends with them? Instead of putting in effort to find my people, I ended up in a lot of half-hearted friendships with people who didn't really "get" me.
Thankfully I got a new roommate my senior year, and she and I just CLICKED. She is what I would classify as a "life-giving" friendship. She just understood me so well: I never felt like I had to be different to get her to like me. She showed me that relationships should be LIFE-GIVING: they shouldn't make you feel crappy.
Since then, I have completely changed the way I approach friendships. I've had to start all over again since getting married and moving, but this time, I have an intentional game-plan and a better attitude.
Today I'm going to share with you guys my 5 pointers for approaching friendships!
1. Friendships Fizzle ... and That's OKAY
Since college, I have seen a lot of my default "friends" fall off, go their separate ways, and in the worst cases, even unfriend me on Facebook and unfollow me on Instagram. It's been kind of painful, but also surprisingly refreshing.
As I always say, God prunes things out of our lives so that we can approach life with greater focus, joy, and support. I realized that a lot of those friendships made me feel sick and crappy, and it was actually good that they left me behind.
There was this one girl from college who was friends with one of my best friends. I had to hang out with her a lot just to see my other friend, but it was honestly really hard for me. Every time I hung out with her, I felt a sick feeling in my chest because it always felt like I had to be someone else, just to get her to approve of me.
So needless to say, when she unfollowed me on Instagram, it was a bit of a weight off.
Friendships that fizzle like that just aren't strong foundational friendships! If you've put in the work to be close with someone and it STILL fizzles, just let it! Let that nonsense go. Let it go! There are new friends waiting for you: ones that won't make you feel gross.
It's important to recognize that you may lose friends, but it doesn't mean that you're a bad person or something is wrong with you. Oftentimes we simply cannot sustain certain friendships as we move forward in life.
2. Marriage Changes Friendships
Now that I'm married, I have transitioned to a stage in life where my husband is my best friend. My days of the girl squad have come to a close, even though I fought pretty hard to keep it. I realized that this is natural and actually really good!
It's good to have boundaries within our friendships. It can be quite tempting to go to our friends for every type of issue, thought, or problem. If you find yourself confiding in friends before God, or your husband, then I encourage you to take a step back.
Support your friends, help them, encourage them, and always point them towards Christ.
Don’t confide in your friends before your spouse. Remember that you are supposed to be a family unit, and as fun as it is to have a squad or a girl group, those aren’t the most important features in our life.
I want to continue going to my husband as my number one confidant. I want him to be the one I share my struggles with, not my girl squad. Female friendships can be great support systems, but they should never replace a relationship with God, and certainly not a relationship with your husband.
But don't worry, friendships must not be forgotten altogether when you get married! Oh no. We have often found no greater joy than spending time with another married couple. These friendships pull us closer to one another, and definitely allow us to create new systems of support that will be helpful when we have kids.
3. Friends Are No Replacement for Jesus
Our Sisters in Christ are wonderful assets to our faith life, but not always in the sense that they should be leading us to God. Friendships should be places where we can encourage one another towards Christ, but never to the point where we are seeking authority over one another. Leave that for your pastor, your mentor, or anyone else in Spiritual authority over you.
Instead, I would encourage you to lean on your friendships for encouragement, support, prayer, and fun. Unite with your sisters in Christ so that you can join together in community to support one another and to build one another up. Use your relationships to bless the community, and to support one another through the seasons of life.
Remember, your faith in Christ should always come before the opinions or thoughts of your friends. Friends are important to the happiness of women, but they should not be the source of your happiness.
The thing we must remember is that God does indeed put friends in our lives to bring him closer to him, to help us, to give us pleasure, and to support each other, but he never puts friends in our lives to put wedges between us and God, or us and our husbands.
4. Don't use Friendships as an Excuse to sin
This is a huge note for me. I used to struggle with gossip a lot because I found it so intoxicating to get the dirt on other people. But I have been extremely convicted about this, so I am careful to not let my friendships become a place to sin.
Gossip, slander, rumors, and debauchery are all very tempting when we get together with a girl gang, but we need to be careful to not lose our souls. Friendships should be life-giving, as I've mentioned before.
Please be aware of "fake" friendships as well. Friendships where you don't have much in common but gossip can often become fake friendships.
Remember that if a girl is willing to gossip to you about everyone in her life, she's probably gossiping about you too. These types of influences are very negative and will NOT help you cultivate your character or virtues. They will actually bring you down in life and stop you from meeting your potential.
We become the people that we surround ourselves with.
Sinful friendships are not honoring to God, but even if you're not a believer, these types of friendships are still not honoring to your DIGNITY. Have self-respect and avoid fake, and crude friendships. Life-giving friendships always push you to a better sense of self, confidence, and a greater enjoyment of life in a healthy way. Gossip and "fake" friendships are not healthy. Never forget this.
5. Choose "Safe" Friendships
Women who seek to manipulate you, control you, guilt you, or use you, are not friendships you should encourage. I would call those "toxic" friendships. If another woman is wanting you to make her needs the center of your world, please put up some boundaries. That is NOT healthy.
Life-giving friendships are always the goal remember. Friends who accept you for you, and who make you feel good about yourself are the ones that you want to plug into. You don't want friends who just flatter you and tell you your awesome, but you should choose encouraging friends who are also honest.
Remember to choose friends who will be there for you in thick or thin. I had to let go of a friendship this past year where the other girl always made everything about HER life. She never asked me questions about my life, and seldom liked to hear my thoughts on her life, or talk about anything besides her hookups, her fun times, or her job. It was honestly exhausting.
Be careful who you share your heart with. Guard your heart in romantic relationships, but also guard it in friendships as well.
Friends that support you, listen to you, make you laugh, and whom you connect with are some of the most life-giving relationships a person could ask for. These friends always leave you with a GOOD feeling in your chest, and a smile on your face.
In total, I encourage you to be patient with your friendships and allow the ones that are truly life-giving to be the ones you allow into your life. Don't force a friendship, and don't assume that because a friendship has fizzled that there is something wrong with you.
I will probably do more posts on friendships in the future, but for now, I hope you enjoy this one!