Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Are You True?

A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
---Proverbs 12:26

I mentioned in the last post that 2013 was a challenging year for our family for several reasons.  Now that I've had some time to look back on the year, one of the things I've realized is that the people who I considered my friends were, unfortunately, friends of convenience.  That is, when I could no longer be the person they thought I was, or refused to protect and guard some very nasty and detrimental issues that were unfolding in our home, I wasn't really worth pursuing as a friend.

I thought I had true friendships.  I cherish the few that I have maintained, and appreciate those more than they will ever realize, because sometimes, a true friend is someone that you never would have thought in a thousand years would be there for you.  I will admit, I have been wrong about people I'd originally thought I'd never begin or maintain a friendship with, and to this day, these are the friendships I value the most---because God was intentional about planting those people in my life, and nurturing and growing those relationships.  They don't disappear.  They'll send a message out of nowhere, and I know I can and will do the same.  They'll tell me the truth in love when they feel I'm not acting according to God's plan, and they'll own up to their errors and shortcomings.

So, then...what makes a true friend?  Do your friends make you feel needed and encouraged?  Make you want to be a better person?  More confident?  Or do you feel worse after being around them, even when things are going well in your life?  Do they put you down or make you feel worthless?  Do they root you on and encourage you?  Even if they don't necessarily agree with what you're doing, or understand, do they provide support, or better yet, share the truth in love?  Push back on you when they feel you're not doing what they believe God intends for your life?

What about being a good listener?  This is a HUGE part of friendship, and one that I feel has been out of balance for me, especially last year.  Don't get me wrong---I think there are times in friendships when we give more than we take, and that's just the nature of things.  But last year?  I felt like a dumping ground for people's problems---in fact, it pushed me over the edge and deep into the pit of despair.  Several months, I was under that muck in the pit.  The depression was like a wet blanket, so heavy I couldn't breathe.  I didn't guard my heart.  I forgot to put on the full armor of God.  Those arrows from the Enemy?  Right where it hurt.

It's not just about being a good listener---it's about being an active listener.  Put down your phone.  Silence it, turn it off, do whatever you have to do to FOCUS.  Make eye contact.  Nothing feels worse than feeling like you're a burden---unless, of course, it's feeling like you're unimportant because your "friend" is constantly looking over your shoulder or checking things out around you, all with the intent of finding someone else with whom they HAVE to connect.

How is your communication?  The key to all relationships is communication, and if you're as great of friends as you believe to be, you should be able to share your feelings and maintain levels of open and honest dialogue.  I'll admit, right now there is an area of my life that I don't feel like I'm doing a great job with a friend of ours.  I disagree, on so many levels, on a situation in this person's life, and my disappointment in them as a person is paralyzing.  I've lost so much respect for this individual, but I realize the responsibility is mine to communicate to this individual the fact that I don't agree with the detrimental choices being made.  I know that after removing myself from being so close to the situation, I will have the perspective I need to respectfully communicate my feelings and thoughts.

What about gossip?  Do the majority of your friends gossip about other people?  Guard your heart, because there's a good possibility that if your "friend" spends a majority of the time talking about other people, those other people aren't the only victims of your "friend's" gossip.

Finally, MAKE time to nurture and grow those friendships and most importantly, STICK TO YOUR WORD.  I have always said that I don't want to be someone who says I'm going to do something, and then backs out.  Are there circumstances sometimes that we cannot control?  Life gets in the way, and interrupts our plans.  Regardless, if we say we're going to do something, then DO IT.  Re-schedule.  Include your friends in your life---don't isolate yourself.  Don't make promises you can't keep.  Don't say things you don't mean.  Most importantly, don't say things you can't take back---because even if that friendship doesn't survive, those words still will and have the power to destroy.

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