Perhaps my previous post of a few minutes ago was fairly profound, therefore I will juxtapose it with something more practical, but no less meaningful.
Friendship, true friendship is a gift, especially in these changing days. While I have posted previously about changing dynamics with some friendships, and the sadness of that and the need for changed boundaries, there is also something beautiful, uplifting and encouraging in connecting with those people who we can share this journey with. We all need encouragement in these days, and we need to surround ourselves with voices of encouragement, understanding, compassion, kindness, inspiration, and hope. We need to strive to be those kind of people too, and perhaps foremost before looking for those qualities in others.
As the saying goes, ‘birds of a feather flock together’. The more you are the kind of person you want in your life, the more you will be able to connect with others with those qualities and bring out those aspects in each other.
It’s important to understand that everyone is going through their own thing just now, even if we can’t see it on the surface. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt if they haven’t connected with us, and perhaps take the initiative in being a caring friend and reaching out to them to let them know we’re thinking about them.
When we do have friends that we connect with, it is important to take time and make the effort to nurture those friendships. Some people might say, ‘I wish I had such a friendship’, but these things don’t just happen, it takes something on our part, it takes love, patience, kindness, generosity, giving, understanding and reaching out for the good of the other person. When that is reciprocated, we can begin to see the blossoming of true friendship over time.
Think about the people in your life just now, whether friends, family or other connections. Try to nurture these connections that are mutually edifying. It is a real blessing to have people to share with in these trying times. Even if you feel alone, try to nurture your friendship with yourself as a starting point, perhaps connect with acquaintances, or neighbours in a safe and socially distanced way, or make new connections online.
It can be all too easy to get caught up in the day to day of ‘getting through’ in this pandemic. But remind yourself of how important the people around you actually are. While some families are having to face loss, let us think about the blessing of the people that we have in our lives right now. Take some time to make an effort to show that you care and are thinking of someone. Take time to nurture the good friendships and relationships you already have.
Take a step back:
For some, you may have to think about taking a step back from people who are pulling you down, being a toxic influence in your life or detrimental to your emotional and psychological wellbeing. While you may have to still have some people in your life (like a boss / manager) for example, you can still set your own internal boundaries so that you can continue to stay strong and positive for yourself and the people around you.
Appreciation and Gratitude:
With so much going wrong in the world, and with seeing so many unkind acts from troubled and troublesome people, it can do us much good to take time to appreciate and be grateful for the lovely people in our life, or if you feel you don’t have anyone, the lovely influences of people you don’t even know but that you have heard about, read of or seen in the media. Maybe you could show your appreciation in a practical way, even to someone you don’t know personally, by writing a letter, sending an email, a text or just checking in with someone.
Let’s take the time and care to appreciate those around us, to nurture and build those connections, and to help and encourage each other into better days.
Recently, I’ve written quite a few posts on the theme of friendship.
Reflecting upon this aspect of our lives has brought me to the realisation that there is a unique, shared and comforting experience in being part of the blogging ‘community’. While we don’t have blogging ‘chat rooms’ or spaces as such (or at least not that I’m aware of. I know there used to be such shared spaces hosted by WordPress with daily challenges, community hubs and so forth, but they seem to have disappeared from my view – if they are still there somewhere please let me know 🙂 ), we still have avenues of interaction with each other through comments, likes, sharing and collaborative posts.
I’m over two and a half years into my blogging adventure, and some of you have come to be familiar ‘faces’ in this journey. I have become familiar with some of your blogs, and have learned a bit about you as individuals from what you have shared, and often look forward to seeing your updates, as well as seeing you interacting with mine.
In a recent post on friendship I reflected upon the benefits of friendships and long term trusted connections in our lives.
And I have come to realise that this online shared space where we can express our deeper thoughts about our lives quite freely is in fact a real blessing, opportunity and comfort as we journey through not only our blogs, but in a remote yet potentially significant way, our lives together.
There is something about sharing the human experience that makes us feel less alone, don’t you think? And while nothing can replace face to face and real time connection with people we care about, blogging adds an extra dimension to our lives in which we can communicate some of our deepest thoughts and express parts of ourselves that perhaps we can’t do so freely with the people we meet with face to face, or at least not in the same way.
I realise that I really value this, and all of you, as we encourage each other in our blogs, and also our lives.
It is a gift and a blessing to share this journey, even in some small way, with you. Wouldn’t it be something if in years to come we have a community of people who mutually encourage and edify each other as we go through life?
As I approach my third year of blogging in a few months, I am certainly grateful that I began this adventure and journey of discovery and am very glad that I can share some of it with you. x
Connection. Belonging. Love. Shared experiences. In a word: Friendship.
The importance of Friendship:
Friendship is one of the most satisfying and meaningful parts of our experience of being human. Yet, how often do people intentionally invest in their current friendships, or in forging out new connections?
Expectations of Relationships:
Our society often puts such an emphasis on romantic relationships (to the detriment of friendships) to such an extent that they can become somewhat of an ‘idol’, bearing the burden of expectation to fulfil all of our unmet needs. Yet, what about this little gem of a notion that friendships of the non-romantic type can be life affirming, fulfilling and bring meaning to our lives, whether or not you have a ‘significant other’ or a family of your own? In fact, having a wide circle of close friendships can lighten the load on relationships, as you have different avenues through which to express different parts of your personality, a variety of people to share hobbies with that your spouse or partner may not be particularly interested in, and an outlet in which you can be more ‘carefree’ with your friends when the level of responsibility and commitment is not the same and less intense.
How do we measure ‘success’ and satisfaction in life?
We all know that we need human connection in order to thrive, yet we often seem to be a society driven by ‘goals’ that can be measured in terms of ‘success’. In the western world, where the sense of extended family connections tend to be weaker and weakening, in combination with higher divorce rates and more frequent family breakdown, you would think that the value placed upon friendships would be significant; yet is it? Have you set any goals or made any new year resolutions this month? Might they include things that measure ‘success’ or satisfaction in life in terms of money, status, experiences, job / work opportunities, travel, family?
Have you included investing your time and attention in your friendships as part of your thinking?
I don’t mean to sound ‘clinical’ or ‘strategic’ by using the word ‘investing’. However, think about the things that are important to you and that you prioritise in your life. You certainly plan and set aside time and resources to nurture these things, to enable them to grow, don’t you? You invest considerable amounts of time in your job or studies or main occupation. You invest time planning financially. You plan and save for holidays, travel and other experiences. Perhaps you have a set ‘routine’ to enable you to spend quality time with your family – such as ensuring you read your children a bed-time story after your work. I know some people who have ‘date nights’ (although the term makes me cringe somewhat, perhaps because I’m single! 🙂 ) with their spouse, or time when you will eat together as a family, or visit elderly relatives. You are investing your time, care, and attention in all of these life areas. Last year I set a goal to visit my family at least once a month, and apart from one month when the weather was particularly stormy and I couldn’t see them (which I made up for with two visits on another month), I stuck to this and we have all reaped the benefits as a family of this planned and regular time together. Perhaps you have time when you will intentionally invest in your family, in spending time with your spouse, your children, your parents or siblings so that you can keep in touch and connected to each other. So why not so with your friendships? Are you intentional towards the time and attention you give to people in your life who you care about but who are not necessarily directly related to you? Or do you just ‘let things happen’, and ‘go with the flow’? How much time, care and attention we invest in things is a reflection of the importance we place upon them in our lives.
I love that friendships can be ‘organic’, changing, growing, evolving over time, often serendipitously, and I don’t like to put constraints on things that do have such a natural aspect to them. However, how many times have you heard someone say (or have you yourself said) ‘we used to be close, but we just drifted apart’?
When married couples stop being attentive and intentional in their time with each other, when they just let things happen, chances are they are more likely to ‘drift apart’ over time, and maybe you yourself know the devastation that this can bring, impacting upon not only your marriage, but wider connections such as family, friends, and most particularly if you have children. Do people not advise married couples who are struggling to be more attentive, to invest time in each other, in marriage counselling, in paying attention and communicating with each other in order to survive? I’ve personally never been married, but I have sadly seen friends whose marriages are ending or have ended in divorce. It takes work. It takes being intentional and investing our time and care in someone that we value.
Why then, or perhaps it is just my perception, do people feel less comfortable with the idea of ‘investing in friendships’? Why do so many people find that meaningful friendships have fallen by the wayside, to which people respond that they’ve simply ‘drifted apart’?
I personally pray into and am intentional with my friendships. There are a couple of people that I knew only as acquaintances that I invested time praying for – for them in their lives with things I thought they needed help with, not necessarily for us to become friends – and these people have become very close friends. All of the friendships that I have prayed into have borne fruit and brought blessings in my life, whether for a season, or for many years. Of course, some people drift away, but for those where there is a mutual interest in staying connected, it takes intention, care and love, and making time for each other. People rarely simply ‘drift’ unless circumstances are so impinging upon that friendship or one or both people lose interest.
Perspectives, and a view from my window:
As a single woman, I highly prize friendships and some friends have become like family to me. I have also learned, from where I am looking, that friends who are married find an outlet in their friendships that they can’t find in their marriage. They find the need for other connections and often find solace in friendships when they and their spouse are struggling to communicate or are going through difficulties or issues which in that type of relationship are always more intense, and it helps them when they have a friend to talk to, to cry with, or to offer an outside and objective perspective. Married people and those in relationships need other friends too to stay healthy and ‘well-rounded’, and possibly sane! 😉
I have also learned that people who spend all of their time with their partner or family can be left feeling very isolated if or when things breakdown, or if one falls ill, or if they face bereavement.
‘Friends are the family we choose for ourselves’, so perhaps we need to really give time and attention to this valuable aspect of our lives.
It is also important in friendships to have a balance, a give and take and to not expect too much from any one particular friend, because they too will have their own commitments and other priorities and responsibilities and life issues to balance. Develop a few good friendships so that you don’t leave any particular friend feeling overburdened or overwhelmed, and so that you don’t put strain on the friendship. Learn to know each others needs for space and for connection and find out what works best in those unique relationships whether one to one or in friendship groups.
In a world where family structures are sadly not as stable or as secure as they could or should be, a network of trusted friends can be that ‘extended family’ of sorts that can prove to be mutually beneficial, practically supportive, satisfying and life enhancing.
Do you think it is worth ‘investing’ in any of your friendships today?
Recently, I wrote the following post in part 45 of my Winter Survival Guide regarding the importance of reconnecting with the people in our lives. So, I thought I’d give you an update of some recent opportunities to reconnect.
It’s nearing the end of the year, and maybe we have let things slip in our friendships and relationships, and we didn’t even realise that it was happening. Time just seems to have passed and somehow when thinking of the people we used to be closest to, we realise that we have lost touch, or […]
A couple of years ago I went on a coach holiday by myself to Budapest, Prague and Vienna. You’ll be able to read up on my adventures in my ‘Travel’ section. It turned out that traveling on my own led to me having the opportunity to connect with new people, and as a result I made some new friends, two of which have visited my city a few times, for various events they were going to and also to see me.
Last weekend, I had the chance to reconnect with these two friends once more and we ventured around Christmas markets, had some festive hot drinks in a café and chocolate shop, and then went out for a late lunch together.
It doesn’t often happen that I make friends via my travels that I will keep in touch with face to face rather than just by the occasional message or email every now and then, so these particular connections have turned out to be quite special, and may continue for years to come.
Sometimes we travel solo because we love the freedom, the independence, we might be wanting to get away from it all and have more time to ourselves, or we may want to travel with others but find that no one else is available. For me I really enjoy solo travelling now, although it initially took a bit of getting used to. Either way, the chance to connect with these travel friends is a fresh reminder to be aware and attentive and to make the most of every opportunity – I almost didn’t take the opportunities on holiday because I was enjoying the time by myself, my independence and indulging in my passion for photography. Funnily enough it was the teenage girl who thought I was only nineteen that drew me into conversation and company, even though I am closer to her mum’s age – I and others thought they were friends, so I guess we all had that youthful glow about us! 🙂 The opportunities I almost didn’t notice actually turned out to be open doors to new friendships, and so it was nice to recently have the time to reconnect with them once more.
Tried and True:
I mentioned in my Winter Survival Guide post that many of us are blessed with those ‘old faithfuls’, those friends that are ‘tried and true’, friendships that feel more like the bonds of family (you know that saying, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves” ! 🙂 ), those who we have grown to know, love, laugh with, support each other through the hard times and challenges of life, and who we hope will still be part of each others lives in the years to come.
I am blessed to say I have quite a few ‘old faithfuls’ in my life, and this has probably been due to the reciprocity of both parties being faithful and investing in the friendships. However, most of these friends don’t actually know each other, so for the most part my ‘old faithfuls’ and I tend to be groups of twos, threes or fours rather than a big group of long standing friendships.
One such ‘party of three’ is myself and a couple of guys I met through work. We’ve been there for each other through the challenging times of life, and it’s most likely, God-willing that we will continue to be. We don’t necessarily have everything in common, but we do have that connection that makes us consider each other as family in a way. And we laugh together…and eat together!
We’ve tried over the past couple of years, especially as one of these friends no longer works with us, to continue to meet up and reconnect in person once a month. Obviously, this can fluctuate and some months we aren’t able to, other blessed months might see us meeting more than that, but we tend to go out to dinner, to chat and to stay involved with each others lives and have a healthy dose of laughter in poking fun at one another! 🙂 You know you’re in a good situation when you can eat and laugh with your friends as well as have those more serious chats.
Our most recent culinary adventure saw us visiting a Russian restaurant, which was a novel experience at least for me – a tasty one though, followed by a wander around the Christmas markets.
There’s a song by Sara Groves that I like, that includes the following lyrics:
“I am long on staying, I am slow to leave, especially when it comes to you, my friend. You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet, it’s the fine art of being who I am…”
When we have the blessings of real friends, friends who mutually care for each other, who are genuine and sincere and who give as much as they take, friends we know we can be ourselves around, and with whom we mutually feel supported, cared for and respected – when we have the chance to reconnect with them, despite however different we may be, the lovely thing is that we are also able to reconnect genuinely with a part of ourselves.
Wishing you all some happy times connecting and reconnecting with loved ones and friends old and new, as well as with yourself, and if you are spiritually minded, with God, this winter season. x
It’s nearing the end of the year, and maybe we have let things slip in our friendships and relationships, and we didn’t even realise that it was happening.
Time just seems to have passed and somehow when thinking of the people we used to be closest to, we realise that we have lost touch, or lost a sense of that closeness.
Tried and True:
And while there are different seasons of closeness with different people, deep down we know that there are those ‘old faithfuls’, those ‘tried and true’ friendships haven’t so much grown cold as they have merely slipped by in the busy day to day dealings of our lives.
You know the friends I mean – those who you know will be delighted to hear from you and you from them, and that you will without fuss just pick up with each other once again. Those friendships are special, real gems in our lives, and we should nurture them as we are able.
So why not this wintertime, use the extra time you might have to get in contact with one of these old friends, or perhaps if there are a few of you, you could arrange a reunion and reconnect? Maybe you don’t have the opportunity to meet up face to face, perhaps because of commitments, distance and responsibilities, but wouldn’t it be nice to pick up the phone and talk to your old friend once again? Or maybe you could send them a thoughtful email or card, or gift, just to let them know that you are thinking of them and appreciate their friendship.
The ease and reassurance of such friendships is a joy in life. However, it is likely that as we go through life we have other meaningful, important and special friendships and relationships that are no less valued, but aren’t quite as easy to maintain for some reason or another. It could be that a valued friend is no longer as much a part of your life because of a fallout, disagreement, misunderstanding or a wrong on one or both of your sides. It could be ‘more complicated’ than that for a number of reasons only known to you and them.
Perhaps, in this season known for ‘Good will’ there may be an opportunity to reach out and extend the ‘olive branch’ of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace? Could this be the season where you are able to reconnect again rather than let another year go by regretting what you have lost with your friend, family member or loved one? Or maybe reconnecting isn’t an option in so far as it may not be good to keep in touch longer term, but maybe the right thing to do is to mend bridges, heal wounds, forgive and move on. Does anyone or anything come to mind for you as you read this? I know it may not be easy, but perhaps there is an opportunity there for you to think about so that you don’t live with the regret of not having reached out to them.
Perhaps ‘reconnecting’ doesn’t so much mean getting in touch with someone you haven’t seen in a long time, as much as it means reconnecting and deepening existing relationships with people in your life right now. Maybe you have neglected an important relationship or the other person has neglected nurturing their relationship with you, and things have somehow just ‘drifted’ along through the ups and downs, highs and lows, and things needing done throughout the year.
Could this season be the opportunity for you to reconnect with someone on a deeper level? What would it take? Time, patience, love, communication, effort? Maybe there isn’t a brokenness or a breach in that the relationship is still intact, but could it be the case that there are wounds needing healed, or maybe you have just not been paying as much attention to each other, taking the friendship or relationship for granted? Having a little more time, which I hope you do this season, could be a really important step forward in nurturing those connections you already have to reconnect on a deeper level.
Maybe the person you need to reconnect with is yourself. Have you put yourself, your needs, values and wishes to one side as you’ve sought to please everyone else and get things done? I used to be this person to my friends, I always cheered them on, but oftentimes I felt like I was ‘on the outside’ of my own life, and this was painful, and left me feeling a brokenness inside. It is not healthy but sometimes we do get pushed aside even in our own lives because everyone else’s needs seem more pressing, more important, or more significant. If this is where you are right now, it’s important to make time for yourself, to take a step back, to reconnect and nurture yourself, because if you are not in a good place in yourself you will only feel drained and depleted when giving out to other people, however, as I have learned, the more we nurture ourselves, the more we can happily and more freely give to others from a place of love, joy, faith and peace.
Reconnect with yourself this season, because you matter.
God has not moved away, changed, walked out on you, abandoned you or chosen to be distant from you. But what about you? Are you distancing yourself from Him? Are you avoiding thinking about Him altogether, refusing to open your heart and mind to His reality and truth? Have you been too preoccupied with lesser things that you haven’t been spending time with Him, in His loving care, listening as He leads you through life? His Arms are open wide, no matter who you are or what you have done. Reconnecting depends on your response and your choice so what will you do? He Is right here loving you now, and welcomes you to come to Him. Will you?
When someone hurts us, whether intentionally or not, we can go through a variety of emotions and responses.
We feel sad, and maybe we feel some anger, a sense of betrayal, of confusion, of loss. It can be easy to try to make sense of things in our minds, to deal with the way we’ve been treated, by putting the other person in a ‘box’ in the way we think of them.
Someone has hurt us and acted in a way that doesn’t seem right to us, and so we ‘deal’ with it by telling ourselves they are selfish, unkind, uncaring.
I’m processing some things just now, and I realise that’s not a mature way of looking at things or thinking about them. The reason we feel hurt is often because we cared a lot. Something mattered to us, it was important, it was valuable. If the person was all of those not so nice things, we probably wouldn’t have allowed them in our lives for so long.
People mess up, they muddle through life, and they hurt people along the way. You’ve hurt people and people have hurt you. And usually we feel the hurt because we care, because someone matters to us.
I think of The LORD Jesus suffering, fully Man feeling every human pain (and at the same time fully God), on the Cross and all the time His Arms outstretched in Love. True Love. In His suffering He was thinking of other people, He was loving people, He was concerned that Mary would not be without a son to look after her, and He was concerned for John, and so He in His anguish told John to take care of Mary. He was thinking of others. He was thinking of them. Of me. And of *you*, dear one.
Our natural fallen broken responses to hurt might be to clam up, to fold our arms around our chests rather than open them wide and expose our pulsating hearts. We have a choice to make. To protect ourselves or to love. It can be a tug of war sometimes, but Love is always greater than the hurt. Love overcomes all.
Jesus chose to Love me completely, He gave His life for me, so however I have been hurt or wronged, I choose to Love. x
This time of year could be the perfect opportunity for you to experience personal growth, make new connections and step out of your comfort zone. It could also simply mean giving yourself the chance to do something that you enjoy but usually don’t make time for due to competing priorities, or just the ‘hum drum’ of letting daily life trundle along without being too aware of your choices and chances.
Maybe, like me, you’ve had to work hard at overcoming anxiety. Perhaps there is something you’d like to do, some event you’d like to attend, or some new people you’d like to connect with – BUT you are allowing anxious thoughts to talk you out of giving it a go.
Maybe you’re brimming with confidence but are used to doing the ‘same old, same old’ that you haven’t even thought of saying ‘yes’ to that new opportunity.
Perhaps there are people, causes or needs that you can give your time to, to alleviate someone else’s burden at this time of year.
Wherever you find yourself, think about some of the opportunities in your life coming up that you might automatically say ‘no’ to.
Think of whether it is a good and positive opportunity in your life, and if it doesn’t compete with other more important things, and if it ‘ticks these boxes’ and it is something you actually think you can benefit from doing, then try saying ‘yes’.
Who knows where that simple ‘yes’ might take you, and what further doors of opportunity and friendship it might open…..
Proverbs 27 v 6 advises us that: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”.
What does this mean?
The wounds of a friend are faithful. A true friend may give advice, instruction, counsel or even just suggestions that are intended for their friend’s good. What a person does with that communication is up to them, but a true friend is not willing to withhold good counsel intended to protect their friend even if it is not received well.
Can you think of a situation when you have been the faithful friend whose words may have caused offence but were given out of love, concern, care and sincerity? Perhaps you advised a friend that the person they were getting in a relationship with had a bad reputation and that it would be better for them to steer clear. Maybe they thanked you for your input, or maybe they told you to get lost, to mind your own business, etc, but had you known what you did, to refuse to share that with your friend would have been cruel and irresponsible. You can speak the truth in love.
However, someone who couldn’t really care less if the relationship would end up being harmful might flatter you with ‘kisses’, i.e. tell you the things you want to hear, rather than telling you the truth. In the moment the enemy seems like more of a friend than your friend whose wounds are faithful. It can be easy to become blind sighted by our own desires, and what our itching ears want to hear.
Just as ‘iron sharpens iron’ so too does good, wise, discerning, loving, loyal and honest friendship mutually sharpen the characters of us and our friends.
However, sometimes a friend can be an enemy, without really setting out or intending to do so. A person may easily identify a lie as being ‘bad’, but they may make excuses for withholding the truth but that doesn’t make it any less of a lie or any less damaging.
If someone habitually withholds the truth from a friend, they are effectively lying to them and keeping things unconfessed, hidden and in darkness. A true friend may be clumsy with their words, but their intention comes from a place of love or at least kindness and respect, and you know that they will be honest with you. Covering things up or withholding truth is very sadly, and however unintentionally a form of deceit, verging on being cruel and selfish.
We are never in a place to judge other people’s motives, but we need to discern truth from error. Sometimes we learn the hard way that when the truth about a situation is withheld from us, or how a situation is perceived by someone is not shared with us, even if it is with the intention ‘not to offend’, then we are being denied honest and sincere communication. We are silently being lied to. If we have done something wrong, we will not be told about it, perhaps because our friend is not willing to ‘faithfully wound’ us for the sake of our own good and theirs. And under the surface, perhaps those who withhold the truth from another party allow bitterness to fester, and silently but very intentionally control the situation, perhaps by pushing us away, but without in the end showing honest and genuine love, care, concern or respect because they have chosen to with hold the truth.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend. We need to be intentional in walking in the light, of being honest and truthful and respectful, rather than withholding truth from people and silently punishing them for something they didn’t even know or weren’t given a chance to know was wrong.
Kind and lovely people can fall into this trap of being unfaithful because it in the short term it seems to cause less damage, discomfort, awkwardness or unease – but in the long run, withholding truth is just as damaging as an outright lie.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Let us seek never to be an enemy to our friends by withholding truth from them, especially if what we don’t tell them leads us to taking a course of action that will affect them negatively while withholding explanation. To do so would be to choose not to walk in the light because in the short term it feels more comfortable to take the easy path. The easy way is not always the best, so take time to ponder the path of your feet for your own good and the good of others. And to keep walking in the light, be quick to choose to forgive, to be understanding, respectful and loving, and to be the kind of person who you yourself can respect. x