Tag Archives: friendships

You can’t change someone’s ‘true colours’, so don’t try….the only person we can change is ourselves.

You may look at life and people through eyes filled with compassion, love, grace, care, kindness and helpfulness. This might be so natural to you, or something you have worked hard on developing, with the gifts of grace and mercy at work in your life to bring you there, that you don’t necessarily expect that other people who are close to you have other more selfish motives.

Of course, you can easily spot the negative characteristics in people whom you don’t wish to associate too closely with, even though you know that there are many and complex aspects to each person with everyone having a mix of positive and negative traits including ourselves- but you don’t allow people who are overtly rude, unkind, selfish, manipulative or cold into your inner circle. Because after all, you’re a good judge of character, right?

It can be harder to see negative characteristics in the people we let closest to us, because for the most part we think that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and that our friends have similar values to us.

And they may well do, for the most part. They may share the broad brushstrokes of similar ideas generally of overall life values, how to treat other people, and what it means to be a good friend. Or we may be choosing to see them in that way.

But sometimes true colours on a canvas begin to show through over time, and we gloss over them. Things arise that we feel not so comfortable with, but we know that we too have our flaws and we try to be the best friend that we can be. We see the way someone relates to and treats other friends or mutual connections and we think that there is a problem in their specific situation and we try to show understanding, empathy, kindness and to give a listening ear. But then, we realise that our friend has treated other friends in a way that simply doesn’t match with our values, in a way that that other friend or those other friends don’t deserve because they’re simply lovely people, and we try to make sense of it, to understand the things that might be going on under the surface, and we think that because we are closer that of course they wouldn’t treat us that way, but the warning bells have already started ringing, and somewhere deeper down a trust has been damaged, as our instincts tell us that the person we consider to be similar to us, actually treats other people in a way that harms them – are they unaware of it, do they not realise their behaviour is selfish and damaging, or maybe they have some wounds and issues to sort out, do they just take the easier way out when they feel that things get tricky, regardless of whether or not it is the right way to behave? We try to be understanding, to give our friends the benefit of the doubt, and maybe we ignore our instincts and those warning signals because we want to think and believe the best of people.

We don’t want to believe that our friends are using people for their own convenience, for when things suit them. We want to believe they are deeper, warmer, and more compassionate than they are. We don’t want to see the true colours that are beginning to come through, we may not try to change them but we change the evidence that we are beginning to see to fall in line with a more loving, caring version of the person we’ve created in our minds. We all have flaws. But then there are points when someone shows themselves to have deeper rooted characteristics that don’t fit with our values, and we try to excuse them or tell ourselves it’s because of this or that reason, and be graceful towards that person. Who wants to honestly conclude that someone they had given time, care, love, a listening ear and understanding to is actually colder than we thought, more selfish in their motives and perhaps has even been using us, whether intentionally or not, for their own convenience? Sometimes we don’t let ourselves see true colours until it is too late, and they have been as narrowly focused and self focused in their treatment of us as they have to others. The warning signs were there, but we didn’t want to pay heed to them, and so we live with the lessons. We learn that we are people who care, but not everyone does….some people care when it is convenient to them to do so, and I suppose that’s ok, so long as we are willing to continue being people who are genuine, caring, look out for other people’s interests as well as our own, seek to communicate for the benefit of other people, and ensure that we don’t use other people for our own selfish gain as we have been used. And the deeper lesson if you find yourself in such a situation is that you can’t change people. You can’t change someone’s true colours, it’s not within your gift to do so. You can pray for them, for them to perhaps realise that their patterns of behaviour damage others, and perhaps they don’t care too much about that, but you can pray for other people to be protected, and you can seek to become a better person, more noble in character for the good of others.

You could try to change people, you could try because the idea of them was different to the reality, but it wouldn’t be worth your efforts and time, because just as others can’t change you, you can’t change them. But you do have immense power to work on yourself, to seek to be kinder, more understanding, more compassionate, more giving, loving and caring, looking out for others and not just ourselves, so that the lessons we learn don’t bring negativity but actually make our world and the lives of those around us a much more vibrant, colourful, Truthful, genuine, loving, honest and caring place. x

frowning woman wearing pink shirt and sunglasses
Photo by Dany Ochoa on Pexels.com

‘Fair-weather’ Friends & Friends For Life…

I’ve been writing a lot about the autumn and winter seasons in my ‘Winter Survival Guide’ series (in which there is more to come, you’ll hopefully be pleased to hear, as a lot of you seem to be enjoying this). I’ve touched upon how the changing of the seasons can reflect aspects of our lives that in their time either fall away from us or we let go of.

birds flying over body of water during golden hour
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

One theme and aspect of life I’d like to write a little more about in this post, as it applies to my life right now, is that of Friendship.

Friendships teach us about ourselves:

Friendships come in different forms and at different times of our lives, for different seasons and reasons. Although I’ve entitled this post ‘Fair-weather Friends & Friends For Life…’, I know that life isn’t as straightforward as this proverbial dichotomy.

Friendships and our friends as well as ourselves can be complicated, intricate and not easy to define.

However, if we are present, we will always learn a lot from our friendships, including learning more about ourselves and how we relate to other people, although at times we may have ‘blind spots’ as regards the patterns of our own thinking and behaviours, and our friends will have their own ‘blind spots’ too.

An unknown journey:

I don’t entirely know what shape this post will end up taking, what ‘conclusions’ I will reach and have to share with you, and in a sense as we embark upon new friendships or relationships we also are exploring the unknown, unfamiliar, and inconclusive.

Depth:

We share life with a range of people, and although people are far too unique and special to categorise, we do often clearly have ‘types’ of interactions. These may change over time, and we may become closer or more distant from people, and this is all part of the learning curve, as well as the ebb and flow of life.

In my life right now I can say that in terms of people in my life, I have my immediate family, close friends, friends who are not as close, acquaintances, people I interact with on a regular basis but might not know as well such as work colleagues, people who serve lunch in the canteen, the concierge in my building, and people who I see at work but don’t know by name. Some of these relationships overlap or change over time. For example, I have a couple of colleagues at work who are also close friends. I have worked with people who I once didn’t know but who I became friends with, who I now consider close and lifelong friends but who I no longer work with because they have changed jobs, retired (I have good friends of all different ages), or moved on to another stage of life, but who I keep in touch with, and they with me, and we love spending time together when we can. I have friends I hardly see, but who remain some of my closest friends, and we maintain a bond, and we contact as and when we can even if that’s not face to face. One of these friends has moved thousands of miles away to Cambodia, but we still consider each other to be close friends and love each other as ‘sisters’ and for the maybe ten years now she’s been living abroad we’ve managed to maintain a friendship even with her getting married and being in a different stage of life as me.

Life stages:

I have friends who I met when we shared a similar stage of life. I have friends who I met and we didn’t have all that much in common. I have friends who once shared a similar stage of life but now are in a completely different life stage. We have maintained our friendships, our bonds and although many of these friends have different circumstances to me, such as being married, becoming parents, having moved abroad, and so forth, or being of a different generation as I have friends that are the same age, older and younger, we still remain close and interested in each others lives as different as they are now.

This is both a blessing and a skill to nurture, invest in, grow and maintain good relationships and friendships. I have learned that not only am I blessed with good friends but I also am a great friend to have – someone who is loyal, kind, caring, compassionate, who will listen, who will give time and genuine care to others and who can organise some pretty awesome presents too 😉

Distance:

The reason I speak of the above is because the distance we experience in friendships (growing apart, drifting apart, losing interest or losing touch) isn’t necessarily caused by a physical distance such as moving away, a distance in life stage, such as embarking upon a new season of life, or an emotional distance such as going through different things (true friends are there for each other through the tears and the joys of life).

As I mentioned previously, I have maintained close friendships with people who now live thousands of miles away. Because we care about each other.

I have close friends who like me are single and have our own places and work in the city and share our Faith.

Yet, I also have close friends who are in completely different life stages – they may be married, have kids, be retired, be atheist and have completely different beliefs, and who have completely different lifestyles.

We care about each other, we connect, and we make it work.

Distance is a choice, it is not a length of space or time:

Although our friendships with people may change over time, we may not be able to keep in as frequent contact as we once did, we may not know all the ins and outs of each others lives, we are still there for each other in the background. I’m thankful that even though friends may be thousands of miles away or we may be miles apart in terms of our life circumstances, I’m blessed that we’ve managed to stay close. I know it’s not as easy for everyone, and people make different efforts to stay in touch. Sometimes people let things drift, sometimes we do too, it can be part of the natural ebb and flow of life just as the changing of the seasons.

However, distance, I believe is a choice. When someone decides to cut us out of their lives that is a choice. There are people in our lives that are ‘toxic’ and it may be necessary to create distance or cut them out. But in this article, I’m not talking about such people who drag us down, I’m talking about genuine people, real friends, people like me and hopefully like you who build other people up.

What about when people cut us out? People to whom we were genuine friends?

‘Fair-weather’ Friends:

One of the things friendship has taught me recently is that some seemingly genuine friends are actually ‘fair-weather’ friends. A certain person a few years ago sought out friendship with me, we were a blessing and encouragement in each others lives and I poured kindness and encouragement into this person’s life. I believed we had a genuine friendship, and although it was a real mutual blessing, I now realise that the person looked upon it in a ‘utilitarian’ way. Whereas some people need time and space as they go into new life stages, others choose to cut you out. That’s ok, but it brings about a real life lesson. As nice as they may be, the person was being utilitarian – it was a friendship that they valued so long as it suited them. When it no longer suits them, they drop you. We all move on, but some people can’t see their selfishness in how they treat people, as kind as they may be or seem, they are ultimately looking out for their needs to be met, and they consider their needs the most important thing.

Friends may seem genuine even for a number of years, but in due season, they prove to you what you perhaps had no idea about, that they are ‘fair-weather’ friends. They only want the friendship so long as it suits them. I know I’m a kind, loving, genuine person and have been told I have a high emotional intelligence, am good at giving people space as well as being a source of comfort and listening. If people ‘drop’ you and you’re such a friend, and in no ways are a ‘toxic’ person, then know that there is a life lesson for you – it is far better to have the realisation than to continue on, and be used for someone else’s convenience.

Learn the life lessons, let things go, and soar off into a beautiful future, nurturing, cherishing, and being a mutual blessing to your true, life-long, friends to whom distance in space or life stage doesn’t even factor in to whether or not you will care about and be there for each other.

Be blessed, and be a true and genuine friend. x

backlit dawn foggy friendship
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.comfriend

 

 

 

 

Winter Survival Guide (17) ~ Let the dead leaves fall.

The seasons of the year remind us that change is an inevitable, and thankfully purposeful, part of our lives. Autumn is a beautiful conundrum: we are mesmerised with the beauty of leaves turning vibrant shades of gold, orange, red and yellow – yet what is actually happening is that these leaves are changing, dying and falling away. One season of life gives way to the next, and the spectacular thing is that there is great beauty and vibrancy in Autumn before winter sets in…a beauty which is at the same time a decay and the falling away of old things.

I find this both strange and captivating. Autumn is truly beautiful to me, glorious even, and many other people also find it wondrous – yet who really celebrates decay in any other aspect of life? It’s quite an unusual thought when you reflect upon it.

I think God gives us gifts in the lessons we can learn from the changing of the seasons. There can be beauty in transitions, even ones which mean letting go and moving on.

I think this post in my Winter Survival Guide may be challenging for some of us. There is a tendency among human beings to want to ‘hold on’, or if we want to let go, it doesn’t happen without struggle. We don’t let go of aspects of our lives by seeing them bursting into beauteous colours to gracefully float away in their appointed time, but this is one of the lessons that this season teaches us – the beauty and even majesty of change, of life giving way to life, through death (and isn’t this the message of The Cross). And there is a time and season ‘for every purpose under heaven’ (Ecclesiastes).

red trees
Photo by nien tran on Pexels.com

 

If we allow the lessons we are gifted through the changing of the seasons to be an opportunity to reflect upon our own lives, then what is this season saying to you? What can we more generally as human beings learn from it?

I certainly don’t have all, or even many of the answers on this one, but maybe we could find some points of reflection about our lives in the following:

  • Beauty and Gratitude in life’s changing seasons: Perhaps you are facing some poignant changes in your life. Maybe you are in a season of life where you have ‘grown up’ children who are leaving home for the first time, and it is a bittersweet transition for you. In what ways can you truly take time to reflect upon the beauty and the gifts that you have enjoyed, and how can you gracefully let go as one season of life gives way to the next as your children move into another stage of their lives? What ways can the ’empty nest’ – the feelings of sadness, loss and parting be looked upon for their beauty, vibrancy and life? As these previous seasons fade to memories, what aspects of ‘spring’ in the seasons to come could you be looking forward to?

 

  • Acceptance of loss: Maybe what you or someone you know is facing is actual loss, as you deal with bereavement. Is this a time you can spend reflecting upon the good times, and learning to celebrate the life that was? Or maybe you can helps someone else who is grieving to find comfort and hope in this season, maybe it can be a time of quietness, solitude, ‘hibernation’ in a sense, to come to terms with things as they change.

 

  • The parting of ways: Often times we feel reluctant to let things change or to embrace and step into change. Think about the things in your life that you have held onto, even though it was time to let them go, because you were anxious about the unknown, unfamiliar or unexpected. Sometimes ‘leaves’ fall from our lives seemingly without any rhyme or reason, and we are faced with the choice whether to let them go. Sometimes it is right and good to seek to hold on to something, to work at reviving it, nurturing it, bringing it back to life, and health with love because it wouldn’t be right to simply let it go. A marriage for example – maybe it is changing, maybe facing decay in aspects, but it would not be right for the couple to simply give up on each other. Maybe one is already giving up, but the other has to fight to keep things alive, to nurture, to care for, to bring life.
  • At other times however, things do just seem to naturally ‘fall away’. Friendships for example. This is something I am facing at the moment – a friend of several years has silently moved on – it is something they have done with  other friends as well, and so I reached out in love and have left it up to them as to whether they wish to connect, but otherwise to say a loving goodbye if that is what they wish. I have been met with only silence, and so all I can do is pray, and let go. There is a time and season and reason for some friendships and sometimes those seasons pass and we need to allow the dead leaves and dead things of our lives to fall away.
  • Perhaps you have been reflecting on the friendships, relationships, acquaintances and connections in your life, and you have decided to intentionally let go of certain people, with it not necessarily being their choice. Maybe they are not ‘life bringing’ connections and you feel it is best for you to move on. Perhaps you could reflect on how best to do this in a loving way, and where possible if appropriate to offer some explanation to the person. Understandably this isn’t always appropriate depending on the nature of the relationship and how unhealthy or detrimental it might be, but it is nonetheless something that you can take time to reflect upon.

 

  • Things, things, things! Maybe the ‘dead leaves’ of this season in your life are in fact certain material things that you no longer need, use or appreciate. Perhaps their falling away from your life, as you let them go, could bring beauty to someone else’s life. Maybe the ‘letting go’ in this season for you could be a good old de-cluttering and instead of a ‘spring clean’, having an autumn / winter clean!
  • What are some of the things you no longer need that someone else could benefit from? Clothes, books, toys, household goods, furniture, and so forth. Letting them go may benefit not only the people who can make good use of them, but also free you up to enjoy a ‘lighter load’ and the opportunity for a new season. Maybe you don’t need to get rid of things as such, but just unsubscribe from things – emails, newsletters, subscriptions, etc. Do you really need to hold on to them, or is it the season to let them fall away by choosing to intentionally let go?

 

  • Priorities: Sometimes our priorities or projects get old, start to decay, and it becomes time for us to let them fall away. Maybe they once served a purpose, but now they no longer do, or they are just time-wasters, and maybe take our time, attention and dedication away from other more important aspects of our lives. Perhaps when you were young, carefree and single you could spend as much time as you liked doing whatever you liked but now that you are a parent you need to refocus your priorities as your child is far more important than your hobbies or even your career. Maybe you need to make an intentional shift and let certain things go, or at least lessen your time spent on them so that you can nurture new life in other areas of your life. Maybe you are young, carefree and single, but some of the ways you are spending your time are dead priorities, and not even that important after all – maybe it’s time for you to let some of that go so that you can invest in bringing life to more important things such as nurturing yourself, your mental health and wellbeing, your friendships and family relationships, building upon your skills and pursuing your dreams.

 

  • When the dead leaves are our own thoughts, attitudes or characteristics: Many if not most of us get stuck in unhelpful patterns of thought. We hold on to them because they are familiar even though we know them to be destructive. What would happen if we let them go? Of course, it’s not so simple with our minds as to simply see thoughts fall like autumn leaves, but we can make a decision to do the hard work to let go of unhealthy thoughts, to stop believing lies about ourselves or our lives, and to choose to allow new, positive, true, beautiful, kind and noble thoughts to spring to life in the next seasons.

 

  • Letting go of good things: What if the things we need to let go of are good things? There is nothing wrong with them as such, but they just no longer belong in this season of our lives. It can be hard to recognise these at first, but perhaps slowly the realisation dawns upon us – maybe they just no longer are quite the right fit for us. You might have some profound thoughts on what some of these good things in your life might be. I feel like I ought to be able to come up with something at least moderately deep and meaningful to give as an example, but actually the only thing I can think of right now is the Planner I use. I’ve used this type of Planner for the past two years, I absolutely love it and there are so many good and great things about it, its format, set-up, how it helps you see and plan out your goals and for the first year and a half I was making some really good use of it. However, as good as it continues to be, for the Planner hasn’t changed, I’m not really making the most of it anymore because I have changed – the way I do things, the amount of time I can spend doing my Planner in a certain way – it continues to be good, lovely and wonderful, but I think it is nearing the end of having served its purpose for this season, and maybe in the new year I will have a different planner, a different system or way of doing things that works better for me for where I am right now. Maybe it’s just time to let go! 😉

So, what about you? What are the leaves that are falling away from your life in this season? What are some of the things you think you may need to let go of? What have I missed that maybe I could be encouraged to reflect upon? As always, happy to hear your thoughts.

  • o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who needs friends like these?

I have a friend, and most people think she’s a lovely person. It can be hard to be honest about someone who is nice to most people, most of the time. But sometimes she’s not so nice to me. Generally speaking I have to admit that she’s very kind, caring, compassionate and understanding to the people she meets. She tries to encourage people, to help them and support them whenever she can, and although she is a quieter person, she does have a lot of close and trusted friends.

She’s had some rocky times in the past when people haven’t treated her too kindly, but for the most part she’ll admit that she does get her fair share of compliments. She’s known as intelligent and good at her work, she’s been noted for her kindness, and some people have called her slim, pretty or even beautiful. In some ways she’s pretty ‘ordinary’ and maybe some people overlook her, but she would admit that there are a fair few people who think well of her.

She sounds like a lovely person, doesn’t she? The kind of person I ought to be glad I have in my life.

The thing is, we’re pretty close. And sometimes sadly we’re most unkind to the people who are closest to us.

Sometimes she can be really encouraging to me too, like she is to all of her other friends. But on other days, when she’s maybe feeling a bit insecure about herself she’ll let me know it.

Today, she caught sight of me standing in a queue for lunch. She whispered to me that I looked a bit fat, that I’d put on weight. I tugged at my top and my clothes and tried to look at my reflection but it made me feel bad to see myself after hearing that remark even if nobody else heard what she said.

I had been in a fairly good mood before that, and even had some brief chats with people around me, but at that point I lost confidence and lowered my head as I waited for my lunch to be served. Why was I eating that? It’s true, I haven’t exercised for a few days, or maybe even a week. I worried about whether other people would think I looked fat as well and I wanted to hide, to not be seen, I had felt alright and slim this morning but now I just felt a bit down on myself.  I never used to have this problem, I always was the slim one. But now, what were people thinking of me? That I had put on loads of weight, or even a bit? I cringed to think that people might be thinking that way about me.

I don’t know why she chose to focus on my appearance that way when she could have said something nice like she does to everyone else. What’s so different about me? She’s called me ‘ugly’ in the past. And I’ve been left feeling like I was ‘gross’ or horrible. Why would she do that? And why would I go on thinking those negative things about myself? Why would someone who receives compliments from others, someone who is genuinely kind, caring and loving to everyone else be unkind to me? Why do I let her?

I suppose that’s what can happen when you’re close to someone. And the thing is the words may have come from somewhere, may have come from her past and her insecurities because people used to treat her badly, but now that she is seen as lovely, caring, kind and intelligent, why should she be unkind to me, even if it is an ‘off day’, even if those days are fewer and farther between nowadays?

What would you do if you had a ‘friend’ like that? What do you think I should do? I wonder if some of you might be thinking that it’s all well and good for her to be nice to everyone else, and she may be a really nice person, but why single me out? It’s a good question. You’d probably tell me to ‘ditch’ her, to let bad influences out of my life because I deserve better.

But I wonder if you really understand how difficult that can be? To let go of someone so close to you even if they do cause you hurt. Do any of you have a ‘friend’ like this in your life?

I need to give her credit though that she’s growing in self awareness as to how she sometimes talks to me. She has a lot of issues from her past because she was verbally abused  – a lot. I’m trying to help her realise that she didn’t deserve it, she was young, no one whatever their age or stage in life, their appearance or any other thing deserves to be verbally abused.

She gets that to a point which is why she’s so kind, caring and loving to everyone else. But there are days when she doesn’t extend that same kindness to me. You think it would be easy just to let her go, to cut her out of my life? Not really, we’ve been in each other’s lives literally forever, it’s easier said than done!

I can’t cut her out, that would be impossible. But I can try to educate her, to help her think about the ‘snap’ judgement words she sometimes uses about me, to help her to reflect on what impact this can have on my confidence, self esteem and worth. It might take time but I think we’ve been making progress. She has been learning to be kinder to me, and maybe she’ll be as kind to me as she is to everyone else someday.

You still think I should cut her out of my life? I can’t. She’s me.

time for change sign with led light
Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

Can anyone else relate to negative self-talk? If so, what do you do to overcome it? Let’s learn to be ‘our own best friends’. x

One sentence inspiration.

Boundaries can in fact protect relationships and friendships- you need the time and space to look after yourself if you are to be there for others, and to be a positive influence; don’t feel bad for taking care of yourself, it is a good thing for others as well as yourself, but also respect others enough to kindly communicate those boundaries when you can.

bench countryside couple dating
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

 

 

One sentence inspiration.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a large number of friends – some people are gregarious and find making friends easy – if you don’t, that’s ok; there is great value in cultivating a few deep, genuine and loyal friendships that stand the test of time.

pexels-photo-225017.jpeg
Photo by Trinity Kubassek on Pexels.com