Keeping Relationships Simple
by Tina Newson
This article first appeared in the November/December 2014 print edition of Daughters of Promise.
CS Lewis said, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” In other words, life without friendship is reduced to mere survival. We can function, we can make do, we can go through the motions yet we are alone without friends. This is simply not part of the design for mankind.
Over and over in scripture we see examples of how we are created for relationship. Our triune God represents a perfect blend of relationship in The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. In Genesis we see clearly that man was not meant to live alone so a help mate was created for him. However we were created for more then a life partner in the form of a spouse. We need others. Jesus himself walked closely with a group of men he called friends. Clearly we are created to relate closely to others. If this is indeed the case then why do so many endure loneliness and isolation?
Friendship takes time and energy, two commodities that many of us find ourselves running short on. We live in a society that rewards tangible productivity. We often find ourselves pulled in too many different directions at once. We work hard, play hard and we are tired. For friendships to flourish priorities have to be shifted and time carved out to develop relationships. However there are other barriers that block connection with others.
There is also the question of, “is it worth it?” Imperfect people love imperfectly. Song writer Bob Marley puts it this way, “The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” All of us have been hurt at one time or another by someone we considered our friend; sometime those wounds go very deep and keep us guarded. If we have been wounded by relationship then it is possible to find healing through relationship. It is clear that relating closely to others is part of God’s plan for our lives. Relationships can be be challenging but there are steps we can take to help keep friendships SIMPLE:
S- SPEAK honestly. The depth of a relationship can be measured by the level of truth spoken. Be aware of how many times you lie in the name of not wanting to hurt feelings or cause conflict. When called upon for favors are you able to say no freely without guilt? If not then figure out why, maybe you’re a people pleaser or maybe you’re relating to someone who is punishing if she doe not get their way.
I- INSTINCT is the gut feeling about a person that indicates if a person is safe for you. For many reasons we are drawn to and repelled by certain people. Trust your gut.
M- MANAGE your resources of time and energy. Be realistic with yourself and others about what you can give and what others can expect of you. Streamline activities by mixing responsibilities with recreation. For example spend a day cooking a week’s worth of dinners together.
P- PACE your relationship. Trust requires time. There is a direct correlation to closeness and time spent together. When developing friendship, be confident of your new friend’s level of confidentiality before sharing your areas of vulnerability. Guarding your heart in healthy ways helps friendships to flourish.
L- LISTEN to what is being said and what is not being said. Sometimes messages are mixed. Have you ever asked a friend how they’re doing and they say the standard, “I’m fine” but become misty eyed at the same time? Sometimes a kind invitation is all someone needs to share. “You look upset, sure everything is alright?”
E- ENJOY. Focus on mutually enjoyable activities and have fun together. Be aware of relationships that become burdensome. Ponder the reasons for the heaviness and resolve when possible.
Relationships are meant to enhance our life. We are naturally drawn to those we have things in common with. As we grow and change our friendships will also grow and change. Healthy friendships provide support, affirmation and fun. Ecclesiastics 6:14 “A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such has found a treasure.”