How do you do friendship well? We love our friends. In an era when we spend more time in front of screens and talking on (and to) our phones, human engagement with those we trust is more necessary than ever (Siri is the new normal but to bring her to 6 Flags with me and strap her into the seat next to me as we enjoy the Hulk Coaster is not is not what I'm talking about). We are discovering as a culture that the more that we spend time on with technology and on social media, we are becoming more connected while also becoming more alone at the same time. This paradox is revealing to us that as human interaction goes down, anxiety and depression increases making finding true friendship critical for life.
God has called you to community. Plain and simple. If Jesus were to model friendship for us, we would see a community of friends that would eat, sleep, work and do life together. How you conduct your life and how healthy you are determines the quality of friendships around you determines the culture of friendship you have.
Genuine friendship is hard to find. Faking friendship is wrong but seems easier than cultivating genuine friendship. In an age when we edit the best parts of our social life on instagram, tweet the exciting parts of our life and share the best moments on facebook, comparison and discouragement has potential to erode friendships even though our motive is to celebrate the relationships we have on our social media channels. Becoming "friends" and "liking" what you are doing gives us paradoxal language that takes the word "friend" and makes it into a flippant click and a non-emotional "liking of people" and things making it hard to appear or even feel genuine. Real friendship isn't just momentary taps on our keyboard but it's an authentic choice to say you belong when we agree and an acceptance of the other when we disagree.
Scott Sauls, in his book Befriend, says it this way about genuine friendship:
Real friends not only agree but disagree; real friends not only enjoy each other but hurt each other; real friends not only applaud each other’s strengths but challenge each other’s weaknesses; real friends not only enjoy life together but struggle through life together; real friends not only praise one another but apologize to and forgive one another; real friends not only rally around their points of agreement but love and learn from their points of disagreement.
The origin of the word "friend" is defined as: to love and to favor. Even going one step further the root word of friend is "freo" which is defined as this..."free." The essence of friendship is freedom. I love this. A true friendship gives you freedom for you to be yourself and for others to be themselves. If you don't feel you can be "free" with those around you...their is a case to be made as to if they are your true friends.
This means their are two critical parts of friendship:
The freedom of being known by others and the freedom of knowing others.
The freedom of being known by others means you are open, you are authentic, you are genuine, you are sincere, you share your passions, you share your interests, you share your story. We all have a story that MUST be told and heard. This freedom of being known means you speak the truth on the issues that matter to you, you share what you dislike, you give your opinion, you share your frustrations, etc. This is where it becomes vulnerable for you. But when we do, their is a freedom that comes when we can truly share our true feelings. But we don't share these feelings enough because we do what others do to us: we judge, we condemn and we pull away. So we guard ourselves. This is why a culture of authentic friendship matters. Because when YOU stop judging others by what they say, you give others permission to stop judging as well. When you decide to stop pulling back in a relationship because they say or believe differently than you but drawn new year, listen and have a dialogue of understanding. By coming in closer to those who believe differently than you (especially true in the hutch) you are creating a frendship culture that is healthy because you can be free to be you and to allow others to be themselves too.
The other half of friendship is the freedom of knowing others which means you get to know their story too. When we meet someone, we choose to fill in the gap of what we think about a person by judging their outside appearance and actions. But hen we discover their story. Suddenly or judgments and accusations begin to change into statements of "I never knew that about them" or "that explains why they are that way" or "me too." We begin to discover a story about someone that makes us a better person and in turn an better community. We have got to become better listeners and even better celebrators! n his book on how we love one another, The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis says that all true friendship begins when one person looks at another and says, “You, too?” We need our "you too?" moments. This is the common ground on which we we begin to accept them and the is the foundation of friendship to many of us.
Do you find it easy to share your story with others? Are you a good listener of other stories?
Just be getting to unpack this topic on spiritual friendship Part 2 is coming tomorrow......