This time. This time, I did it right…and it feels great! Who knew?! Who knew that listening, really listening, to the wisdom in one little verse inside of 1 Corinthians 13 could completely obliterate the resentment, frustration, and irritation that I felt every single time I thought about a situation that had become a stalemate with one of my dearest friends? Probably anybody who is a better Christian than I am already knew it, but, for me, having it settle deep inside of my soul and then choosing to act upon it rather than continue to cling to those unwanted companions who were poisoning me, was a huge spiritual victory.
1 Corinthians 13:5 says: …It (love) does not insist upon its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.
This situation with my friend was tearing me apart and threatening to ruin our friendship. I was stubbornly clinging to the notion that I was right. Nothing short of full capitulation from her was going to make me happy, because, darnit, I was standing on principle. I simply could not understand how she didn’t see it the same way. Truth be told, I still don’t…but it no longer matters, because while I was insisting upon my own way, I wasn’t loving her. While I wasn’t loving her, our friendship was being poisoned. While our friendship was being poisoned, it was draining me emotionally. The cost of clinging to “right” was steep.
As I kept mulling the situation over and how to deal with it, that verse in 1 Corinthians is what I kept coming back to. It was sooooo frustrating, because it wasn’t the vindication that I really wanted. I could keep ignoring that not-so-gentle prodding in my spirit, or I could surrender to it. Surrendering felt so much like failure, before I did it. I wish I could say I followed through on that not-so-gentle prodding with grace and enthusiasm. No one who actually knows me would ever believe that, though. I did it, but I did it bitching and moaning about how unfair it was…and when it was done, when I’d told my friend that I loved her and that I was through trying to seek my own way, I felt…relief. Empowered. Free.
That had me wondering what would happen if, as much as possible for this completely imperfect human being, I just stopped insisting upon my own way.
My husband has just done, for the millionth time, something that he knows drives me absolutely nuts? Oh well. I’m just going to stop insisting that he’d do it my way if he loved me because, clearly, he’s never going to do it my way.
My teenage son is sleeping in and get a slllloooooow start to his day, despite having a couple of big projects that need to be completed on his plate? Oh well. He’ll get them done or he won’t, and he’ll be the one to suffer the natural consequences if he doesn’t. I’m just going to stop insisting that he do it my way and get an early start because, clearly, my advice is falling on deaf ears.
My teenage daughter doesn’t feel like doing the math she said she wanted to work on this year? No problem. I’m just going to stop insisting that she do it the way I’d do it if I had been the one saying it was important to me because, clearly, what I’d do in her shoes and what she’s doing are two completely different things.
I’m a slow learner, one who typically seems to have to learn things the hard way. I’ve done situations like the one with my friend the hard way before. I have insisted upon my way or the highway, and felt justified in doing so. I’ve finally figured out that there’s no peace there when it’s just stubborn pride doing the insisting, though. What I am hoping is that, as I travel this journey of self-directed learning alongside my children, they will realize that just like we never stop learning new information and skills, we also never stop growing as people, maturing spiritually, and being better human beings today than we were yesterday.
Perhaps a blog about self-directed learning, entrepreneurship, success principles, service to the community, and financial literacy is a strange place for a post about friendship to land…except that I believe it’s your own sense of “connectedness” to other people that make this crazy journey we call life all worthwhile. It doesn’t matter whether you learn the knowledge and skills you need to learn in order to be successful…it doesn’t matter whether you build a multi-billion dollar enterprise…it doesn’t matter if you invest hours into personal development…it doesn’t matter if you dole out soup to hundreds of homeless people every month…it doesn’t matter if your investments are solid…None of that matters if you don’t have anyone to love and to love you back.
I place a premium on my friendships. I think – I hope – that all of my good friends would say that about me. I’m very intentional about investing in my own friendships, and I’ve been equally intentional about helping my kids to find and foster strong, emotionally intimate relationships with peers. We talk about what it means to have and to be a good friend.
I’ve been, really, very richly blessed by all of the friends I have in my life. They are truly a remarkable bunch of women (and a few men). From the four women who have known me the longest, who know me the best and still love me anyway, I have learned four valuable lessons that I hope my kids have internalized as well.
Be that “3AM” Friend
Jennifer has never, not once, ever, let me down when I needed her. Even when I’ve needed her at the most inconvenient times – like in the wee hours of the mornings on holidays in 1998 and in 2001, when my son and oldest daughter were born. She was there, both times. The first time with a 2 1/2-month old, and the second time 7 months pregnant herself. Like when she was in the midst of a divorce and I’d just suffered a traumatic miscarriage.
I aim to be that sort of friend, and I am raising my kids to be those kinds of friends. The one who’s willing to go above and beyond for someone else. The one who’s willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of someone else. The one who will answer the phone at 3AM and get in the car and start driving right then if she needs to.
Be that Soft Place to Land
I would not have made it through the last decade without Alice. She has been, unfailingly so, my soft place to land. After that traumatic miscarriage, Alice, who was then pregnant herself, stayed – when nearly every other one of my pregnant friends walked away. She has stood by my side and helped prop me up through every single one of the worst moments of my life, and she has let me do the same for her.
I aim to be that sort of friend, and I am raising my kids to be those kinds of friends. The one who stays when everyone else is leaving. The one who doesn’t flinch when her hurting friend lashes out. The one who cries with her hurting friend. The one who says, over and over, to her struggling friend, “You’ve got this” – even when her friend doesn’t believe it.
Be Willing to Have Difficult Conversations and Confrontation
Melanie will tell me the truth. Always. She will tell me the truth as she sees it, even when she knows it’s not what I want to hear. When I let her down, she doesn’t nurse her hurt feelings and let small trangressions fester and grow into enormous ones. She cares about our friendship enough to boldly, but kindly, fight for it.
I aim to be that sort of friend, and I am raising my kids to be those kinds of friends. The one who doesn’t lie to her friends. The one who loves her friends enough to tell them what they need to hear, even if it’s painful. The one who’s secure enough in the friendship that she can disagree, even loudly, and still love and know that she’s loved.
More than anyone else I know, Danielle embodies grace, humility, and forgiveness. During a particularly bad time in my late teens, looking to get away from everyone and everything that reminded me of my hometown, I did one of the worst things I think one friend can do to another. I walked away, without a word. No explanation. No closure. And I stayed away, for nearly four years. When I came to my senses again, when I realized how badly I missed her, and how awful I’d been, I came to her with the most sincere, heartfelt apology I could give. I didn’t expect her to forgive me. She welcomed me back like the father welcomed the prodigal son. I was simply blown away.
Now I aim to be that sort of friend, and I am raising my kids to be those kinds of friends. The one who doesn’t expect her friends to never hurt her and never let her down. The one who realizes that there may be things going on in her friend’s life that she knows nothing about, and is therefore able to extend grace and mercy. The one who tries not to take every offense so personally. The one who forgives freely.
Thanks, ladies, for the powerful lessons in friendship. Your inspiration will live on in my friendships with others, and in my kids’ friendships as well.