Let’s be honest. Sometimes it can almost seem like friendships aren’t worth it.
Sure, close friendships are important, but friends come and go almost daily in your world without feeling any commitment. You feel lonely and don’t know why you have the friendships you have or if you should keep them.
What’s the Point of Friendships?
We often treat our relationships like their primary purpose is to make us feel loved, affirmed and accepted. In turn, we consistently feel disappointed, hurt and rejected. But the reality is, a big reason God has us in relationships with each other isn’t to coddle us but to change us.
Our friendships provide us the opportunity to love and be loved in the same way we are loved by Christ: graciously and sacrificially, accepting and loving one another while also giving the honest truth. God’s goal in our lives isn’t to cater to our misdiagnosed emotional need to achieve happiness in this or that relationship. One of His main goals is, however, our sanctification—changing us to be increasingly more like Him—often using others to bring to our attention the crud about ourselves we would’ve never seen on our own.
But that doesn’t mean your friendships should stay exactly the way they are. You may need to reassess your role in the friendship and whether it needs to change. Any relationship between two flawed human beings is going to have its difficulties and frustrations, but that’s especially true when one or both of you are allowing your need for acceptance and affirmation to control your interactions. Here are a few friendship patterns that may need an overhaul.
You jump in whenever someone needs a lift or is having an emotional breakdown but spend little time investing in, enjoying, and learning more about the people you have relationships with. You may not spend intentional time on even the people you claim to be closest to unless they say they need you.
Best friend collector
You have half a dozen people you call your best friend but consistently need to vent about most of them and aren’t completely open with or invested in any of them. In the process of amassing BFFs, you aren’t actually a best friend to anyone.
If you’re invited and you’re free, you usually say yes, letting other people determine which relationships are a priority in your life. You don’t take the initiative to seek out healthy, mutually beneficial relationships or take responsibility for who you’re allowing to influence you.
Having your hope for satisfaction placed in Christ (not people) and modeling Gospel-like love in your relationships is the first part of getting relationships back to what they were designed for.
Choosing who your closest relationships are with is the second.
Do the people you’re close to intentionally promote and protect growth in themselves and you?
Are they honest with you about themselves?
Do they give you the truth about yourself?
Are they convicted about their sin seeking heart and behavior change? Or do they do the things you’ve been trying to stop, sucking you back in with them?
Is their emotional, spiritual, and relational maturity similar to yours?
Are they committed to doing what’s best for the relationship even if it requires confrontation or sacrifice?
If you’re answering with a lot of no’s, you don’t necessarily need to cut them out but the nature of your relationship with them might need to change. If you’re a lot more committed to them than they are to you, you’ll need to change your expectations of them to match where they are—not where you want them to be. If they aren’t on a similar maturity level, viewing your relationship as more of a mentorship would be healthier and more beneficial to you both than trying to be besties.
It’s naïve to think two people can have a relationship and not eventually be affected by each other’s idols, sin and weaknesses. Because of this, we can guarantee our interactions with others will often be painful.
Instead of expecting people to think we’re the best thing that’s happened to them, we should expect to hurt them and be hurt by them along the way.
This may sound depressing, but there’s actually a deeper intimacy and trust that comes in our relationships when we realize this. It comes when we start choosing to have relationships based on a deep love and faithfulness to each other, willing by the grace of God to change the rotten parts of ourselves that come to the surface in the process of living life together and being gracious and honest when the roles are reversed.
Maybe if we took a step back and stopped running from the pain of relationships, we would see what God is trying to show us about ourselves and who He can be for us.
Bethany Shaeffer spent several years in ministry to college students at Liberty University and has also has done marketing/communications for the university and Liberty Christian Academy. She is passionate that her generation would experience the Gospel at work in their hearts and it would revolutionize the way they live life.