Thursday, May 21, 2020

How to Be a Friend

If we choose our friends because they inspire, encourage, and affirm us and make us better versions of ourselves, and if those very same relationships live under the constant threat of shame as we realize that we are not the better persons we want to be, then the next question we have to ask is, how can we be good friends to those who have chosen us and who live under the constant threat of shame when we are near? 

Oh, you thought this was going to be a nice, easy series that just makes you more thankful for the friends that you have? Sorry. No dice. 

Because as important as your friends are to making you better, you are important to making them better. They have chosen you because something about you inspires, encourages, and affirms them. It's one of those things that's easy to lose track of when we're on the receiving end of praise about how wonderful we are. 

But what really makes us wonderful friends?

First, be yourself. Yes, really. Be fantastically, fully, wonderfully who you are with all of your quirky little habits and your silly little jokes and your deep, burning passions. Be exactly the person you were made to be, while growing into the person that you're still becoming. Be honest about yourself. Be authentic to your spirit. Be real about your God. Just. Be. You. 

You are a friend to those who have chosen you because of who you are. Because something about who you are makes them better. It gives them permission to be better. It sets an example for them of how to be better. The absolute best thing you can do for someone who has chosen you to be their friend is to be the person they chose when they chose you. Be the things that they saw in you (provided that's who you really are). That's what they need in their life. If it wasn't, they would have chosen someone else. 

Second, understand how this shame thing works because it's going to require your grace. These persons that have chosen you because you make them better also feel their own insecurity when they are around you. They look at you and see everything they want to be themselves, but they recognize all the ways in which they are not yet that person that they want to be. It's going to be tempting to them to run occasionally and jump into a hedge just to get away from the pressure for awhile. 

Jump into the hedge with them. Run away with them. Doggedly follow them and remind them of how beautiful they are. Be gracious with them, as the Lord has been gracious with you. They want to see themselves reflected in you - reflect the best of them so that they can see it. Actively affirm, encourage, and inspire them. Find ways to tell them what you see in them. Find ways to help them see it in themselves. 

Your love, as a friend, is going to be the thing that helps them through shame. Don't ever forget that. 

And finally, although I mentioned it briefly above, keep becoming. They've chosen you as their friend for who you are, but you are also a dynamic human being. And when you continue to grow, you give others permission to continue to grow. They may think they want you to be the same forever, but the truth is that once they see who you're becoming, it adds a whole new level to the relationship. For both of you. So never stop growing, never stop becoming. Never stop pushing yourself and surrounding yourself with friends who make you better. Because the moment you stop becoming better yourself, you stop inspiring, encouraging, and affirming others to be better, too.

Want to be a good friend? Be yourself; be gracious; keep becoming. 

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