Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Yesterday's post about how we choose our friends - by creating space in our lives for those who make us better - really struck a chord with a lot of you. But as I hinted in that post, there is a dark side to our closest relationships that we cannot ignore.

It is true that we choose our friends based on what they inspire, encourage, and elicit in us, based on their ability to make us a better version of ourselves. We like these persons not as much for who they are, but for how who they are allows us to like ourselves.

The dark side to this is that these very persons who inspire, encourage, and affirm us are also the very persons around whom we are prone to feel the most shame.

These are the persons who offer us the best of all things in our lives. That's why we've chosen them as friends. They remind us of who we want to be and give us permission, just by existing, to go after it and become all the things we want to be. They let us seek joy and freedom and love and all of the most beautiful things we desire for ourselves. And yet, they often also send us running toward shame.

It's because in the very same breath that we see in the mirror of our relationships all that we desire to be, we also see all that we are not yet. We see all the ways that we are still falling short. We see all the things that keep us from being who our friends inspire, encourage, and affirm us to be. And we can't help ourselves. We look at our friends, and we think, "Man, I love you because you make me want to love me...but I just don't love me. I'm not who I want to be yet."

We look at our fun friends, the ones who are supposed to encourage us to be fun, and we don't think we are as fun as they are. We look at our self-sacrificial friends, the ones who are supposed to inspire us to serve selflessly, and we realize we have a long way to go. We look at our devout friends and our dusty Bibles, and we aren't sure how we're supposed to look them in the eye. In our friends who make us better, it is far too easy for us to see the worst in ourselves. And that's the rub.

That's why Adam and Eve went diving for the bushes after they ate the fruit. They saw in each other the reflection of the ways in which they had failed to be the 'better' that they promised each other, and they couldn't bear to be found out. Adam was the original creation, perfect as he was, and better still with Eve, but when she offered him the fruit, he failed to be the standard-bearer. He failed to be the mark by which man was set. He followed her and gave up who he was, when he was supposed to be the one helping her know who she was. And Eve? She was Adam's helpmeet. Yet she led him straight into sin. She fed him, but it was not good food. When they looked into each other's eyes, they knew they weren't better; they were lesser.

They were ashamed.

And that's the kind of wrestling that we all end up doing with the relationships that we have in our lives. We crave them because they call us to bigger and better things, to the best version of ourselves, to the fullness of who God has created us to be. As iron sharpens iron...right? But at the same time, when we are faced with the fullness of our lives as we long for them, we come face to face with our emptiness. Just as we see all that we want to be, we recognize all that we are not yet. Just as we affirm what our souls desire, we grieve what we have failed to embrace so far.

And that's where our friends come in.

Because that's the point where they have to love us away from our shame and make those better things the bigger things. That's where they have to reach out and encourage, inspire, and affirm us for real. That's where they get the chance to remind us why we love them in the first place. Not just because we see in them something we long for in ourselves, but because they love us, too. Because they don't just inspire us, encourage us, and affirm us by being who they are, but because they believe in who we are just as much as we want to believe it. Our friends are our friends not just because they make us better, but because they make us better.

And hopefully, we make them better, too. 

No comments:

Post a Comment