Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lessons In Friendship

Friendship is a beautiful word, and one I've longed to see deeply in my life ever since I was a young child.  I watched Anne of Green Gables, yearning for the kind of "kindred spirit" that Anne had in Diana, or vice versa, since I was mainly more like Diana.  I was the shy, self-conscious one, with a seemingly smaller brain than my intellectual siblings, but with a love for camaraderie and imagination.  My shyness kept friendship to a minimum--probably because I didn't feel sure of myself, or able to express myself without nervousness and stumbling, and that somewhat continues until today.  Perhaps because I was the "baby," the one to be ignored or scowled at because I would tag along, bumbling through things, distracting.  I felt this keenly, though I knew, most of the time, that I was loved.  But being left out, even just occasionally, can be hard for a sensitive person who loves family time.  I'm sure that sometimes it was for my own protection, such as when my family was building a tree fort when I was five or so--we even have a photo of me by the side of the fort, crying.  Words and actions are important--saying "I don't want you to get hurt" is much better than saying "you'd just get in the way." (I'm not sure how my family put it to me, but I'm pretty sure that's how I felt in those type of situations--that I was a nuisance.) That's a lesson for another day, I suppose.

Today I'm focusing on friendship, but now you know some of my background, and partly why it's hard for me.

However, I'm certainly not without blame.  Proverbs 18:24 says: "A man who has friends must himself be friendly . . . "

I was not very friendly, very much looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4)--an unsaved person is not at all good at this.  But even now, as a Christian, I struggle with this . . . selfishness, and perhaps self-pity, is ingrained.

That is one of the lessons I've been thinking about, trying to achieve: be interested, truly interested, in others.  Even if they're talking about a plain piece of wood, or any boring subject you can think of--if it interests them, it should (if it's not a bad subject/gossip) be of vital importance to us.  ("Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. -Philippians 2:4)

Another lesson is not to nurture jealousy.  This can be a real joy-killer, and leads to bitterness, anger, and perhaps distance or the end of a friendship.  There are many Bible verses about jealousy.

Another lesson is to empathize with your friends, both in sorrow and in joy.  Romans 12:15 says: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."  If you don't truly put yourself in your friends' shoes, they can sense this, and won't have your true care, concern, or excitement.  I don't mean to say that we should put on a front, but that we should try our best to understand and show our care, whether it be with a sincere smile, hug, note, gift, deeper conversation, or what-have-you.  This goes along with being interested in others, and not being jealous.

I have felt jealous, hurt, and bitter, at times, when I felt left out of my friends' lives.  I didn't receive what I thought I should--the recognition, thanks, position, etc.  This stems from pride.  I'm thinking I'm more important than I really am, more wonderful, when I am but dust and ashes, terribly sinful.  Even if I happen to be forgotten for something I should have received thanks for, I have to put myself in my friends' shoes, and realize they can't always remember everything.  They may not have realized how much something cost us in effort, time, or money.  They may not realize that we were hurt, or longing for something, or how important it is to us. We (or me, especially, with my quietness) may not have expressed much of an interest.  Can our friends read our minds?  Perhaps if they have known us for all our lives, they can often anticipate our reactions or desires (I have a dear sister like this, and ironically her name is Ann), but if it's a friend of shorter standing, one cannot expect such special capabilities.

Parts of being a friend are serving, laying our lives down for the other, listening, being humble, thinking the best, loving--I Corinthians 13 springs to mind.  The very definition of friendship in Merriam Webster has to do with helping the other person.  Do we expect to do all the "getting" in friendship, or do we expect to give of ourselves?  "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." -Philippians 2:3

And when other friendships falter, there is the precious end of the verse I quoted from earlier (Proverbs 18:24): "A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

. . . How amazing is that, when God knows all our sins (infinitely magnified in His holy sight)?  He pities us as a dear Father. ("As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him." -Psalm 103:13) 

But more than that, we can call Him friend, as that verse in Proverbs states, as well as this verse: "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." - John 15:15

When we focus on this--believe this--it makes so much difference.

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