28/08/2012

Lessons in Friendship

Posted in Encouragement, Family, General, Musings, Self-Awareness, Teen Trials tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:08 am by The Water Bearer

Something I find particularly heartbreaking is when either one of my daughters comes home from school distressed after an incident involving someone they thought was a friend.

It is just awful to view the sorrow in their gorgeous big brown eyes, and the damp eyelashes as evidence of tears shed. I want so desperately to protect my girls from repeating my mistakes, and having to learn the ‘hard way’ about the truths of friendship, yet I realise they still need to learn for themselves in order for these lessons to stick with them throughout life.

I may be slightly biased here but I have tried to teach my girls to treat others with respect and how they would like to be treated in return. Their faithful spirit is evident in they way they treat most people, they want to be forgiving and to believe a ‘problem friend’ is capable of changing into a ‘decent friend’. So they keep putting themselves back in the firing line, realising a little more each time that some friends just continue to mistreat them.

I wonder how long it will take them to firmly value healthy friendships and avoid toxic ones? I was bitten over a thousand times before I realised I had to stop putting myself in the path of destructive, unhealthy relationships.

We parents can aim to keep balanced influence over who our children befriend to some extent, by deciding who we encourage them to spend time with for play dates and sleep overs etc.

Mostly I feel it is so important to be invested in discussions about the experiences they have had with others, and share your own experiences with them.

I try not to be too judgmental, but this can be hard when your perspective has been somewhat tainted by painful memories, and there are many variables to consider when teaching my girls the reasoning I try to apply to my own friendships. I find my self saying things like…

  • Give everyone a chance; Remember that everyone has inner angels and inner enemies.
  • Be yourself and respectfully resist things you would prefer avoiding. (i.e. Don’t be a doormat)
  • Be truthful and loyal and keep Godly principles in mind.
  • Learn to enjoy your own company so you don’t rely too heavily on friendships.
  • Avoid those who throw emotional tantrums when you set up your own boundaries, this is manipulation, stand firm if someone tries it on you.
  • A true friend will respect your boundaries and you need to respect theirs.
  • Try to be aware and keep control of your own possible emotionally manipulative behaviour.
  • Observe how others handle tough situations and whether you admire them or not and why. Consider this when listening to their advice.
  • Ask yourself if they are honest with you and not just tell you what you want to hear.
  • Consider if they encourage you to reach your full potential, that they don’t hold you back with avoidance, distractions and unmotivated tendencies.
  • If they load you up with their problems but refuse to handle them well, take a big step back and don’t get emotionally involved in their issues.
  • If you view them mistreating anyone, you can be sure they will mistreat you as well at some point in time, whether you find out about it or not.
  • If they purposely hurt you, tell them respectfully that you are hurt by their actions.
  • If they can admit how hurtful they were and sincerely apologise, then give them another chance.
  • If they don’t sincerely apologise, then be polite and continue to treat them with respect but keep your distance and your heart protected.
  • If someone is out-rightly cruel and betrays your heart in a serious way, even after an apology, offer forgiveness yet keep your heart guarded, and choose carefully your future encounters with them.

I make a point of mentioning sincere apologies, as I find it impossible to accept a false apology these days; ‘Sorry’ is a word meant to express the ‘sorrow’ of regrettable events, yet it is not a sincere apology unless it is accompanied by, a few other elements, such as:

1. Acceptance of their accountability and the role they played, without placing blame elsewhere.

2. Acknowledgment of your suffering.

3. Agreeing to stop the action or behaviour they are apologising for.

4. Understanding of your guarded heart toward them afterwards.

I have encouraged my girls to share their stories of friendship and betrayal in their prayer journals, so they may look back and reflect to gain a better perspective. I also encourage them to ask God to bring them a trustworthy friend, who will value the time they share as much as each other.

A friend can be such a strong influence as to who we grow up to be, which road we take to get there, and how successful a journey it is. Some will encourage a hard and faulty road, while others will encourage goodness of character, loyalty and healthy companionship. These are the qualities I suggest my girls consider when deciding who to share this journey of life with. I pray fervently for God to keep His hand on them and I trust Him to guide and protect them. I understand the pains of life are the building blocks of a solid foundation of learning and self-awareness and I ask Him to help me be the best example of a Godly parent as I can be when sharing friendship advice with them.

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26 Comments »

  1. Very well written and applicable to children and grown ups. You’re a good parent!

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    • Thank you so much Diana.. We can only try our best. There are many areas I need a bit extra patience, and more calm focus would be fabulous lol… But God is still working on that with me. Thank you for reading and such a lovely comment. Blessings!

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  2. Great post. Even as an adult, I still struggle with friendship because I always seem to be the one who gives too much. But I am learning to let go. If people really want to be in your life, they will make that effort.And if they don’t, it’s their loss.

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    • I used to feel that way too. Although after time I realised what I was giving wasn’t beneficial to others or me. A true friendship has no expectations, we purely exist along side each other, appreciating and respecting each others time and efforts. Some will ask for more than you are able to give and may fall away. Ultimately healthy giving in a friendship entails giving freedom and understanding. Loyalty and Love.

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      • Interesting take. Friendship with no expectations? Maybe I am missing something, or my needs are different. Perhaps I can learn something?

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      • My whole perspective and needs regarding friendships, and relationships in general, has changed dramatically over the years, since God began dealing with me about them. In a situation like the one you spoke of, I have come to see that it all comes back to the difference between human versions of Love and God’s version. His love is unconditional where we often have many conditions attached to the love we offer to others. One thing I feel urged to say here is that life is extremely busy for some and they may not have time to show us how much they care or how often they think of us, yet if we love them deeply we can accept that they love us regardless of how available they are to spend time and effort with us. It is shown over time as the months become years, when they have shown loyalty and acceptance of us and the life we have chosen, it is in their lack of demands they place on us. It is in their attempts to comfort us or help us when we are in extreme need. It is the freedom they give without getting unpleasantly emotional if our life takes us places that doesn’t suit them and what they want from us. Before I learned this I expected much from my friends and would become hurt by their independence from me. I planned things I hoped for in my head and when they didn’t reach that plan I would become disappointed, in them and our friendship. With the help of my Dad and the strength and wisdom from God I began to see how selfish those expectations were. I needed to stop expecting and just be content with what they could bring to the relationship. The only expectations of others that I have really held onto are respect, freedom and honesty, and they are the same things I try to focus on giving as much as possible in my friendships. God Bless you Blog Sister! 🙂

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      • What I require in friendship and relationships is really quite simple. You have no relationship if you don’t communicate. It’s relationship 101. 😉 I don’t think that is too much to ask. It doesn’t have to be every day, but if you’re a friend, once every couple of weeks is good. 🙂 I don’t think that is too much to ask, do you? That is not an expectation, but a requirement. My opinion. What do you think my sister?

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      • I understand your point, there is very little to relate to if no one is communicating. Though I have many people in my life who I love and wish I had more time to talk with them, unfortunately months or even years can pass with little or no contact at all, especially if I am head down writing up a storm, or if I am struggling in one of my manic or depressed states of mind. During those times I need to withdraw, slow down, focus on my responsibilities only and collect my thoughts. After I come good again I try to make contact and let others know that I am up for catch-ups again. I would feel awful if they took my need for space as a sign that I didn’t care for them. Yet if anyone got angry with me for this and wanted to cease our friendship I would be sad for them not me, because I can only do what I can, nothing more. I do agree that communication is a key element to knowing each other well. That being said, some people are simply not good at communicating and they deserve friends too. 😉 God shows us all much grace and it is a great testimony to Him if we can show that same grace to others. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me on this, I really appreciate you and the communication we have shared. 🙂

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      • Thanks for responding. BTW, I’m sure you communicate with your friends and tell them you need time and space. 😉

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      • Didn’t finish my thought. Any real friend would understand that. 🙂

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      • 🙂

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  3. GodGirl said,

    Great advice.
    I like this one:
    “If they don’t sincerely apologise, then be polite and continue to treat them with respect but keep your distance and your heart protected.”
    Something I can use today as I think about “forgiveness issues”… thanks for sharing your wisdom, and keep being a wonderful parent and daughter of God.

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    • Thank you God Girl for such wonderful feedback. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the lessons God has taught me throughout my life. And even more grateful that it may help someone else. I hope you find some peace in regard to your ‘forgiveness issues’ it is often a very difficult area of growth for us to let go of any possible grudges we can hold toward others. It says ‘Hate the Sin but Love the Sinner’. So many lack self-awareness and may not even realise how hurtful they are being. Even you and I do things from a selfish human heart at times and hope those we may have unintentionally hurt will not hold it against us. We accept God’s forgiveness for our sins so we must pass that onto others. That doesn’t mean we trust straight away but a sincere apology is the first step to letting them earn back our trust. What’s that saying? Something like, ‘Trust is earned slowly and destroyed quickly’. Earning back trust takes a lot of time. Blessings to you!

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      • GodGirl said,

        This is really helpful, thanks so much for your advice. So true – it’s so hard to work out whether it’s the sin/crime I’m detesting, or the person. But you’re right, we all hope for grace when we’ve done something wrong, and offering forgiveness, no matter the wrong, is the least we can do in comparison to how much we’ve been forgiven by God…

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      • Amen! Isn’t that the truth! Besides, holding onto grudges and bitterness only causes ourselves more harm. Better to not give the enemy more foot holes! God Bless!

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  4. Al.Erin said,

    Great way to address an issue that plagues us throughout life – good friendships are a blessing, toxic ones can destroy. Glad you’re able to speak candidly with your girls! It will make a difference.

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    • Thanks Alana, I’m glad someone else gets where I’m coming from. As for all the candid talk, it is only a credit to God for making me such an incessant ‘Talker!’ 😉 My poor girls must think often OMGoodness shut up already! lol I know my hubby does 😉

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  5. Diana said,

    This is some great advice not only for your children but for the adults as well. Kudos on being so open with your girls! God bless you 🙂

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    • Being a parent is the most important job in the world, if we are able to do better then we should try. Too often too many important things are left without discussion or attention. Thanks for reading and for you support, I appreciate it greatly. 🙂 God Bless You Too! 🙂

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  6. nature789 said,

    Very insightful post Water Bearer. This is a tough one. My son is 19 years old and is still learning that he deserves quality friendships. It is not quantity it is quality. I too kept discussions open as you do with your daughters. Youngsters are not completely in tune with their feelings and need some guidance to describe how they feel. It is hard to let go a little and watch our children hurt and learn. Oh it is hard… The prayer journals are a wonderful idea. Thank you! God’s blessing and guidance for you and your girls xxoo

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    • HI Tj, Thanks for dropping by, It is always a pleasure to see your comments! I totally know what you mean. Good on you for reaching out to your son in this way. So many parents leave them to figure it out themselves and they get hurt more than I feel is needed. Of course they have to experience pain in order to learn, We did! The more we talk with them about our lessons and what they are going through, the better! 🙂

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  7. Denise Hisey said,

    We may have had the same bug biting us…I too, was bitten too many times before finally starting to realize there was a difference between healthy and unhealthy friendships.

    The difference between my ‘before’ friendships and my ‘after’ is simply incredible!

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    • I know just what you mean Denise, me too. I’m so glad to hear you improved your friendships for the better. Isn’t it a relief! Thanks so much for dropping by. 🙂 Blessings to you!

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  8. talei said,

    you are one of very few who actually practise what you preach (as the saying goes) in regards to being A TRUE FRIEND!
    RESPECT is the key, treat everyone with RESPECT but when another person is being unkind on purpose, then RESPECT yourself and walkaway.

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    • I wish all could have that respect you speak of! For others and themselves!! Your kind words warm my heart. Much love to you my dear friend…. So nice to see your comments. You really know how to bless me so!! xoxox

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