When I blogged about Women of Faith, I mentioned how I had prayed that God would show me who needed to be at that conference that weekend. I was just going for the trip, but surely He knew a woman who could be encouraged and inspired by the weekend.
God has a sense of humour; He knew that woman was me. Many of the talks there left me in tears. One that impacted me more than I expected was Lisa Welchel’s talk on friendship.
Lisa shared three tips about building friendships from her own experience in learning how to be a friend as an adult. Her tips resonated with me, leaving me scrambling for my notebook in an attempt to scribble down something that I could remember later. (It’s easy to have great ideas at a place like a conference; much harder to remember them and put them into practice when I get home again.)
1. If you want to have a friend, you need to be a friend.
Too often, I’ve thought, “I want someone to listen to me and to help me.” Instead, Lisa says we should have no expectations because we can’t expect other people to fill us up. Rather, we need to be grateful for what they have to offer—and to offer ourselves to them. As we be friends, we’ll find friends.
2. Find safe friends.
She shared a bad experience she had, in which she discovered that someone she thought was her friend was actually gossiping about her. That struck home with me because I realized there have been times when I haven’t been a safe friend. During that lonely time in my teen years I alluded to, I got mad at a couple of my friends for not giving me the friendship I craved. That only pushed them further away. I later made up with one of those friends, but it took time for our friendship to recover from that wound.
3. Find a woman who has it all together—marriage, motherhood, faith, diet, house—and run.
Such a woman is not safe. Her appearance of perfection becomes a standard she will put on you. Lisa said we need to find someone who knows we’re all doing the best we can, someone who’s fallen and knows how to receive God’s grace so she can give it to you. This woman will be a real friend. I found myself nodding; that’s me and that’s most of my friends—the ones whom I call to say that I had a bad day and they say “I’ve had those days too.”
Finally, Lisa told us that we can’t connect with someone else head to head—we need to connect heart to heart. In all our moves and attempts to re-establish community, I’ve come to realize that there’s an elusive, unpredictable element to friendship. I have friends whom I haven’t talked to in months whom I can call up and start chatting with and it feels like we just saw each other yesterday; we have that heart connection. Or sometimes I meet a new woman and we start talking and totally lose track of time—again, there’s a heart connection, a totally unexpected something that pulls us together as friends.
Who you are is what your friends need, so offer yourself. A real friend will encourage you to be yourself. Again, that struck home with me, because so often during my teenage years, I was putting on a show, trying desperately to be the person I thought my friends wanted so that they would be my friends. In university, I realized that I could be myself with my friends and that was a wonderful, freeing feeling. It was safe to be vulnerable with that group of girls, and that was a tremendous gift to receive.
Lisa related also friendship to our faith relationship. Think of Emmanuel—God with us. He put Himself into a human body so we could relate to Him. He spent thirty-some-odd years, walking the earth, touching and hugging and forming relationships with all sorts of people. Now, as Paul says, “You are the body of Christ and parts of each other” (1 Cor 12.:27 CEB). We are called to be His arms and hands to the people around us.
So take some of Lisa Welchel’s tips to heart; reach out and find a friend today—or hug the friends you do have.
What have you learned about being a friend? Or how has a friend has touched your life?