Growing up, I often had a hard time creating and maintaining girl friendships. I had friends but there was so much I didn’t understand about girls. I often felt out of the loop and noticed my friendships ebb and flow like the tide.
Maybe you totally relate.
After experiencing enough drama with girls and failing to wedge myself into cliques, I nearly threw my hands up in surrender and concluded girl friendships just don’t work.
“Girls just don’t get me,” I remember telling my mom in high school.
“Girls don’t get you? Or do you not get girls?” She rebutted.
Hmm. I hadn’t thought about that. I had spent so many months passing blame, assuming girls just didn’t understand me or didn’t care to understand me. Perhaps mom was onto something.
“Maybe both,” I reluctantly responded.
And maybe it was both. Maybe I had a hard time really developing the meaningful friendships I longed for (you know–the kind that are based on more than just being invited to sleepovers or gossiping about the latest guy?) because I was so afraid of putting myself out there beyond my comfort level…because I was afraid of being rejected or misunderstood and of losing a friend that I really cared about. I hated girl drama and didn’t even want to get close to the realm of subjecting myself to it. So I didn’t…but my heart paid for it because I closed myself off from any opportunity to have the kind of friendships I needed and wanted.
Several years later, I found an envelope on my bed a few weeks before I left for college. Inside? A piece of paper titled, Rules of Friendship for College and Life by Mom.
(THE CUTEST, RIGHT?!)
I didn’t think much of them at first but by the middle of college, I began to see their value. These “rules” changed my outlook on friendship and when I began to feel like my friendships faded again or when I felt alone or misunderstood, I’d refer back to this list to help fix my focus on what matters and I’d remember take time to build meaningful friendships…not just run into the most convenient ones.
I recently found her old letter in boxes of old stuff as we prepared to move a few months ago. Again, it struck me and I want to share those same nuggets of wisdom that I found tucked inside that envelope with you because I think so many girls and women–even those who get invited all the time and even those who have a comfy little place in their group of girls–tend to overlook some of these things at times. And without warning, we’re left wondering…why do I still feel misunderstood? What’s up with the drama? I have friends so why do I still feel alone? How can I have more meaningful friendships? Do girls even get me or did I miss the memo about how to be friends with girls?
So without further ado, I give you the 12 little secrets to finding the kind of friendship your soul not only wants but also needs:
- Be there. In other words, friendship is more about being around and available than being the perfect friend. Take the pressure off of yourself. Just be there and sacrifice your time so that you can spend quality time with her on a regular basis–even if you don’t like everything about her. Sometimes insecurities or life’s circumstances make people close up. If vibes seem weird or she retreats, be there anyway. Tell her to grab her boots and take her for a hike. Or invite her to brunch at random–just to get her out of the routine, get her to open up, help her laugh, and remind her she’s cared about when her world seems upside down and backwards. She’ll appreciate you for it in the long run.
- Hold her hair when she throws up. In other words, love her when she’s at her lowest and when it inconveniences you. Later in life, you might be helping her deliver a baby or bury a relative. Pray with her and for her and hold her up when she’s down. If you can handle the tough stuff, you are a great friend.
- Don’t mooch. A mooch is someone who is just a taker. A mooch doesn’t bring anything to the table and they always wait for others to provide. They take your stuff, don’t offer to pay, and ultimately don’t understand the responsibility that comes with being with other people. This means: set boundaries, be generous, and be fair. Don’t just take her stuff or borrow her clothes all the time–even if she’s a close friend. Consider what you can offer, how you can ensure that you don’t take advantage of another’s kindness, and always bring something to the table–financially, spiritually, and emotionally. Encourage her. Offer to pick up the lunch tab. Lean in and offer a listening ear. Just don’t be a taker.
- Keep from being overly emotional about things. Now, this doesn’t mean don’t have feelings. There’s nothing wrong crying or with needing our friends when life spins out of control and PMS is real. But watch how much you complain. If you’re always the whiner, the bossy girl, the intense girl, the girl that’s uptight about stuff, the girl that throws a pity party, or is just plain dramatic about everything, people would rather avoid you. That takes too much energy to deal with all the time. If you’ve having a hard time, don’t dump it all on one gal. Call your mom, or your aunt, or another good friend.
- No matter what she does, no matter how stupid it is, don’t freak out. People are people–even Christians are going to make mistakes. Sometimes big mistakes. Help her find a solution if she asks for help. If you don’t know the answer, at least pray with her or point her to someone who may be able to offer more help. But be wise–if she continues to make bad choices or drags you down with her, back away from the friendship.
- Don’t compete for guys and don’t always go to the party looking for one. And if you have a guy and she doesn’t, make plenty of time for her. When she is with you and your guy, chill out on the PDA. That’s obnoxious for someone to watch, especially if they don’t have a guy. Respect her feelings and make room in your schedule for her.
- Don’t let her go with the creepy guy alone. In other words, if she’s spending time with a guy you know isn’t good for her, be honest with her about your concerns. If she doesn’t hear you or take your advice, pray for her heart and be as present as possible and watch out for her without totally babysitting her…even when she’s stubborn.
- Know when to talk and when to shut up and listen. In other words, no one wants to be around a person who knows everything or talks about themselves all the time. Often times, it’s better to listen. When you do talk, be be sure to ask about her, talk about other things, or share a story everyone can relate to or appreciate. And be sure that it doesn’t sound like you’re being judgmental unless your opinion on the subject is being asked.
- Be positive. The girl who always has a problem, rarely laughs, or can’t let little things go is a real drag. In other words, don’t be negative and don’t talk about people unless it’s positive. (Ephesians 4:29). Celebrate her victories even when you’re down. When life is going well for you and she’s down, don’t feel guilty but don’t talk about it too much. There’s enough comparison and competition in the world. We don’t need to be a catalyst for more.
- Don’t stay friends with her ex. This doesn’t mean you have to hate her ex but don’t go out of your way for him. If you were friends with her first, keep that friendship a priority. In other words, loyalty is important in friendships. This doesn’t mean the girl fights and drama we see on reality TV. It means valuing the friendship and the person she is to you more than what others think or than doing what’s easy.
- Give plenty of hugs and sincere compliments. All women have insecurities and if you build her up, she will appreciate you and want to be around you. People just want to be loved and seen. It doesn’t have to be much but it goes a long way with gals.
- Be kind and genuine with her other friends so she never feels like she has to choose. Don’t let feelings of jealousy stir up drama. It’s not worth the heartache or the headache.
Even after all these years, this list challenges me again. Why? Because it makes friendship about the friend, not about me. Did you notice how each one of these were ways to be a better friend NOT to make others better friends? These are ways to step into her world and love another more than we love ourselves.
It challenges me to see that, maybe, just maybe, it’s more important to understand girls than to hope that they’ll eventually understand me.
I know, it’s hard to hear. We want to be loved and understood and if we’ve been burned before, it’s easy to scoff at this list and think, “Psh. PLEASE! Been there, done that! No thanks!”
But maybe true friendship is more about understanding than being understood. Maybe friendship is more about seeing than being seen. Maybe friendship is more about serving than being served. Maybe just maybe, it’s not about sometime “getting” me but instead, me “getting” them.But maybe true friendship is more about understanding than being understood. Maybe friendship… Click To Tweet
The hard thing about friendship is that there are no guarantees that she will reciprocate this same kind of love, understanding, and intentionality. One of your friends my be a mooch, someone else may be high maintenance, and another may be kind of negative. But that doesn’t mean you have to be.
I think, sometimes, we avoid friendships that require much of us because we’re afraid to risk much. When we’ve been hurt or walked all over, we begin to close up and control our environments. I mean, who wants to be hurt again? Trust me, there’s wisdom in guarding our heart but that doesn’t mean we have to live in bitterness and isolation or write off all women as hopeless excuses for friendship. Though it can be tempting to do when friendships haven’t gone our way in the past, there’s a problem with that logic because the greatest satisfaction comes from the greatest sacrifice.The greatest satisfaction comes from the greatest sacrifice. Click To Tweet
This includes our friendships.
In John 16:33, Jesus tells us that the greatest, most soul-satisfying love and friendship comes from dying for someone else…not from someone else dying for us.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
This doesn’t necessarily mean we have to jump in front of a bullet for our friends. We may never be presented with a situation like that in our lifetime. But we will always be presented with opportunities to sacrifice our own desires, safety shields, and needs in order to be a better friend. To experience true, meaningful love and friendship, we have to die to our own desires and expectations. We don’t have to let ourselves get walked all over but we also don’t have to be afraid to be the friend we would love to have.
There’s no such thing as being too nice. If you tend to get walked all over, consider how you’ve not respected yourself enough to set boundaries, instead of just assuming you’re too nice to people. Being too nice is really what friendship is all about.
Dying for our friends can mean setting aside our pride, judgements, and conveniences and serving her when there are no guarantees that she will appreciate or reciprocate it. We risk being burned and unappreciated when we enter into every and any relationship. But the higher the risk, the higher the reward.
It’s also okay to be slow to make friends and to choose wisely where we invest our time and energy so that we can really give our best to creating and cultivating meaningful friendship. Personally, I don’t have a boatload of friends. I’ve learn the beauty of taking time to cultivate deeper friendships and risked being rejected as a result. Truth is, we don’t just have to be great friends with anyone whose nice to us (like I so often found myself doing for many years). We shouldn’t expect that to happen. Just because you’re in the same sorority, on the same team, or in the same book club doesn’t mean you have to totally get each other.
When we choose the latter, when we stop obsessing over quantity and instead create quality (notice how I said create? Bring it to the table for someone else!), we begin to crack the code to more meaningful friendships…the kind we really want and need.
That being said, I think friending should be a verb and put in the dictionary as such because it really only works when it’s active. Friending is like loving–rarely easy but always worth it–because it requires much but it also returns much. We only have so many hours in a day and we only have so much energy in our tanks so we have to make a decision: am I going to waste it all trying to get everyone and anyone to like me or am I going to be patient and really intentionally invest in creating real, authentic friendships?
True friendship isn’t easy but that doesn’t mean we have to be afraid of it. When we love like this, when we stop expecting everyone else to “get us” and start paying attention to “get them” instead, we get a taste of what it’s like to love like Jesus. He was rejected, spat on, and taken for granted more than we will ever be. Yet He loved and sacrificed for our sake, anyway. When we choose to follow that example, we get to experience just an ounce more of the love He has for us…even if our friend doesn’t love us that way back.
He laid down His life for you. The least you can do is be patient and positive, lean in to listen, hold her hair if she needs it, and hug her when she cries.