From time to time a new “friend” will come into your life who seems to become your best buddy right away. They have to sit with you, call you, and do nice things for you. This person wants to know all about you, meet your family, and be more important than your other friends. This almost always turns out badly.
Ever feel like you are being stalked by a “friend”? Smothered in niceness? Ever find yourself agreeing to things you don’t want to agree with, just because that other person pushes and you feel the need to be kind? Ever feel pushed into sharing things you didn’t want to share?
Real friends have no interest in making you uncomfortable. They understand that you have things and time and ideas that are yours, not theirs. They don’t feel like failures if you walk away with the same burden you carried in.
Beware of the false friends who pull at you and push you and try to get things out of you that you don’t want to give. Beware of friends who seem to want to take over your life. That’s not what real friends do. That’s what users do. Some people need the lives of others and use others as distractions from their own dysfunction or fear. Some people feed on the drama and anxiety of others. They love to have the secrets of others because it makes them feel special or powerful. It isn’t about you and it isn’t about love.
The advice columns often carry the concerns of people who have given money or belongings only to find out they have been used. Sometimes they find that they are responsible for the debts of others because they helped when the other person needed a loan. There are people who will be your “best friend” simply for the purpose of getting something from you. You don’t have to do it.
Listen: It is okay to say no! Set your boundaries and hold them. Your time is yours, don’t waste it on someone who is using you. Your money is yours, don’t spend it on a user. Your life is yours, don’t give it to someone who really doesn’t care about you.
Real friends will respect your boundaries. They don’t push or pull. They just walk alongside you as long as you are willing to walk with them.
Last week seemed pretty negative on the idea of friendship, but I didn’t mean for it to be that way. I know that many people have suffered from the strange and often cruel characteristics of friendships within legalist systems.
But this week I want to do something different. I believe that friends are among the most important blessings God has given us. I understand why people want, even need, good friends. But too many people are so broken and beat-up that they don’t know what a good friend looks like.
I have a few special friends. There are a few people who have had a special connection with my heart over the years. In them, I have found encouragement, companionship, and counsel. But they are few, and that’s okay.
You see, there are many kinds of friends, I think. This is my list and it may not even be complete in my thinking, but see what you think of it.
- False friends – people who tell you they are friends so they can get something from you. Usually these people like to call you “friend” and use the word “friend” a lot.
- Acquaintances – people who you know from work, church, the neighborhood, or whatever but you don’t really connect with. You don’t know them well enough to know if they would be good friends.
- Circumstantial friends – people with whom you connect under limited circumstances. Perhaps a friend you have at work but never socialize with outside of work. Perhaps someone from school from whom you have now drifted away. These can be good friends, but the friendship ends or wanes because the circumstances change. Moving away, getting married, changing jobs, ending a project, etc.
- Crisis friends – people who stand with you through a rough time, but may not stay connected beyond that time. God sends these people for support when you really need someone and you are thankful, but it isn’t the kind of friendship that lasts, perhaps because you really don’t have a lot in common. This is a type of circumstantial friend, but the relationship seems much deeper.
- Special friends – people you could call once every five years and have a great, almost intimate, conversation. Nothing has changed in the relationship during that time. There are few expectations in this kind of relationship. You might have lunch with this person every week, but you might not go to her with your problems. Not because you couldn’t but because this is one person who loves you outside of your circumstances. You are encouraged just by her presence, even by knowing she is there. She might not come to you with her problems, but she knows she could and you would care. You both know the other will be accepting, even glad to get together, no matter what is going on in the rest of the world.
Obviously, all of these are good to have in our lives (except false friends) and we are blest in the differences of these relationships. We are not made to walk alone. It’s okay to admit that we need others. But one of the most important keys to friendship is understanding and accepting the limits of expectations. Good friends accept you and love you and respect your boundaries. They don’t have high expectations of you. There is something about you they love and you might never really know what it is (nor, perhaps, do they), but you feel that love.
Let’s talk more about friendship this week! What are your thoughts on this list?
Many pastors were taught that they shouldn’t have friends in the congregations they served. For most, that isn’t a problem.
I think legalism seriously damages the whole concept of friendship.
Friends are people who know you and love you in spite of yourself. Friends aren’t perfect and we don’t expect them to be. Friends can tell you what you need to hear but can also keep their opinions to themselves. After all, friends don’t think they are responsible for your actions or for fixing you. They might tell you that you are an idiot, but they do it to your face, rather than behind your back.
I have had many legalists tell me that they were my friends. They stood with me when it made them look good or feel good. They were kind and supportive when they wanted to manipulate me. As long as I agreed with their ideas and values, I was someone special. In fact, I was someone to look up to as long as I agreed with their favorite teacher.
But when I disagreed. . .
One of the things that was simply shocking was the loss of “friends.” People who brought meals, sent words of affirmation, worked with us on projects—people we thought we could trust—suddenly were bitter enemies, doing and saying things that were vicious and very painful. Lies, cruelty, shunning—all became part of what we received from them. Wow!
This week I want to write a little about friends. I think most of the people who have come out of legalism have found much of the same thing I have.
And, I have to say, those who are our closest friends today, particularly the very few who have been with us since that time, are those who were never really a part of the legalism in the first place.
So, share your thoughts and we will have a great conversation this week.