Childhood memories of my friend Stacey warm my heart.
I can still picture summer days filled with jumping contests in our backyard swimming pool, bouncing on the trampoline, and swinging on the swingset.
Barefoot and carefree, our lips stained with popsicle juice, we swung on hammocks and built secret hideouts. Spending time together was easy and enjoyable. Childhood holds many memories like these, with friendships that brought me joy.
Imagine my surprise when friendships became complicated. As I entered adulthood my relationships shifted and I found myself struggling to find the same joy in friendship. Although I had friendships I cared about and enjoyed, those relationships also included miscommunications and hurt feelings. Some friendships fizzled without explanation, while others limped along. The ease of friendship faded and I felt lonely and confused. What was I doing wrong? Why couldn’t I get relationships right?
“Some people are just less loveable,” I told a friend one day, “and I’m one of them.” My hurt and frustration convinced me to believe terrible lies about myself: I am difficult to love, other people are more __________ (fun, kind, interesting, caring - you fill in the blank) than me.
For years I kept these feelings mostly to myself. I was sure it was only me that had these kinds of friendship struggles. I wrestled with God pouring out my disappointment and confusion to Him. Eventually, I would be brave and give things another try. Yet, just as before, my effort would return more hurt and frustration.
As I’ve started to share honestly with others about my friendship struggles, I discovered my feelings are not unique. Truth is, adult friendships are not as easy and carefree as childhood friendships.
I wish someone would have sat me down in my early adult years and clued me up. It makes sense to me now as I consider the responsibilities and burdens adulthood includes. Everything changes as we transition from adolescence to adulthood. Why wouldn’t our friendships look different, too?
God in His tender way, took my wrestling and revealed to me my flawed thinking about friendship. Time spent in prayer and His word rearranged my heart and my approach to friendships. He whispered truths to my achy soul that moved me forward.
Friend, I want you to lean in close as I share them with you. If you are like me and your heart is weary and tired of trying to find the friendships you long for, let me encourage you.
Start with God. You are valuable because you are God’s child. He loves you with a love that cannot be altered.
As I poured out my hurt, God showed me that my relationships were out of order.
I was looking for my friendships to confirm my value, instead of starting with Him. Yes, God created us to be in relationships with others. Community is part of His plan for our lives, but we can only have healthy relationships with others if we have a healthy relationship with God first.
Our worth, value, and understanding of your who we are must start by knowing who God says we are. If we look to human relationships to fill us and affirm our worth, we will come up empty. Only God knows us fully.
His word and relationship with Him must be our foundation. If you find yourself feeling less than, insecure, and lonely go first to the one who knows you fully and loves you deeply — God is waiting for you to seek Him first.
Anchoring my value to God steadied my confidence. Once I set people free of the expectations I had unknowingly tied to them, my relationships began to transform. I found myself released from a cycle of disappointment, letdown, and uncertainty about my position with others. Over and over again scripture guarantees my value. It was time to start living as if I believe it.
As soon as I began to look at relationships as an opportunity to seek, pursue and discover the God-given value of others — instead of affirming mine — my friendships transformed. “Be the friend you want to have” became my new motto. It is my approach to friendships.
This mindset echoes God’s words in Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” As I navigate friendships, I keep my focus on relaying God’s love and care to my friends by thinking of their needs.
In misunderstandings, I assume the best
In hurt feelings, I offer forgiveness
In tough circumstances, I offer grace
In challenges, I step in and help
In joys & triumphs, I celebrate
In change and new endeavors, I encourage
In all the circumstances life brings, I consider my friendship motto and choose to be the friend I want to have.
I don’t always get it right. Sometimes, I still feel hurt and confused by friendships. Friendships still fizzle and limp along, and miscommunication happens. The change isn’t in how friendships look, the change is in my perspective. I take my hurt to God and allow Him to speak to my heart and guide my steps. He is a soft place to land and a steady confidant. Day by day, I build into the lives of the people God has given me, one interaction at a time.
Be the friend you want to have. We all need people in our lives who step into our circumstances and consider our needs over their own. It isn’t always easy, but it is possible. Lean into God’s love and allow the strength and value you find in Him to overflow onto others.
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