When it comes to relationships, do you prefer quality over quantity?
I want real. Gimme authentic.
As idealistic and fanciful as it might sound, have found the quest to be a challenging and genuinely fantastic path.
I do not recall a time when a person rejoiced when I confronted her/him about destructive behavior, whether lies or manipulation.
On the other hand, I recall rich memories formed from choosing the narrow road of real friendship.
During days ninety-nine through one hundred five of my year-long pause from the Bible, I reconnected with a close friend.
And it invited me to reflect on my journey to have healthy friendships.
Real Friend, Real Jesus
Lately, I have been in some kind of cleaning house and tying loose ends process in my life.
And for weeks, I thought about one particularly close friend. There were loose ends in our relationship.
We confided in each other and celebrated each other.
We saw each other’s heart. We walked through valleys together and conquered mountains, as well. Our relationship beamed with authenticity.
Despite our closeness, we became disconnected over a miscommunication.
I thought she didn’t want to hear from me.
She thought I didn’t want to hear from her.
Neither was true.
I laugh, as I write because we were trying to respect each other’s incorrect expectations.
I missed my friend. Finally, after unsuccessful rounds of phone tag, we connected.
When we spoke, it became clear in the first few minutes that we had a miscommunication.
Hearing the hurt in my friend’s voice weighed at my heart. I felt like I had failed my friend miserably.
After apologizing to each other, we expressed in our own ways how we did not want to cause each other pain.
The beauty of the difficult conversation was that each of us was willing to hear each other and see where the misunderstanding occurred. There was no avoidance in seeking to ensure that each other felt heard.
We picked up where we left off.
Just like that.
The encounter reminded me of the freedom that came when people followed Jesus.
Freedom happened just like that.
So, if Jesus is like the ultimate friend, why did I go so long in life with what turned out to be low expectations for friends?
Shouldn’t he provide the model?
Fake Friend Jesus
In the spirit of authenticity, I used to struggle with what felt like one-sided friendships. Whereas some women struggled with boundaries when dating, I struggled with boundaries in friendships.
I used to make relationships more complicated than necessary. I used to put up with much foolishness from people who did not care about me as much as I cared about them.
For some reason, I thought that I was demonstrating the patience, kindness, and generosity of love.
In my mind, I thought this was reflective of Jesus. Well, it was like some kind of fake friend Jesus.I disrespected myself and expected others to respect me. There was nothing real Jesus about that.
I discovered that respect required raising the standard for myself in all relationships with a clearer understanding of what it looked like.
I began looking at people’s actions and behaviors, not just their talk. I started believing their character. I used to project my hopes, wishes, and dreams onto people instead of seeing their reality.
Now, I realize that, sometimes, their truth reveals their fight to stay in pain and drama.
I do not have to be involved in the theatrics of it all.
Over time, I found it challenging to ignore true colors- no matter what the hue.
I continued to learn to recognize the different red flags.
Trust my instincts instead of other people’s perceptions.
I learned that the joy of real connection outweighed the risk of getting hurt again.
The good indeed has outweighed the bad.
From Fake to Flourishing
When I think about the friends who surrounded Christ, everyone was not fake like Judas. There is something special at that moment where eventually Jesus called his disciples, “friends.”
Friendship seems to be something dear to God. If friendship is a divine gift, then does God expect us to have dysfunctional relationships?
I beg to differ.
God did not make you and I to occupy the place of someone’s unresolved and misplaced pain. No matter what the issue entails, willingness, openness, and surrender are prerequisites to growth. If someone focuses on justifying their current state, denying their problems, or projecting their inner turmoil onto me, I grant them the space they need.
Call it a boundary.
I am not committed to fighting people to grow and change in any area. Yes, that includes race.
For the most part, change starts to happen when people want it to happen.
For the love of God, if folks cannot make me change, who am I to think I can force it?
People with a low sense of boundaries and respect do not understand this truth.
I walked this path for a long time with certain friends and family.
Eventually, I faced the question: Am I committed to progress (a vision) or craziness?
Today, I am thankful for close quality friends across different backgrounds. These are people who have my best interest in mind. When they challenge me, it was for my good. Their sheer goodness towards me was crystal clear.
To say I am grateful for their love would not come close to an understatement. I had a rocky home life, so over the years, I have crafted family from a mix of relatives and friends.
I think it is why I appreciate those who are close to me. Perhaps, it is because I have experienced so much worse, that I have a tremendous appreciation for good.
Maybe, I love them much because I have been forgiven much.
Do you know what I have found?
Some people come into our lives for seasons. The seasons can even span a lifetime. Cherish these seasons.
Some people do not belong in your life in particular seasons. Go tell your inner Pharaoh, “Let those people go.”
I have learned that everyone does not deserve and is in a healthy place to honor direct access to your heart and your energy, even if they come shouting praises to God or smiling from the pulpit.
Like Christ, discern the spirit.
By honoring yourself and respecting yourself, you create room for the kinds of Divine relationships that are mutually flourishing.