By Jen Dees
Adult friendships are hard. I was asked years ago to write about the topic of friendship by a Christian woman who I knew struggled with wanting closer and deeper friendships. At the time, I couldn’t think of what to write on the subject. I had some really wonderful friendships, yet I didn’t know what made some acquaintances develop into friends, and others not. I hoped that one day I would be able to formulate some thoughts on the topic. And while I couldn’t think of what that would look like, I knew, even then, that I would begin with that one sentence. That was the one fact I was certain of: adult friendships are hard.
Looking back, I realize that I had an expectation that after age 25, I would be so mature, and the Christian women around me would also have reached the same level, that friendships would not be plagued with envy, comparison, or unfounded judgments. Those were experiences of youth that ceased with the closing of the 26th birthday. So I was shocked to see these sins in my own heart, and shocked to see them in others, directed towards myself. I was surprised to see Christian women upset by not being invited to some particular event, and complaining to other women about it; women insisting on having their own way, and being upset at the results.
I don’t want to paint an overly negative picture. I have met the most giving and wonderful Christian women in my adult years, and I have learned about true Christian hospitality and friendship through them. I have met some Christian women who will go deep in discussions of theology and life in a way that feeds my soul. And I have seen Christian friendship covering petty sins in love, reaching out in times of loss and meeting needs in the most sacrificial ways. The shock I experienced was due largely to my own naive expectation that friendship as an adult in Christ would always be easy.
Through the awkward bumps in my own relationships, I have learned many lessons about friendship. One of the most important concepts I have learned came pretty late in life. I realize that I would enjoy all my friendships more if I were endeavoring to be the friend I want others to be, and not looking out so much and waiting for others to be a great friend to me. This probably sounds so simple, that it sounds like it’s just the golden rule applied to friendship. But when it comes to friendship, I think we can find ourselves in a trap of being thoughtful and intentional with a given friend for a few weeks, and then quickly looking for this treatment back, being hurt when these efforts aren’t completely reciprocated. Even worse, at times we are waiting for others to put out the effort first. The problem is, we can easily become an expert on what kind of friend others should be.
You wish others would check on you in your low seasons? Be a friend who calls and texts and checks on others. Call and pray with someone who is hurting. Check in regularly with the same person and see how their week is going. You desire to be invited to gatherings? Invite women to things. I had heard many Christian woman complain about not being invited to gatherings. And I usually will ask, have you invited ladies to coffee or on a hike, or have you hosted a small gathering at your home? The answer is almost always no. There seems to be a strong correlation between not reaching out to others, and chronic disappointment in the depth of your own friendships. Be the friend to others that you would like to have.
We easily become experts on how others should be serving us- all while giving ourselves grace. We have 20-15 vision that only sees out. We become experts at how others should love. The people I know who have been the least giving of their time and their hearts have often been the most critical about how others serve them. Women who never invite other women to lunch seem to often to be carrying the most hurt from a lack of invitations. Be the friend you wish others would be.
This is by no means a recipe that guarantees every Christian woman will have wonderful friendships. There are many ingredients to a beneficial friendship. And I think reciprocation is an important part of a close friendship that lasts. We also know that God sovereignly puts easy and challenging people in our lives at various seasons. But we can reach out and be the one to invite and check up on and extend. Because time invested into others is never wasted.