I have been giving thought to my friendships lately. Honestly, I have been feeling a little unsatisfied and kept thinking that my friends were the problem. I am so naive. This weekend I did a little soul-searching and decided to take the thorn out of my own eye (Matthew 7:5) and realized that I am the one who is creating problems. As I lay awake in bed last night I kept thinking about ways I could be a better friend to others. I tend to lean towards giving as my way of showing love to others, because after all that is my love language and how I enjoy receiving love. However, I realize everyone speaks different love languages and I needed to reach out of my comfort zone to reenergize my friendships. Here is what I came up with:
1. Listen. Being a good a conversationalist is key to being a good friend. But being good at conversation doesn’t just mean telling great stories or carrying on the talk. It means stopping to listen and really hear what is being said. In conversation, I all too often skip ahead at the next thing to say to keep the ball rolling instead of waiting and really listening. In my head I am playing out the next story line and I miss important parts of what my friend is saying. This also causes me to interrupt my friends. Interrupting shows that we aren’t interested or do not care about what others are saying. While I don’t intend to do this, it is the message that is sent.
Another mistake we make in conversations with friends (and spouses, and even kids) is to assume we have the answer, or give advice. Sometimes others are just venting, and many times they know the answer or solution but just need to talk it out. Alex and I are reading the book How to Talk so Kids will Listen… and the tools it teaches can apply to adults as well. Helping others find their own solutions through naming feelings, or simply listening with a “yeah” every now again will show that we are interested and care, without taking over the conversation.
2. Don’t Keep Score. Alright, I will admit to holding a grudge or two in the past. And I realized I was kinda doing this. I had my feelings hurt a couple of times and I was letting the wrongs stack up against me. None of the instances were big enough to even bring to the attention of my friends, yet I was letting them build up to something bigger instead of moving on. This is a fatal move in all types of relationships. If it’s not worth talking out then it’s not worth thinking about. We are forgiven sinners and forgiving others, even if they didn’t know their actions upset you, is so important. So today I am choosing to let it go.
3. Don’t be the Debbie Downer. Am I about to admit to this one too? Yes, I am. I am the complainer. I am the one who will tell the 15 minute long story about how my kids didn’t sleep last night instead of just mentioning it and moving on. Everyone around me must also feel the pain I am experiencing. Too often this is me. Enough! I think I fell into this trap when I became pregnant. And pregnancy was the WORST! And so I let it known. And I got used to this. The problem is, others don’t necessarily appreciate this negativity. And I truly believe God doesn’t appreciate it either. I complain about the bad things and fail to acknowledge the great things. In this way, I am really no fun to be around and am not bringing glory to God who has blessed me so abundantly. Here’s how I can turn this around:
Debbie Downer: Oh My Gah! My kids did not sleep last night. Ruthie was up every two hours to nurse and on top of that Eleanor was crying and I was up and down with her all night too!! Ahh!
Glorifying God: The kids were rotten and didn’t give me much sleep last night. But God is watching over me. I have faith that there is enough rest to get me through this day and even to be patient with my kids.
4. Don’t Give Up. It is in my nature to run when things get hard. When a job gets too tough I want to leave. When the kids wear on me all day I want nothing more to get in the car and drive as fast as I can (or as fast as the speed limit will allow) just to be free. I think this is what motivates me to ride my bike or run. The feeling of being free and moving fast. Well when things get tough in social settings I just want to remove myself altogether. Maybe find new friends, maybe just become a hermit. But that’s not fair to myself or my friends. Rather than run, this is a good opportunity to let God work on my character and mold me into a better friend and a better person. It’s also a great example to set for my daughters about how to work through tough times and build lasting relationships.
5. Be Yourself. Oh yes. This one. I bring this one up because it is easy to change who we are over time to fit our surroundings. While being friends with others, it is possible to lose a little bit of yourself. It is even possible to say and do things that are not true to who you are. This is me. To fit in or to carry on conversations I find myself saying things that I’m not sure I really wanted to say. I talk myself in circles trying to discover what I really mean. And then I realize I don’t believe what I am saying at all. Being pregnant was especially hard one me (there I go complaining again) and I feel like I lost a little bit of me in that. It was hard to regain myself in those first few months after Ruthie was born, but now I find that I am ready. I am trying to pay attention to what is most important to me and represent these things in the way I talk to others.
I recently read an article about how to raise kind children. The answer (spoiler alert) is to be a kind person. As a mom, I am discovering that my every action and word is being watched by my children. Living with a two year old (AKA a parrot) is a constant reminder to be a better person, a better wife, a better mom and even a better friend. The way I work through conflict, build relationships and treat others will be the way my daughters learn to do these things. Character building is important for me, but also important for them.
top image credit: freedigitalphotos.net
family photo credit: Sadie Culberson