I imagine a healthy friendship to be similar to driving on a highway; there will be times when you & your friend will be in the same car & who’s driving will depend on who needs support at the moment. If I’m driving, that means my friend is supporting something I’m doing or that’s meant for me, & if they are driving it’s the opposite. It’s consistently choosing to share your experiences with that friend & realizing that neither your progression nor theirs is a hindrance to purpose or calling. It’s understanding that me winning at the moment does not mean they are losing & vice versa. It’s not even a detour or pit stop, just a quick trip along the way. A celebration or experience added to the itinerary. But when there are detours or hardships of any kind you can trust that your friend will be there for you in the capacity they are supposed to be in love & kindness, & they can trust you to do the same.
Then I feel like there will be times where you are in separate cars & separate lanes, but still going in the same direction at the same speed. Our objectives might be different at the moment, but we’re moving forward or growing together & we’re feeling ok because can still support each other on the journey. No matter what, we’re always moving forward.
All of that sounds amazing but what if your friend, whether intentionally or unintentionally, starts driving in your lane? Not just driving in your lane but what if they speed up as you’re driving together just to get over in front of you and slow down, which not only causes them to go off of their own lane or journey but stifles or threatens yours as well?
Do you call them on it? Is it safe to do so? Have you called them on something before & it didn’t go so well, so you’re hesitant to do so again? Do you have the awareness to notice when your friend is about to get in your lane so you speed up to prevent them from doing so? Or do you just widen your perspective, slow down, go around, & leave them behind? Do you stay friends with someone who feels the need to be in your lane? Why should you feel the need to be on guard & why would they think to do that? How do you deal with a friend who is upset with you for driving in their lane? Do you try to prevent conflict from happening, avoid conflict when it comes up, or face it head-on?
I didn’t start thinking about friendships in this way until recently, to be honest, after doing a pathway on the Real mental health app called “Navigating Adult Friendships” (no, this is not an ad or promo). This 8-week pathway was great because it guides you through identifying the type of friend you would like to be and the type of friend you want, which friends are core & which are more on an acquaintance level, how to start new friendships, dealing with conflict, & the process of a friendship coming to an end (hmm, this sounds like an ad, but I promise it’s not haha).
Prior to therapy, growing up, & going through this pathway, I had a strong desire for a friendship that is similar to David & Jonathan. Scripture talks about how close they were in the midst of intense conflict that we will never likely deal with these days; how they chose to honor one another & how their friendship with each other was not just out of love, but out of duty. I learned that story as a kid & prioritized friendships so much that they became more important than God. Then, eventually giving up on that kind of friendship, I just accepted anything in order to not be lonely.
Now, that doesn’t mean I have terrible friends in my life at all. I love & am thankful for the friends I have now. What I am saying is that until recently I’ve struggled with clearly communicating my expectations & desires within my friendships; that I do actually have a standard based on honesty, love, transparency, & truth.
My fear of being alone or abandoned outweighed my desire to have meaningful friendships that can withstand conflict that may end it & it wasn’t until this year that that fear was conquered – doing that pathway especially reminded me of how important friendships are to me & in general. I realized that it is significantly more dangerous to remain connected to anyone who doesn’t have a standard of love, truth, & all of the things than it is to dwell in solitude (if/when necessary) while finding the right friends to be around. Friends who won’t just have fun with you & support you when things are tough, but friends who hold you accountable, help you move forward, remind you of your purpose, & are truthful even when it hurts. Friends who expect the same from you.
I’m not saying there isn’t grace for mistakes, but what I am saying is there is no room for foolishness & I have to be wise with forgiveness without withholding it (as everyone should be). Friendships don’t always have to end (unless it’s unsafe to remain connected), but they absolutely must change for the better or with a boundary.
When it comes to friendships, especially as adults who are (hopefully) maturing & growing as life progresses, no one should accept anything less than honor, love, truth, & transparency, regardless of the closeness of the relationship. Exhibiting all of those things takes work & patience that, if we’re honest, oftentimes we don’t have or our capacity is limited. Unfortunately, burning a bridge is much easier than rebuilding it, & I just pray we begin to honor our friendships collectively & as a whole.