I have all these posts bottled up about friendship from the past few weeks. One, because I’m on a book launch team for Never Unfriended (which launches next week!), so it’s on my mind as I turn the pages. Two, because I’m overwhelmed with gratitude by the new family friendships our family has formed at the kids new school this year. Three, because so many friendships have been in transition. Stages of life can mean some close friends are further away while other are closer than ever.
So I’m capturing a few of my thoughts on friendships over the next couple days. From the gift of friendship to how we stress ourselves out over friendships.
I recently had this friendship stress experience with a dear friend. Lisa Jo explains in her new book these fears of being hurt can come from a friendship bomb (a rupture) earlier in our life. Then, in future relationships, we start to see bombs where they no longer exist. She shares:
I constantly interpret someone’s feelings about a situation as their feelings about me. When a friend is frustrated about something and they share that frustration with me, I’m quick to osmosis that into a sense of frustration directed at me… Whatever the relationship baggage you’re carrying on behalf of someone else, it’s okay for you to drop it. It’s okay for you to stop taking all the weight of someone else’s brokenness onto your own shoulders. Whether you inherited it from a parent, a sibling, or a friend. Whether it’s people-pleasing or perfectionism, whether it’s control or learned hiding or any of the devastating host of behaviors we learn in order to protect ourselves from hurtful relationships. Never Unfriended, Chapter 1
I’ve done this for years. I would see someone upset and wonder if I had done something wrong. A call would come, and I’d immediately jump to a panic about whether my job or my relationship or any number of other things was in jeopardy. I’ve improved. Then I saw the same reaction in a close friend.
I was struggling with a situation. Nothing could be done about it, but my frustration and exhaustion had worn me thin and I’m sure my demeanor was less than cheery. My friend worried, “I hope it’s nothing I’ve done. I hope I’m not bothering you…” I can assure you, she’s awesome. My stress came from another set of circumstances entirely. The situation was less than ideal, but there was no reason for my friend to take responsibility. Even later in the week, she checked to make sure our friendship was in tact.
This is often what we do in relationships. I’m sure you’ve seen it play out if you’re married too. My husband will have a bad day, and I’ll wonder if I did something that upset him. His state of mind will be entirely unrelated to me, but I will worry nonetheless. The great thing about marriage is that, typically, the man isn’t sitting around worried if our state of mind is caused by his behavior (even if he should be!). But with female relationships, each with their own past friendship baggage, we can worry ourselves sick.
We all mess up. We’ve all hurt friends. Some of those friendships have made it, after talking and forgiveness, and some have fallen away.
We ask for forgiveness. We grant it. And we move forward. Not taking on every friend’s emotions as our own personal responsibility. I love my friends. I hurt when they hurt. When friends struggle, I cry and pray, and when friends rejoice, I celebrate and turn up the music. But I’m learning, I can’t take responsibility for their emotional state and I have to make sure they know they are not responsible for mine.
One of the biggest gifts God has given me, which I’ll share more about tomorrow, is amazing friends. I do not, at this stage of my life, take any one of them for granted. With our busy jobs and families and activities, friendships are a precious commodity. They can be hard to preserve. We have to guard each other like treasure. We also have to give ourselves, and our friends, the freedom of letting go of the baggage of friendships-past so they don’t bomb our current relationships.
After that, we just have to find more time for each other!