Imma stickwichu foreva. That's right. Forever. Amidst the trials and tribulations any lady undergoes in her 20s or 30s, one of the greatest joys and sources of strength throughout my last years has been the community I have found with my closest friends: the joy of true friendship, the gift of laughter, the freedom of transparency.
It amazes me how many people in our society do not experience on a regular basis the treasure of intimacy, which is not only found in romance or marriage, but which is between friends, between parents and children, and especially between ourselves and God.
We are made for union, closeness, and family: to be able to share our hearts, our joys and struggles honestly with others, and to be loved as we are. And vice versa, to embrace others as they are, in all their weakness and fragility.
Yet, so many women today (and men for that matter)--rather than having friendships where they experience love, acceptance, safety, affirmation, and truth--live an opposite reality. They come together with their friends only to enter into a world of gossip, comparison, cutting down, insecurity, even lies and mistrust. A place where they feel they need to wear a mask and play a role.
So what can we as women do to have authentic, life-giving friendships in our lives?
1. Pray for the gift of godly friendships.
I have seen God's Providence at work in so many areas of my life--including the relationships He has blessed me with. If you are lacking beautiful friendships with people you can trust, ask God for this gift. Be patient, persistent and watch Him provide! He may surprise you, and His Providence may come in unexpected packages, but His love never fails us!
2. Pray with your friends and for your friends.
Part of the blessing I have with Christine and Maria when we are hanging out or are on the road, is being able to pray with them. Prayer is a beautiful way through which we share our hearts. Practice praying with your friends--going to mass and adoration together, saying a rosary, even a simple "Our Father." Ask each other for prayer in times of need. We need to be able to reach out to one another in our struggles and ask for help through the gift of prayer.
3. Nurture relationships with girls who share your deepest values.
Look for other women who value what you value most: your relationship with Christ, family, your morals, high standards for your life, whatever it may be. The more we share our deepest values with another, the deeper we are able to enter into friendship and intimacy with them because the more we can share and understand each other.
4. Be honest, transparent, and true to yourself.
I have a bit of a reputation for being a truth-teller (for better or for worse), but honesty is so liberating! Don't wear a mask, but be honest to the best of your ability: especially with your friends and family. When you have an issue with someone, don't just sweep it under the rug, or brush over it. We do this way too much in our culture, and then it explodes later down the line. We need to learn to share with others when we are suffering, when they have done something that has upset us, when we have a problem with something. We need to learn how to work through the discomfort of the "problems" that are a part of every friendship or relationship if we are going to know the joy of intimacy with another.
5. Cease to compare and despair.
This is a hard one (especially for me!) Comparison only ends badly, and so many of us do it continuously. One thing I have tried to do when I see something another has that I want is praise and thank God for that gift... "Thank you, Lord, for the gift of her beauty!... Thank you, Lord, for the gift of her joy!... Of her intelligence!... Of her success!" Praise and thank God for the blessings in the lives of others, and CHOOSE to trust in God that He has you exactly where He wants you.
6. Affirm, uplift and encourage.
Tell your friends you love them. Tell them what you admire about them, why you believe in them, what you see in them that perhaps they can't see on a regular basis. Tell them why you are grateful they are in your lives. And do this often. Affirmation and encouragement goes a long, long way and when we know that those around us truly love and believe in us, it does wonders in our lives.
7. Practice concrete acts of charity.
This is one of my very favorite things about the friendship I have with my girls in His Own! We constantly try to "out-do" each other in kindness by practicing acts of charity in the smallest of ways... writing each other encouraging notes, buying each other our favorite candy. What always amazes me is that the most joyful thing is not when I am the recipient of these acts of charity, but when I am the one doing them! When we practice charity for others, it fills OUR hearts with joy.
8. Accept that no one is perfect.
This goes for others as well as ourselves. Part of finding peace in life is accepting the great imperfection within ourselves, others and the world around us! We need to accept--deeply within our hearts--that our friends are not perfect. No one is perfect. And we need to give them permission to be imperfect. We need to give our friends permission to be who they are, make mistakes, and stumble. And we need to know that we are going to do the same. Which leads me to...
9. Be quick to say I'm sorry and to forgive.
Saint Augustine said, "Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues." It takes both great humility to say I'm sorry, and great humility to forgive, but we grow in holiness when we do both. We also grow in the freedom to be ourselves, to love and be loved, and to be what we truly are, which is human.
10. Laugh often and enjoy life together!
One of my favorite things in life is to laugh! I laugh a lot with my friends, even at the silliest things... And we find endless things to laugh over! We have even learned to laugh when life gets becomes heavy and grey. Find friends you can laugh well with. Find friends you can enjoy the simple things in life with... watching a movie, eating an ice cream cone, going for a walk, cooking a meal, chatting over the phone about your day, telling one of your favorite memories to.
What are your thoughts? What do you look for in true friendships, or what have you struggled with in trying to find real friends? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!