I was at a wedding reception some years back and was sitting next to a lady I had known for years. The conversation turned to the topic of roommates and then friendships.
"Well I just can't find any good friends these days!" she exclaimed in frustration. She then went on to tell me all the things she found to be bad about the 'friends' she did have in her life.
"Do you have any good friends?" she asked me. She seemed to be anticipating me agreeing with her about how difficult it was to find solid friends and how terrible some of mine were.
"Well, actually yes, yes I do." I thought for a moment of the various people in my life. "I really love the friends I have. They're pretty amazing."
She looked at me with surprise and said, "how do you find them?! WHERE do you find them?!"
Over the years, and particularly since starting this ministry, that question has come up a surprising number of times. People have seen the friendship and sisterhood that Christine, Kara and I share and have wanted to know how do we go about it.
After spending some time talking with the girls and a few other friends about our friendships, I put together a few of the main things we have found to be true about finding and maintaining solid, close, beautiful friendships.
My mom used to always tell us, "Choose your friends wisely; you become like the people you hang with." As an adult, that has transferred to the reality. Some books on personal development and leadership say, "You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with."
If that's the case, then:
1. Decide what kind of friends you want to have in your life and then work on BEING that kind of friend to others. Do you want to have friends who are honest, encouraging, have integrity and are kind? Growing in virtue and holiness? Loving, generous, etc.? Then start being that kind of person yourself. Too often we go out searching for others to be what we want them to be instead of starting with ourselves. In order to HAVE good friends, we need to learn to BE a good friend FIRST. Be the kind of person you would like to be friends with.
2. Pray FOR solid friends, pray for the friends you have in your life NOW and pray WITH your friends. I grew up with all brothers whom I love dearly, but I also always wanted a sister, so as a little girl I prayed daily for close girlfriends who would be like sisters for me. I still pray that prayer though on a broader scale--that Jesus will always help me to have really lovely people and friendships in my life and for Him to bless my friends.
Praying with friends is something I find myself doing more and more, especially as I become more fearless in living my faith. The other day one of my friends was sharing about a difficult situation she was going through--she asked me to pray for her. I told her I absolutely would, but why don't we pray together right now? And we did! We stopped what we were doing and prayed. I can't tell you the number of times that Kare, Chris and I do that with each other. One of us might say something about someone and the other will say, "Girls, let's pray for them!" and we'll bust out a Hail Mary, or just a prayer from the heart.
Friends who pray together, stay together!
3. Be honest with each other and DON'T talk badly behind each others backs. Ahh. This one can be so hard. Close friendships, like any good thing, take work. Too often I see friends (and ladies, we can be particularly notorious for this) talking badly about their other friends behind their back. Our words should be life-giving. We should never be criticizing or putting each other down. Not in conversation with each other or about each other.
Something my close friends and I have learned is if we are upset with each other to take it directly to the person we are upset with, instead of going around telling others. Often, a simple, real and raw conversation can lead to a beautiful outcome. If one of your friends hurts your feelings somehow, or did something wrong, don't assume they did it on purpose. We all make mistakes. We've got to be merciful towards each other and make space for each other to not get it perfect all the time. But we do need to be honest and be willing to tell the other person if they hurt us.
4. Fight for your friendships by being willing to have the hard conversations, by being forgiving and merciful but also be willing to let them go if that season of friendship needs to be over. I personally struggle with this one; not the forgiving part. I'm quick to forgive and I love people so much. But I really don't like conflict and I hate letting people go. When we have friends in our lives who have wronged us, it's important to be honest with ourselves and with them. Have a conversation in vulnerable honesty and see how they respond. Are they apologetic? Do they work to regain your trust and make it up? I have had a few friends over the years who betrayed me and betrayed my trust. In each of those situations I had conversations with the people and in some of the circumstances, it was poor choices, miscommunication, they made a mistake, etc. They were super apologetic, felt terrible and have actively worked to regain my trust and friendship again. Those are the friendships I have fought to keep. I fight through the frustrations and hurt because they also wanted the friendship, in their broken humanity they made some mistakes like we all do.
But for some others, that's not been the case. I've seen they aren't trustworthy, and rather than being a life-giving friend, they were pulling me deeper into a place that wasn't healthy. For those situations, I had to let them go. They were in my life for a season and I'm so grateful for that! I continue to pray for them, I'll always be kind to them, I'll always work to choose love. But I won't be investing my time and energy to maintain that friendship.
5. Outdo one another in generosity and always choose love! Whenever I've had roommates and even close friends, often times we have made it our motto to 'out do one another in generosity." This is something that I pray one day my (God willing!) future spouse and I will work for in our marriage and family life. Some ways my close friends and I work on this is knowing what brings joy to each others hearts, knowing how to help each other grow. Sometimes outdoing one another in generosity looks like dropping off a smoothie to one, writing a letter to another, inviting one to adoration or Mass, treating to lunch...I could go on and on and on. There are so many simple ways to do loving things for our friends.
Romans 12:9 says, "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in trials, persevere in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
In my close friendships we really strive to work on this. Good friendships can help us grow to become the best version of ourselves. They help push us towards heaven. They encourage us to love more, they give us a space to be ourselves on our good days AND on our bad days. They pick us up when we fall. They hold us accountable. They are an incredible gift.
Lastly, it's ok to be around a diverse group of people. I know and love people from all walks of life, people who are very different from me, ones who have different morals and standards. But what I DO want to do is encourage you to have your core group of friends (and it's ok for it to be a really small core group) who help you become the person God has created you to be and for whom you can do the same.
What kind of things do you look for in your friendships? How have you made and maintained solid friendships? We'd love to hear your thoughts!