All Friendships Are Not Created Equal, And That’s Okay.

 

I plan to spend a few posts talking about friendship.

We all have many kinds of friends and different levels of friendship.

Here’s the thing: All friendships are not created equal, and that is okay.

friendship

In fact, knowing this will help you in the long run. Have you ever had a friendship that disappointed you and left you disillusioned, wondering what went wrong?

If we lump all friendships into one category, we really can’t benefit from the friendship. The Lord brings different people into our lives for different reasons, in different seasons, and by realizing this, and keeping the Lord’s goals in mind, we can be more effective in our ministry to our friends. If we realize that every meeting is God ordained, we’ll be more apt to offer friendship with a God focused mindset.

And if we remember that our friendships are not ultimately about us, but about God’s glory and his ends in our lives and in the lives of others, we’ll be more apt to jump in and offer comfort or aid, lend a listening ear or some advice when asked, or whatever is needed, whether we feel this person is an ideal fit for us or not. Let’s face it, we all come from different backgrounds, have different personalities and weaknesses, and sometimes this prejudices us from extending friendship to someone who is not just like us.  Worse, if we believe that every friendship must have the end goal of becoming future BFF’s (to use a seventh-gradish term), we’ll be sorely disappointed by our friendships.

Friendship is ultimately a good gift from God. He modeled it for us on earth, and he called us into friendship with him. He is the reason we know about friendship.

It might help to realize that every friendship has a purpose, and if we are wise and open to God’s leading and are looking for what He might be doing by allowing this “friendship”, we can befriend all kinds of people in all types of walks, in all stages of growth, and in turn will open ourselves up to a broader spectrum of ministry.

All friendships are not created equal and do not have the same end goal.

Here are eight types of friendships. These categories might help you set your expectations and goals for each friendship.

For instance, there are:

1. Acquaintance friendship, where we see each other around once a month, enough to say hello and wave or chit chat for a second.

  • the visiting couple at church,
  • women I see in town on a regular basis.
  • familiar face at the cash register or doctors office

2. Casual friendships, where we see each other on a somewhat regular basis, once a week, bi-weekly, and have at least one common bond in our life.

  • women at our homeschool co-op
  • other moms at my kids lessons or activities
  • women in my own extended family
  • friends who are in other ministries but that we see often enough to connect with on a deeper level
  • a friend of a friend

3. Close friends who I love and know well: we do many parts of life together and want the best for each other.

  • women in our family
  • our kids’ teachers
  • women in our church
  • lifelong friends

4. Women I mentor: younger women who need some help and come to me for advice

5. Women who mentor me: older women or women more experienced than I am in an area of life, who I’ve asked for specific help in areas I struggle with.

6. An intimate friend. An iron sharpening iron kinda friend. A person who you can be totally truthful with in love and they’ll know your heart. They always assume positive intent because they really love you. Usually built over a long time, this friendship that is held together by the glue of love, trust, integrity and looking out for the good of the other person, even if you have to tell them that they are headed in the wrong direction. They accept and give correction and advice if needed without fear of losing your friendship. They are there for the long haul.

7. Women who don’t understand how to be a good friend. (Hurt women who hurt other women.) These are women who don’t seem to know how to accept love from other people, therefore can never love others well. They assume the worst, second guess everyones motives, make caustic comments about other peoples situation. They are fun on a casual level but shallow relationships are all they know. They build walls to hide their own insecurities, put on a masks so that people don’t know the real them (because they’d never love me if they knew me, they assume.) They project their own heart’s motives on other people and assume that everyone acts just like they do…so they don’t trust anyone.

8. A “friend” to avoid. These would include angry women, gossips, those who love to start discord, envious (want what you have) and unloving (does not want the best for you, but for themselves).

Although you cannot have a close friendship with one of these people scripturally, these women are strewn throughout all of our casual friendships, and you may find yourself mentoring a woman who is trying to rid herself of these things.

Have I left out any categories? Have you ever set yourself up for disappointment by expecting more from a friendship than it was able to deliver?

Do you shy away from a friendship because you believe that every friend must be a kindred spirit, when maybe God is calling you to mentor an “unlovely” person? (we are all unlovely in some regard in our lives and could all benefit from the ministry of others to help prepare us to meet the Lord.)

Are you wondering what went wrong in a specific friendship, but are now able to see that maybe you were expecting a kindred spirit, but that was not where the other person was?

Share your thoughts?

(photo credit)

11 comments

  1. Love this, Sarah. It’s something I’ve been learning lately – that not all friendships are meant to become “bosom” friendships. Sometimes they’re just for a few casual meetings, or a few words in due season. I think the hardest one for me is “friends who are moving on,” whether to a new life stage or a different area of the country. It can be hard to continue to give yourself whole-heartedly if you know you won’t be seeing that friend much longer. But I think it’s good and even necessary to do that. It’s love like Christ would have.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of this series!!

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I agree, E. Giving of yourself when you know that little is coming your way is hard, but one of the ways we can be Christ-like, as you said.

  2. Tim says:

    Golden line here, Sarah: “He is the reason we know about friendship.”

    Love the categories too. those descriptions are really helpful for thinking through the types of people who are in my life. I think too that part of friendship is recognizing that the categories are fluid and people might move from one to another and that can be ok.

    Cheers,
    Tim

    • Sarah Beals says:

      TIm, brilliant point. And a realization that can help us to set reasonable expectations on people, because in the end our needs are not met by people, but in God. Thanks for your insight.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Wonderful post — thank you! I’d love a follow-up post sometime on how to respond in a Christlike way to a #7.

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Absolutely, Rebecca. That is the tricky part, but one thing I’ve learned is that when my needs are met in Christ and I am looking to Him for purpose and fulfillment, I find it easier to love the unlovely w/o looking for anything in return. It is hard, really hard. And sometimes seems like a waste of time, but at one time or another, we’ve all had deficiencies where hopefully we’ve experienced not only the grace of God, but the grace of other people as well. I’ll comment more next post, friend.

  4. A Clark says:

    I’d just like to add as a pastor’s wife: I was discouraged years ago by a well- meaning older woman not to get too close to anyone because of my husband’s position in the church. She even had some logical reasoning behind it. But I think it actually did me damage in the first ten years of our ministry. I now have several very close friends that I really can’t imagine life without. A pastor’s wife really needs a few close friends (like everyone else)! Especially when you have no sisters. There’s more I can say, but I don’t want to hijack your comments. :) Good article.

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Amy, please feel free to share more and hijack my comments. You are so right. I believe that mindset is faulty as well, no matter how well meaning. It puts us in the place “above” the church, instead of in the body where Christ put us. It also can unintentionally lead to pride or self pity, depending on what flavor of life you adopt. Ministry wives need to authentic relationships in the church. They don’t all have to be the iron sharpening iron type, but you can’t really make a difference in people’s lives if you are aloof to them. Share away, friend.

  5. Ellie says:

    This is a very helpful concept to understand as a woman! It helps me to think through my various friendships, and be more intentional about making friends. So thankful that I do not have to be best friends with every woman God places in my life, or that I have to hold every friend at an arms length because they might not have the same standards or values in their lives.

  6. Kim says:

    This was really helpful to read – thanks! I often am too hard on myself when friendships don’t work out and wonder what I did wrong when I see now that it’s not always that something went wrong but that it’s just another season. I’ve struggled with friendships at church because in the last 8 or so years so many close friends have moved away and it’s been hard to stay in touch. So it makes me more cautious about making friends with others as a self-protective measure…will they move away too? But your blog post helps to see that even if they do, it’s ok because God has a purpose even for those shorter relationships :)

  7. Barb says:

    Glad to have found your post; I shall enjoy reading it. Thanks.