I just finished reading Christine Hoover’s Messy Beautiful Friendship which comes out on April 18th, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely and wanted to share a few thoughts and quotes from it with you.
First off, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book about cultivating women’s friendship. Would it seem seventh-gradish? Would I feel seventh-gradish reading it? Who has time for all the drama that can accompany women’s friendships, never mind read a book about all the ins and outs of said friendships? But Christine is one of my favorite bloggers, and I appreciate her writing, so I gladly jumped in and read, and I’m glad I did.
Christine continually points us to Christ for our ultimate fulfillment, and gives us a Biblical framework for nurturing healthy, God-honoring friendships, which is why I would recommend this book.
It’s easy to read, relate-able, and convicting.
She shares her own struggles with interpersonal conflict, her tendency of building walls that shut women out, her assumptions about other women’s behavior when she doesn’t know the whole story, her tendency to make excuses that hinder friendship, and the common struggle to second guess everything about sticky friendships–aka–assume the worst in conflict.
She tells how she matured and pushed through to understand, listen, honor, and really love her friends from all stages and walks of life. She confides how she used her position as a pastor’s wife as an excuse for not having close friendships, when, in fact, she claims that her own indifference and pursuit of the “one friend to rule them all” were at the heart of her years of loneliness.
“When we hold an ideal of friendship in our minds, believing it’s attainable, we hold a standard above the heads of real women God has placed in our lives, and then we wonder why we’re constantly disappointed by the realities, complexities, and difficulties in our relationship.” (Kindle, loc. 366)
“But in reality, our wish-dreams have little to do with God and his kingdom and everything to do with us and ours. God gives us relationships that are enjoyable and a blessing but also sanctify and challenge us out of our selfishness, because he intends to get the glory from our friendships.” (Kindle, loc. 378)
In other words, friendship isn’t all about us.
“Biblical friendship begins with God and ends with him also.” (loc. 462)
“When I am disappointed with my friendships and I take time to dig a little deeper in my heart, I inevitably find that I’m looking for my friends to relate to me as only God can.” (loc.504)
She devotes a section of the book to threats to friendship.
Fear: “If fear lies at the heart of our attempts at friendship, our interactions with other women will be drenched with insecurity. We will be entirely unable to handle conflict, will lash out an anything that brushes against our old wounds, and we will be quick to retreat at the first whiff of difficulty. We tell ourselves that this is natural, that this is the way friendship goes. This may be the way worldly friendship goes, but it doesn’t resemble anything we see in Scripture. Fear is an impediment to all the commanded “one another” moments in Scripture, because fear keeps our attention solely focused inward.” (loc. 737)
Unloving thoughts: “What are your thoughts about those who have hurt you? Did you have expectations of them that were too weighty? Are you holding on to bitterness even though Scripture tells us to root it out? Are you hurt because you’ve been keeping score and you feel you’re not getting what you deserve? Have you been keeping a record of wrongs? And if you’ve been legitimately sinned against, are you allowing God to escort you through the process of forgiveness? Are you fearful of being hurt again and therefore unwilling to trust God with your heart? And, most importantly, do you see what your fears are doing to you and to your friendships?” (loc. 798)
And she includes a super helpful list of questions to help you identify your most spiritually beneficial friendships, so you can put extra effort into nurturing and caring for those relationships. I did this simple exercise of jotting down the names of those women who build me up spiritually, who I trust to speak truth and correction into my life because they’ve earned my trust and mutual respect. I realized through this exercise that I really need to schedule more time to spend with these edifying women, so I can benefit from them and bless them. The exercise also showed me relationships I need to be careful about, because we are warned against having friendships with angry people, or those who are unloving, untrustworthy, or an “unfaithful” wounder.
Turns out, being a good friend is about loving others well by following Scriptural mandates about honoring others first, loving them enough to think the best about them, giving the benefit of the doubt, faithfully speaking the truth of scripture into their lives, breaking through the awkward and being the first to love, honoring and preferring one another, submitting to one another and a host of other “one another” commands. We can only do this well when our identity is secure in the love of Christ as our ultimate friend.
I think this book will especially be helpful to moms of teenage girls who are navigating the maze of early friendships and learning what really loving one another looks like in practical terms. The teen years lay the foundation and course for normal, healthy friendships (or unhealthy ones) later on.
Caveat: I do need to mention that there are several casual references to music and television shows that I know conservative readers may not appreciate or endorse, such as Seinfeld, Survivor, Journey, etc… which can unwittingly normalize/validate shows with questionable elements. But apart from that, this book was extremely helpful.
*This post contains affiliate links. I received this book free to review at my discretion from the publisher, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.