Best friends II

Yesterday I posted about close friendships. Rather than ask: how can I get that kind of friendship, we need to ask: how can I be the best person for that kind of friendship.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Trinity, and how three aspects of the way the persons of God relate within the Godhead provide a model for our relationships. We all need: togetherness, difference and interdependence in the way we relate.

So in terms of our close friendships, let's look at some aspects of 'togetherness'.

To have togetherness, firstly, you have to be willing, and then you have to be able to be close with someone. And then you need to make good decisions about the person/people you choose to be close to.

Are you willing to be close to someone?
This may sound surprising. Surely it’s obvious that everyone would want to have personal and intimate friends. Probably on the surface it’s true. But go a level deeper and some people have trouble with actually wanting to be close.

Perhaps you have had to say too many goodbyes or hurts in your life. You may feel like the risk is just too great and you don’t even want to try. You would rather be self-sufficient.

God has created all of us incomplete and inadequate. There are so many things we cannot provide for ourselves. We can’t provide God’s love. We are reliant on God for our physical needs. We need others to give us the human love we need. Yet, deep inside, most of us hate the idea of needing other people, and asking for what we don’t have. We know we’re incomplete and inadequate but it’s humiliating to admit it.

Sometimes we teach self-sufficiency as a positive character trait. We think that the individual who either doesn’t have problems or who hides them really well is a model of Christian maturity.

People who move a lot or who are hurt a lot become self-sufficient as a survival mechanism. It’s a response based on fear. No one gets inside, and no one gets close, and the self-sufficiency keeps them from being overwhelmed by loss and grief.

But self-sufficiency can’t work in the long term. Survival mechanisms are for short term survival – not long term living.

It’s a good thing to be needy. It means you are human, and you’re embracing God’s grace. Self-sufficiency is based on fear. And fear is not God’s way to live.

The Bible says that the opposite of fear is not confidence... it’s not self-confidence, which is what we try to conquer it by. The opposite of fear is love. Perfect love casts out fear.

Through facing our fears of being close, and allowing others to love us, imperfect though we are, the fears will disappear and we’ll be more healthy and have much better relationships.

You might be willing – but are you able to be close to others?
Self-sufficiency is one big block to being close with other people. If you can never admit your weaknesses, you stop other people really getting to know you. You set up a pattern whereby you are the strong one in the relationship, which means necessarily that the other person is the weak one. That doesn’t set up for a close, equal relationship.

There are other blocks to closeness, all based on fear, which is also the root of pride.

What about defensiveness. Can you take loving confrontation and feedback, or do you draw your sword whenever anyone says anything.

Related to that is being self-righteous – not humble. There’s an ‘I’m better than you’ (whether spoken or not) dynamic going on.

When confronted, do you apologise, or do you actually change your behaviour as well? Lots of times we’ll say ‘sorry’ to get someone out of our face for the moment, but we go right back and do the same thing the next time.

What about taking responsibility for your life and your own problems? Or do you say: “It’s all my mother’s fault. She put me on the potty too early and I was emotionally scarred for life.”

Do you choose the right people to be 'together' with?
Think back over your close friendships and relationships. Have you been friends with people who have valued you, been vulnerable with you, and who have opened up to you in love and truth? Are they people who love God and want to serve him?

Or have they been people who have taken what you’ve given and then betrayed you? Have they gossiped about you? Have they tried to control you? Or have they let you make all the decisions in the relationship – so that they are completely passive?

Yes, we need to love everyone. But you don’t have to be close to everyone in the same way. And of course no one is going to be perfect. All our friends fail us at some point, just like we fail them at times.

But you need to be wise about the people you are closest to. The Bible teaches this. “Don’t make friends with people who have hot violent tempers, you might learn their habits and not be able to change.”

People we are with influence us. Don’t hang out with big drinkers or drug takers or people who are constantly cynical, critical and bitter. Avoid trusting people who have a pattern of letting you down. Use your wisdom and pick safe people. It’s a crucial part of togetherness.