“A friend is someone with whom you dare to be yourself”. -Frank Crane
It’s interesting to me that many of the young women I talk to say they desire to have closer and more meaningful friendships. I can relate to that on many levels because it hasn’t always been easy for me to get close to my girlfriends. It definitely has taken me time and many failed attempts, to understand how to have meaningful relationships. What is it that stops us from making genuine connections with others? Is it our social media crazy society? Are we isolating ourselves more than we think? Or is it a lack of understanding on the importance of having relationships that mold us and empower us? Maybe we fear being rejected or neglected?
Perhaps it’s a combination of all those things. What I do know is that in order to form meaningful friendships you must be willing to be honest and vulnerable. You can’t expect someone to trust you, when you can’t trust them to see you for who you are.
I grew up in a household that was meticulously clean. My mom is the most organized person I know. She is so organized, that she could see the wrinkles underneath the comforter if I had made my bed in a rush. I never really understood what the big deal was until I started living on my own. The way you present yourself, your home, your work, says a lot about your character and what is important to you as an individual. When there are guests over our home, I make sure my home is clean, organized and welcoming. It’s part of being a good hostess.
But the problem begins when we get so caught up in perfection, that we forget to be ourselves. We forget that as imperfect beings, it is fine to not have it all together. How else will we be able to relate to each other, if we can’t let others see us when our “home” is a little messy? I admire people who can be themselves around anyone. I have friends that have taught me, just by being themselves, that it’s okay to be a work in progress.
If we want stronger and more meaningful friendships, we must be willing to let people see the ugly, too. Being vulnerable with others, frees them to be themselves as well. It’s risky to do that, but the rewards are endless.
A couple years ago, I was struggling with letting people into my personal life. I was very close to my sisters and family, but lacked other meaningful friendships outside of my family unit. My husband, who I was dating at the time, had friends in his life that he’d known for a very long time. He grew up with them and still had them in his life. I understood the importance of having women in my life that could relate to me and understand me on a level that perhaps someone many years older than me couldn’t.
There was a time in my life that I had many close friends. Lack of wisdom put me in situations that I didn’t know how to handle. Instead of being honest with myself and my friends, I isolated myself and lied to them about how I truly felt. Instead of breaking off a relationship, I stayed in it because I was too afraid to be honest and confront the truth. But how could I begin to let people into my life after being hurt and hurting others?
My sister told me something I will never forget: she said, “You just have to know who you can let into your home, who you can let onto your porch and who will simply walk on the sidewalk of your home”. She explained that the people you let into your home are people you can trust to see the good AND the bad. Those are people you know you can be vulnerable with and will not judge you or gossip about you. The people you let into your “home” are people who will tell you what you need to hear not what you want to hear. The people who you let onto your porch are people you are close to, but know you cannot share every part of your life with. For whatever reason, whether it’s for their sake or yours, you know it’s best to keep deep, personal matters from them. And the people on the sidewalk are people who you know will hurt and damage you. You will still love them and care for them, but they cannot have access to any of your personal matters. Those are people who are toxic and do not edify your life.
Slowly but surely, I have learned to be vulnerable and open up in my relationships. I’ve learned that being honest, as hard as it is, prevents you and others from being hurt. Being open also helps us determine who we can really trust as a confidant. Have there been times that I’ve been let down? Absolutely! But I get back up and keep being myself. Building meaningful relationships will force us to reveal our imperfections, our questions, our doubts and insecurities. We shouldn’t let the fear of being rejected or misunderstood, hinder us from nurturing the genuine relationships God intended us to have. The people God places in our lives, to make us better and mold us, will take the good and the bad. They will be willing to listen and speak in the appropriate times. We just have to be willing to open up our “homes” (hearts) to them, even when it’s a little messy inside.
So, what are some practical steps to take in order to having meaningful and genuine relationships?
1. Pray for wisdom to know who are the people in your life that you should be in your “home”, your “porch” and your “sidewalk.
2. Be willing to show your true friends who you are. Don’t hide the truth about what’s going on in your life. Allow them to BE a friend. Many times God uses the people around us to speak truth into our lives.
3. Schedule time to hang out with your friends. Reach out to them regularly and make sure they know you care about them and what’s going on in their lives.
“Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.” Proverbs 18:24 MSG
“A spoken reprimand is better than approval that’s never expressed. The wounds from a lover are worth it; kisses from an enemy do you in.” Proverbs 27:5-6 MSG
Have you ever experiences a time when you felt you needed meaningful relationships in your life? What are some practical steps you took to have them?