In a week when I have been teaching and talking a great deal about friendship, I am the one who got schooled most.
With a new book on the topic, I’ve gotten to do several interviews sharing insights and, I hope, a little wisdom on the fine art of making and keeping friends. I’ve heard myself say the same things over and over to different show hosts for days. “Friendship has a greater purpose. Friendship is not just about you. Friends will change your life. Friendship isn’t always easy. Be a friend anyway!”
Into the echo chamber of all that publicity came the most wonderful reward for trying to practice what I preach. A sweet friend took the time to send me some ways my friendship has been important to her. She shared remembrances of kind words and practical help that supported her in a difficult time. It was such a sweet punctuation to a wearying week when I hoped to help others catch the vision of life-sharing friendship.
If her message was a punctuation mark, the second missive of the week was a clanging symbol. Where the first warmed my heart, the second pierced it. It was from a friend I have known a very long time. She had something on her mind that she had carried for years and felt that I ought to finally know. It turns out, a careless action on my part hurt my friend and she had kept the wound to herself -and the hurt had never really healed.
For my part, I had no idea what I had done. I had no idea that each time we saw each other this thing was actually between us. I was so embarrassed. How was I going to fix it? Couldn’t I just show her the text from my other friend and prove I’m not so bad?
“Look here. See. I’m thoughtful and helpful. I do caring things and say supportive words. Do you want to call and ask her?”
I just kept saying to myself, “What must she think of me?” And then I knew I had to get over the embarrassment of feeling that I failed my friend. It was time I told myself something I had been broadcasting to others all week: “Friends never fail.”
We only fail if we stop being a friend. Disappointing and even hurting a friend is not failing. It’s human. It’s inevitable. We don’t fail as long as we choose to be a friend. Being a friend, in this circumstance, meant owning my humanness, asking for forgiveness and being thankful she was friend enough to tell me a hard truth with a heart toward reconciliation.
Having friends and being a friend is not effortless. We all want the mythical BFF. The person with whom being a friend means never having to say I’m sorry, never having to work at closeness, and never ever being on the hurt-end of a misunderstanding. Such a creature does not exist – and that is actually a good thing because we profit from a little friction.
Healthy friendships are like sandpaper. It is just one more way God rubs off the rough edges on the way to transforming us to be like Him – and so much more fun friction from an enemy. A genuine friend is one who doesn’t just want to help smooth you out, but trusts you enough to welcome a little shaping, too. I’ll confess, it is a delight to know that we have been a blessing to our friends, but it is a treasure beyond price to have a friend who will tell you the truth even when it hurts. Truly, “the wounds of a friend are faithful” and can be trusted. Proverbs 27:6