Lately, Elayna and I have been having a lot of conversations about friendship. She is getting to the age where friendship is changing from “let’s play Barbies” to more conversational moments while coloring or drawing or crafting.
God has placed some wonderful girls in her life as friends and I’m very grateful.
But even in the best of friendships, young girls must learn how to be a friend to others and how to respond when a friend acts in a way that you don’t appreciate.
In this stage of life, Elayna is learning what things she likes to do, what topics interest her and what kinds of activities are fun for her. She is developing conversation skills, discovering her self-confidence, and acquiring relationship boundaries. In these early years of growing friendships, she must learn to navigate conflict, misunderstandings, changing interests and friendship etiquette.
Elayna is realizing that friendship can be hard, challenging and sometimes even hurtful.
The ways large groups of little girls played together in their younger years becomes more difficult as girls grow older and start to realize that some friends are different from others, some friends might have good friends other than you and all friends have faults.
Some friends can hurt you unintentionally and sometimes you can hurt them unintentionally.
She is also learning that friendship is valuable, it is worth putting in effort and it often takes time to build.
As moms, it is our job to help our girls learn good relationship skills and give them the correct, godly tools to be good friends and have good friends.
We want to see our girls thrive in their peer groups and enjoy having many different friends. No mom wants to see her daughter struggle through insecurity, low self-esteem or feelings of not being good enough because of not knowing how to handle healthy relationships in their lives.
But, the challenge in teaching these skills comes in the fact that sometimes, as grown women, we don’t always know how to walk through friendships in real, healthy and benefiting ways.
Even as adult women, our friendships can sometimes feel hurtful, disappointing, frustrating or hard to understand. We can leave an event or gathering of friends feeling like we were misunderstood or alone. We can be easily offended, feeling judged. Or, we can easily offend not realizing how our words effect those around us.
We can fail to value the gift we can be to others and cherish the gift they can be to us. We must choose to work on our friendships in ways that God would want us to.
Why is it important that we have healthy, godly friendships?
We need to remember that we are modeling friendship for our girls! We are setting the tone for how they feel about the friends in their lives. We are responsible for teaching them the life skills they need to have friendships as God intended.
If we don’t know how to have healthy friendships, how can we teach that to our daughters?
If you are like me, then you think you know how to have healthy friendships. But, when I sat down to read Lisa Whelchel’s book “Friendship for Grown Ups” a few years ago, I realized that sometimes I carried unhealthy habits that negatively effected my friendships.
Unknowingly, I had fostered self-dependence and insecurity that kept me from trusting women, building deeper friendships and being willing to work for valuable relationships. In some ways, I’m sure being a pastor’s kid and being a pastor’s wife has added to many of these attributes, but whatever the reason, I realized that I needed some God moments to help me rediscover how to have healthy friendships.
In the past week, I have talked to three different women in completely different situations about the idea of grown up friendships.
I had three very good conversations about building healthy friendship, establishing boundaries, learning to handle conflict in a godly way and discovering ways to dismantle gossip and slander from being a part of friendships.
Reaching back into the study I did using Lisa’s book a few years ago, I was able to share how God has helped me to learn (and still learn) how to have, cultivate and navigate healthy friendships.
1. Evaluate – Evaluate your circle of friends. What kinds of relationships do you have? Who is the friend who always needs you for something? Who is the friend you go to when you need something? Who gives you information about family and friends? Who can you trust? Who is a friend that sharpens you spiritually? Who challenges you? Who brings you down? Who can you count on to have something bad to say? Who always has a cheerful word?
2. Expect – Expect more from yourself than from others. Be the kind of friend that you would want to have. Don’t expect more from your friends than they can give you. Know your friends strengths and weaknesses and allow your friendship to grow there. If you know they can’t keep a secret, don’t tell them a secret. If they never call you and you always make the plans, don’t expect them to call or be disappointed every time they don’t call.
3. Examine – Examine yourself. Are you a good friend to others? Do you tend to challenge others or bring them down? Do you talk bad about people? Are you someone they can trust? Does insecurity drive you to act in a certain way or pull back from some friends? Do you have to talk about yourself? Do you like to hide in the corner of a group? What walls have you built in protection that have hindered you from having real friendship?
As you do these things, ask God to open your eyes to your own heart.
Some common things He may show you:
1. Gossip – This is huge for women. Learn what you can say and what you can’t. Learn what friends you tend to “spill your guts” or “say it like it is” with and determine to change the tone of those conversations. I am sure we have all left a conversation feeling yucky because we may have said something we shouldn’t have said. I begged God to help me remember that feeling so that I would hold my tongue the next time. God hates slander yet we sometimes get caught up in it in the name of friendship. Two skills I now use to keep me from getting in conversations that could be gossip or hurtful to others: 1. Matthew 18 – simply ask the question “Have you talked to that person yet?” If they haven’t, you have no business getting involved. 2. Say, “You know what, I don’t need to know any more details about this… let’s take it to God. Let me pray with you.” Taking either of those approaches is how we can use God’s Word to protect ourselves from saying or hearing harmful things!
2. Walls – Self-built walls keep you from deep, lasting friendships. Taking the walls down can be painful and getting hurt in friendship can be painful. But, we will never be able to impact our friends or have the kind of friendships God intended if we live behind walls. Putting up walls tells God that He can no longer use you in the lives of people around you.
3. Trust – Be someone your friends can trust.
4. Fear – Afraid to be known or take the time to get involved in another person’s life
Those are just a few examples.
Having healthy friendships is a skill that we need to learn, cultivate and grow in our lives.
Our handling of this topic is vital to our girls being able to experience friendships in a healthy way.
So, as I’m teaching Elayna, I’m checking up on myself, asking God what else He can show me about friendship.
How do you handle teaching your girls about friendship?
How do you grow healthy friendships in your own life?