How do you define a healthy friendship? What do you need from a friend? How can you communicate your needs in love?
Years ago, a nice lady and I began to form a friendship. As we spent more time together, she expected to talk to me at least every other day. She expected me to answer texts immediately and to have coffee or lunch once a week, or she would feel hurt. I began to feel trapped and like I was walking on eggshells.
I had lunch with her to discuss our friendship. During lunch, I told her that we needed to talk honestly. I asked her what her definition of a friend was. She told me that a good friend was there for her no matter what. They would talk every day and have a great time.
I asked her why she feels hurt when I don’t answer her right away, or I can’t meet for coffee. She said that a good friend would always be there for her.
Clear and Similar Needs
I explained. “My definition of friendship is not the same as yours. I don’t need to talk every day or even once a week to know my friend is there for me. My responsibilities to God’s mission and family can sometimes take all of my time. To love others as I love myself according to Christ, I can’t let our friendship put unrealistic demands on myself that I can’t fill. I can’t be your close friend because I could never meet your definition and expectations of a friend.
The Christian lady got mad. She said some mean things as she walked away. Her reaction verified that our beginning friendship was unhealthy. She was not willing to look at her definition or to talk to me about moving forward.
Unless we know what characteristics are in a healthy Christ-centered relationship, we will operate from what we have learned and formed concerning friendships. Even though you are a Christ-follower, you may not know his healthy design for all relationships. If you struggle in your friendships or relationships, it might be a great time for you to see what God says and the example Jesus gave us in his life.
To avoid getting into unhealthy friendships, you must know the healthy standards or Christ and be clear about your definition, needs, and expectations in a friendship. We all need different things, and if it is following Christ’s example, variety good. However, when the friendship is showing signs of unhealthiness, the Holy Spirit will let you know. He will help you handle the situation with new boundaries if the person is willing, or to end the friendship.
Mutual Giving and Receiving
Anyone who has lived for several decades on this broken earth has encountered being in an unbalanced give and take relationship. If you have been on the side where you feel like you are doing all the giving, you are exhausted. The relationship leaves you drained, and over time, dreading any contact with your “friend.”
If you keep going through friendships, stop, and consider what these past friends have said. Do you demand continual contact or an immediate response to your calls, texts, or emails? Do you get hurt, mad, or any other negative emotion when the person is not responding according to your expectations. Do you think “if only she would _____ then our friendship would be great.” If any of these statements are true for you, it’s vital for you to recognize that you have an unhealthy definition of friendship with unattainable expectations.
If you are a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are responsible for learning and implement the healthy guidelines in God’s word and through Christ’s example for all of your relationships. Until you learn and operate in Christ’s healthy ways, you will keep operating from your unhealthy definition by default.
Christ’s Healthy Guidelines
Healthy relationships feel balanced and stable. They don’t feel forced or like we have an obligation. In healthy relationships, you think of the person and text them, call them, pray for them, and visit them when they are on your heart. You choose to encourage them and to do nice things for them just because they warm your heart.
Likewise, your friend checks in on you and asks you if they can do anything for you on their own. When things seem off, or the person is grumpy or not themselves, you choose to think that they are dealing with something, and you ask how you can help them. When your lives get busy, you don’t think they are trying to hurt you or that you have done something wrong. In Christ-centered healthy relationships, both of your words, love, and care are a flowing river that lifts and supports one another.
Guidelines in God’s Word
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thes. 5:11)
The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Prov. 12:26)
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, 25 or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared. (Prov. 22:24-25)
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33)
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Col. 3:12-14)
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