Building Strong Friendship

All the passages below are taken from Lee Strobel’s book, “God’s Outrageous Claims,” which was published in 1997 by Zondervan.
God has equipped us with both the capacity and desire to go deep with other human beings, to jointly experience life’s joys and sorrows, to encourage one another, to celebrate each other, to serve each other to “do life” together. It’s a treasure God wants you to have.Yes, it will require some risk taking to claim it. But the biggest risk comes in not seeking community. As C. S. Lewis said,
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one.... Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries: avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket---safe, dark, motionless, airless---it will change. It will not be broken: instead, it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

In short, the upside is too great and the downside too scary not to pursue authentic relationships. But how do we begin? Casual friendships are easy, but deeper relationships can be much more challenging to initiate and cultivate. On top of that, a lot of people have let their friendship-building skills atrophy over time, if they ever possessed them at all.So let’s start here and now. Let’s stop waiting for friendships to just happen. The time has come to shelve our loneliness and, as outlandish as it sounds, get extremely intentional about building some relationships. With the Bible providing our guidance, let’s get back to basics.What are the ingredients in a friendship that’s rich and real, caring and enduring, intimate and mutually fulfilling? I’ve found that there are at least five that are essential in developing ongoing, secure, and satisfying friendships: affinity, acceptance, authenticity, assistance, and affirmation.


INGREDIENT 1: AFFINITY---CELEBRATING WHAT WE HOLD IN COMMON
Chemists use the term affinity to describe the attraction that causes atoms to bond with each other. In friendships, affinity at its most basic level is an attraction between two people.

“the friend who sticks closer than a brother” is one with whom we share “deep-level affinity.” In these cases, the common ground isn’t just an activity, it’s common values. We have a consensus concerning our core beliefs. We don’t just talk about a task we’re doing together, we share emotions and personal experiences. We connect on a much more profound level.

INGREDIENT 2: ACCEPTANCE---Relating on an “As Is” Basis
“Accept one another, then,” urged the apostle Paul, “just as Christ accepted you.”7 How did he do that? Unconditionally.“We must decide to develop friendships in which we demand nothing in return. Love, in order to work, must be unconditional,” said Ted Engstrom in The Fine Art of Friendship. “Just as God accepts us on an ‘as is’ basis, so, too, must we enter into friendships based on taking the other person unconditionally into the relationship.”

David W. Smith describes a plaque that defines friendship this way: “A friend is one who knows you as you are, understands where you’ve been, accepts who you’ve become, and still gently invites you to grow.”

“Even if a man is caught in any trespass,” says the Bible, “you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”The truth is that we’re better able to accept others if we stay in touch with our own mistakes, deficiencies, and blunders. It’s easier to extend the hand of acceptance to a friend if we imagine our other hand simultaneously reaching out to receive acceptance and forgiveness from Christ for our own sins.When you’re evaluating your relational life, ask yourself what attitude you bring into your friendships---critical and judgmental or accepting and gracious? Do you try to get other people to conform to all of your opinions, or do you celebrate the way they’re different from you?

INGREDIENT 3: AUTHENTICITY---FEELING SAFE ENOUGH TO BE REAL
At some point, if a relationship is going to involve more than snorkeling on the surface, you’ve both got to dive deep into each other’s lives. Authentic relationships are characterized by self- disclosure, transparency, honesty, and vulnerability. There’s an increasing consistency between what we’re like on the inside and how we act in each other’s presence.

Going deep requires disclosure. Transparency should be appropriate, equal, and gradual, and it should come after trust and confidentiality have been established, but at some point it has to come, or the relationship will remain shallow and ultimately unfulfilling.

Being Too Opaque
However it’s important to be aware that there are dangers with disclosure on both ends of the transparency continuum. On one extreme are those who are scared to death over being authentic with their friends. Often these people are great at slapping backs and engaging in clever banter, but they intentionally slide over opportunities to go the next step deeper.Fear is usually the cause. They fear that people will find out they’re not as spiritual as they’ve pretended to be. There’s fear of embarrassment, of rejection, of disclosing something that might be used against them later, and of a phenomenon called the “reverse halo effect.”

Some people live their whole lives on this opaque end of the transparency continuum. Author Judson Swihart describes their life:
Some people are like medieval castles. Their high walls keep them safe from being hurt. They protect themselves emotionally by permitting no exchange of feelings with others. No one can enter. They are secure from attack. However, inspection of the occupant finds him or her lonely, rattling around the castle alone. The castle-dweller is a self-made prisoner. He or she needs to feel loved by someone, but the walls are so high that it is difficult to reach out or for anyone else to reach in.

INGREDIENT 4: ASSISTANCE---PUTTING OUR FRIENDS FRIST
Friends help friends grow, mature, develop, and become all they can be. They draw the best out of each other. They serve each other. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love,” said the apostle Paul. “Honor one another above yourselves.”

INGREDIENT 5: AFFIRMATION---CHEERLEADING YOUR FRIEND
Another way to assist a friend is through affirmation. “People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be,” said U. L. Moody, “not what you nag them to be.”As a friend, you are strategically positioned in the other person’s life to enthusiastically cheer him or her on.

Ironically, the person who’s lousy at affirming others is often insecure himself, because he needs to be affirmed!But if you’re specific with your affirmation and offer it consistently, accentuating the positive and dealing constructively with the negative, you can infuse your friends with the confidence and courage to go the next step in their endeavors.So when is the last time you told your closest friends how important they are to you? How long has it been since you’ve painted a compelling vision for them of what you believe God could accomplish through their unique talents, personalities, and temperaments? When’s the last time you were their most vocal and unabashed cheerleader?

The lesson is this: whatever you do, never assume that your friend---or your spouse and children, for that matter---know how you feel about them. Everyone needs to be told from time to time. So tell them. If you do nothing else as a result of this chapter tell them. Write them a letter, give them a call, invite them out for coffee. Please, don’t put it off until you end up regretting your procrastination. Affinity, acceptance, authenticity, and assistance are all important ingredients in the recipe for rich relationships, but affirmation---well, I’ll tell you what: that’s the spice. You don’t want to do without that.

To put it bluntly, you have a choice. God has given you the desire and capacity to enter into community with others and thereby drive a stake through the loneliness that would otherwise darken your life. It’s scary, it’s risky, it’s time consuming, it’s messy, it’s frustrating. And it’s worth it.

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Comments

  1. i feel that i done everything to be a good friend, but it not enough or meaningless. thus, it make me feel tired and depress to fix or mend it back because they don't care about what ever i do or even to lost a me as their circle of friendship.

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