Sunday, October 30, 2011

Knowing Versus Knowing

Ladies, how often does a gal you know act and speak to you like they know you well and you find yourself frequently thinking something like, "she doesn't really know the real me"?  It has happened to me many times in my lifetime of 31 years and I don't think it's just me who relates to this question. I believe that here in the United States the depth of women's friendships are getting more and more shallow. Since I'm writing to women, obviously I'm only going to address women, but I do believe it is both men and women in our nation struggling with the lack of deep and supportive friendships and/or relationships with the opposite sex.

Reasons for this lacking of depth in our friendships/relationships probably are too numerous to be thought up and listed in this blog. I am going to talk about two possible reasons for this. They were the first two reasons that came to mind when thinking of this topic. Is the lack of depth and support because our culture is so fast paced these days and we Americans choose not to deeply invest in friendships/relationships simply for the reason that we "don't have time"? Or maybe the reason we Americans choose to neglect deep and devoted friendships is because it is too vulnerable of a position.

Most of us might think that a deep friendship is too risky because another human being will have a voice into our circumstances and the freedom to give positive feedback or unload negative criticisms. It can be a "scary" thing for many people to allow someone else access into their personal life and I don't just mean access into their life on social networks on the world wide web. I mean real personal interaction.  I'm just going to say that stating our problems on websites and blogs and or building friendships through those websites and ONLY those websites is not really very vulnerable and "personal".  Face to face relationships is when people prove who they say they are and what they say they feel on those websites and blogs. When we Americans let our lives only be filled with online friendships and no real face to face friendships, life becomes (in my opinion) very shallow. The many shallow friendships happening in our nation these days lead to many people feeling over-burdened about their life's circumstances and feeling isolated even when they are surrounded by folks they consider their friends.

Some of you might say that you don't struggle with this, that you have deep and abiding friendships with other gals in your town or city, that you don't know what it is like to struggle with feeling lonely in a crowd. However some of you ladies know that your symptoms of depression you've had lately and your feelings of isolation stem from your lack of going deep with those women God has placed in your life.  Some of you gals out there realize that you need to be more vulnerable, but it is just too much work on your part and so you stay in the friendly acquaintance playing field and continue to avoid the late night chats over coffee in your friends kitchen, the long walks through the neighborhood talking about everything under the sun, the road trips to see your friends' family members who are ill and need support. Although we acknowledge our lack of depth with people, it is rarely the case that we choose to step out and change that situation.  We have found a way to exist, to cope with the shallowness. And it is so sad. I do this very thing myself many times.  What a powerful force of women we could be if we overcame that struggle and learned to truly embrace each other, cry with each other, love each other deeply, challenge each other to be better, rescue each other from shallow living and together truly live.

Sometimes we will blame our problems and stressful days on exterior things such as the weather, our family's choices of behavior/actions, or our job circumstances when really all we may need is a deeper and more honest group of friendships with the gals we know who can help us see inside ourselves and help us grow to love the person God made us to be. Some of you might really relate to this statement. If so, I'm grateful because then I'm not alone in this struggle. Many women are striving to look strong in the eyes of their bosses and clients by leaving behind their human support team...our friends, and it is wrecking us as a culture instead of bringing us the success we thought it would. We were not made to stand alone on this earth. We need other women in our lives each week, or perhaps in our lives every day. We gals in the U.S. (as a whole) struggle to make enough time in our days to really invest in those that God has specifically placed in our lives. Why that is, I don't really know, but I do know it isn't a good thing.

Ladies (talking to me, as well), God has put certain women in our lives to be more than fair weather friends, but our dear friends----friends who encourage and support us; friends who we can encourage and support; and friends to be pals with---in the times of celebration and times of grief.  How many of us have that kind of person and/or people in your daily life?  How many of us have "true blue" friends for the "every" day of our lives.

Women have a great power of encouraging and building others up by using their words and their actions. However, women also have a great power of twisting that spirit of encouragement into manipulation and negative criticisms. There is so much comparison and criticism going on among women that the idea of pursuing a deep friendship with a fellow "daughter of Eve" (like The Chronicles of Narnia puts it) seems crazy. I mean, most of us women would think her to be a little crazy the gal who tries to keep a friendship alive all the while the comparisons, criticisms, belittling observation are flying. If only we women would daily ask our Lord and Savior for the strength and the gumption to use our abilities of observation, comparison and criticism for good instead of selfish gain.

Women, in general, have a difficult time figuring out how to use their skills of observation for good purposes. If we women did do that, it would really strengthen the friendships we have and make our whole world of family life and work life more positively impacted and encouraged. Our culture has gone so long with the lack of strong and devoted friendships that it almost seems negative to have someone around weekly who has "the right" (as a friend) to speak into our lives, "the right" show us our strengths and weaknesses and watch us make successes and failures. We just continue to use that crazy confused mentality as a reason why we don't pursue deeper friendships.  We don't want others seeing our flaws, telling us their opinions of how we should live, showing us different ways of doing life, displaying gifts and talents that we don't possess but wish we do.  It's a crazy and twisted cycle we women have put ourselves in. I'm exhausted just thinking about all the silly things we women use as excuses to keep ourselves distanced from transparent friendships.  WOW.  Maybe I'm just speaking for myself, here, but I HIGHLY doubt that.

Lately I am working on being a kind of friend that I would want others to be for me.  I am learning, again, what it IS to be a good friend.  It is definitely a commitment. As a little girl, I think I did a decent job at being a friend who was "all there"; who was 100% committed to my friends.  As time has passed and as I have faced much more struggles, stresses and complicated situations in my adult years, I have began to put the value and importance of being a devoted and committed friend on a back burner of my heart and mind.  I don't believe that was a good thing, just in case you haven't caught that by now.  haha! 

As we grow into adulthood, there are many changes that seem to force us into a more serious perspective of the world around us.  And it is a good thing to view our world with a sober mind. However, I don't think that it is ALL good. As adults, we almost need more of those amazingly transparent, deeply devoted and innocent friendships than we had as kids. Even if some of us can only say they had one deep and awesome friendship in our childhood, it is something to be considered now as adults. We need to still be willing to open up our hearts and minds to those friends we have now. It will help us in life in so many ways. I won't list them, but you know how many areas of our life can be strengthened and encouraged when we have a dear and devoted friend to share it with. All you ladies out there with husbands, I am talking to you, too.  You (me, included) need a woman in your life that is a deep and devoted friend and we don't need to just depend on our husbands for that friendship support.  If you have more than one dear friend, then praise the Almighty God because that is truly a blessing!!  If we continue through this life without a deep friendship.......a "bosom friend" as Anne Shirley of Green Gables would say, then we are bordering on the type of pride that is dangerous and sinful before God. To think, as women, we don't need a gal in our lives to be our friend since we are married to "our best friend" is....well, I don't know how to say it........selling ourselves short.

All of us have gifts and talents that can be used to bless others. Can we lay aside the, well frankly, arrogant attitude we get sometimes that says we don't need another woman to really know us?  Can we lay aside the attitude that we are too busy and too tired for the amount of time and vulnerability it takes to maintain a good friendship?  Can we stop that?  The greatest enemy of our Almighty God wishes that we would think that we can be strong on our own.  We know we need deep friendships. Let us be willing, starting today, to be better friends to the women our loving God has placed in our lives. Let us be willing to let others speak truth into our lives. Let us be willing to listen to those truths and look into God's Word and let both encouragements and guidance help us become strong women whose characteristics look more and more like our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

So, I now have been more inspired even as I write these words.  I commit today to being a better friend, a more available and a better listening friend to the ones God has placed in my life. And I commit to allowing others to really know me instead of just know about me.  I desire to learn from this realization and be a good friend who is a devoted friend; one who is willing to "be there" for the other in a moment's notice; one who is willing to listen before dishing out their opinions; one who is creative in finding things to do and places to go together to strengthen the bond.

Will you join me in this commitment?

Let's start knowing each other instead of just knowing each other.