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June-March 2001

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Friendship makers, friendship breakers

No man is an island. That is why all of us have friends, and all of us treasure our friendship with our friends. But how can we make our friendship strong and long lasting? Let’s find out some of the friendship makers and friendship breakers – traits that will either make or break our relationship with our friends.

Jealousy and possessiveness, for example, can stunt the growth of a healthy friendship. These attitudes usually crop up as a result of immaturity and insecurity and the natural human tendency to keep good things for ourselves. We may not be quite as obvious about it as children are: "She's my friend." But that's the way we sometimes feel. We find ourselves comparing the time our friend spends with us against the time she spends with her family, her job, her other friends. Or we may encounter pressure from one friend to drop another friend. We may find ourselves uncomfortable when we realize that more than one person considers us her very best friend!

A true friend encourages and supports her friend's relationships, because she knows that one person can't belong to another and that it's impossible for one person to completely fill another's needs. Besides, friendship cannot be bought or demanded or controlled, no matter how insecure we feel.

Jealousy and possessiveness are far more likely to drive friends away than to keep them close.

Dishonesty can harm friendships in a number of ways. It can lead to mistrust and a sense of betrayal when a friend discovers that her friend hasn't been honest with her. Or it can lead to distance and alienation because one person is hiding what she really thinks and who she really is. Friendships need the light of truth the way a garden needs the sunlight. There can be no real sense of trust and intimacy without the secure knowledge that your friend will tell you the truth, even when it's hard.

Lack of restraint and respect in friendship — even under the guise of telling the truth — can easily shrivel tender leaves of friendship. Yes, friendships thrive on honesty and openness. But this doesn't mean saying everything you think, all the time! Even with the closest friend, there is a time to hold back, to soften your comments, to delay the gratification of "coming clean" for the sake of your friend's feelings or her happiness. And there is a place for privacy even among intimate friends. The boundaries for each friendship may be different. But a friend of the heart will respect both her friend's boundaries and her own.

Betrayals and Broken Promises - A friend will also keep her word, because betrayed confidences and broken promises are especially deadly to friendship. In fact, nothing will kill a friendship faster than a string of betrayals, small or large.

Laziness hurts a friendship like stingy watering hurts a garden — it can lead to withering or even a long, slow, painful death. The trouble is, it's easy to become lazy with a close friend you take for granted. It's easy to overlook birthdays, to forget to call, to neglect coming over because you know your friend will always be there.

Envy - Is competition a problem in friendship? Friends sharpen friends, and there really is such a thing as healthy competition even among friends of the heart. But the real problem is insecurity and envy. Healthy competition can sharpen you, but envy is a sure killer of relationships. It's hard to love someone when you desperately want what she has.

Perhaps the most deadly of the common friendship breakers is pride. Pride is so dangerous because it gets in the way of the healing process. When there has been a wound in a relationship, the only road to healing leads through apology and forgiveness. And often it is pride that makes an apology so difficult, a forgiving word so hard to utter. So pride can prevent the reconciliation of loving friends.

Friendship breakers — that's an appropriate name for these common, harmful things that friends do and friends feel. Unfortunately, they can happen to any of us, and any of us can be guilty.

But there's really no need to dwell on friendship breakers, because they all can be overcome by the friendship makers.

And what are the friendship makers? They are the qualities that enable you to care for your friendship and to get past the damage caused by possessiveness or dishonesty or lack of restraint or broken promises.

The Heart of Friendship - What qualities of the heart your friendship growing? These are qualities that are worth cultivating right alongside your most precious relationships. Not only will they bring you better friendships, they'll also make you a better person. Here are some of them:

You need a generous heart. The more you practice opening your heart and your hands, the more you will know the freedom that comes with having a true friend of the heart — a friend whose love and devotion you really trust.

You need an open and honest heart to build trust with the truth.

You need a patient heart to grow friendship slowly, on good, solid ground.

You need a discerning heart and disciplined tongue to balance honesty with kindness and discretion. A faithful heart will give you the strength you need to keep your promises.

You need a devoted heart to help you put your friend's best interests first and to do hard things for the sake of a friendship — whether that means confronting a friend or just accepting her as she is.

Most of all, you need a forgiving, accepting heart to enable you to move past the inevitable hurt in a friendship. Without forgiveness, how could any of us remain in a relationship?

An intimate, ongoing friendship must be made up of equal parts of truth and grace. There are times to confront, times to let a problem go. There are times to drift, times to pull tightly together. And always there is a risk, a possibility that friendship could wither or fade. The risk is worth it, but you should count the cost.

Unhealthy expectations for a friend:

  • see me every day, call me every week

  • invite me to every party

  • do everything with me

  • do things the way I think they should be done

  • don't ever hurt me, be perfect

Healthy expectations for a friend:

  • do what you say you'll do, keep your promises to me

  • show me respect, respect my faith

  • value my growth, my family and friends

  • don't do anything knowingly that would hurt me

  • talk to me about what your expectations are

 

By Abigail N. Saria


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