Real friends are not afraid to go the hard places, willing to talk about the hard things and not become defensive and say things other people are afraid to say. In talking about having raw, real friendships where friends are determined to make each other better, I have to start with the topic of shame.
Shame wants us to stay in hiding. It wants to keep us from saying the thing we see and it keeps the other person defensive. Shame keeps us from wanting to own our truth.
When you and I as friends are hesitant to say it all out loud, when we aren’t saying the full truth, shame is present in your life or in my life, or maybe in both our lives.
See, you and your friends must have good tension where you both are willing to call each other forth, out in the darkness into the light. You must be willing to press each other and create a space for each other to do that. You must be willing to pursue friendships that are intentional and where you say “I’m not leaving and we’re in this together.”
We all tend to hide a little bit or I think we hide in large part more often than we’re willing to admit it. So, creating this safe space where our friends can truly be vulnerable, where we can empathize with them and they know it’s a shame-free zone, we become the soft place for our friends to land on. And vice versa.
This is the beauty that God calls us to.
When our friends can tell us all the crazy things that go on inside their minds, the wrong narrative they hold for themselves loses its power.
So, you ask me, “Emmylou, I want it but it’s hard to find this kind of community. What it is then that creates a safe space in a friendship?”
It is hard to find. But it’s not a matter of finding it, it truly is a matter of doing the work to build it. You can only have that kind of friendship when you put the work in and when you’re willing to share the things you’re not really willing to say out loud, and sometimes you have to go first. Sometimes, you have to go first and say the things you don’t really want to share. Be vulnerable and this creates a space for the other person to do so.
When someone is holding out on you, it makes you hold back from them, too, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. It sends you thinking, does she really trust me? Don’t leave your friendships spaces to wonder. Like, “Is she mad at me?” or “did she not like what I said?” Let there be no second-guessing or assuming. Be truthful to each other, and give grace to each other.
To my friends, I’m the queen of question-asking and deep thinking and I like it when my friends become vulnerable to me at the present moment with those question asking and deep thinking, and I like it when they do the same to me, when they push me to think deeply and ask myself the hard questions.
Friends jump in alongside each other. They’re not there to entertain you but to come alongside you in all seasons of your life.
What defines a sisterhood culture vs. casual friendships?
More people are decent when it comes to casual friendships. A lot fewer people are good at sisterhood friendship and yet we all crave that.
So, here are my thoughts.
One, I think it takes courage. Take the risk. Be brave to feel your feelings and share it. Allow each other to experience the different range of your emotions.
Two, call each other out. Ask the hard questions. Be bold to ask the hard questions even the ones your friend isn’t willing to hear, and be tender in places when they need to feel tenderness. But never be afraid to call each other out.
Three, come looking for one another because there are facets of ourselves we hide from each other. Come to one another even in our sin and shame. Be willing to the pursuer. This is what God does for us. This is what God calls us to do in our friendships, too. When we want to be pursued, we end up feeling like outsiders.
You have a choice. You can either look to confirm your story that you’re never going to have a friendship like this, or you tried it and it’s never worked, or you can look to confirm the story God has a friend for you and you get to be the one to pursue and cultivate and build that. Be willing to go first and exercise vulnerability.
Vulnerability, empathy, authenticity can sound big words but really it is in the presence of these things that healing and freedom come.
Four, be willing to ask when we are in a place of need. Often, we want to be self-sufficient and self-reliant and would show up only for one another when we are strong or when we want to celebrate something, but not when we are in a place of need. Don’t be afraid to say “I need you. I’m not doing okay. Can you do this for me?” Let people see your imperfection.
Five, surrender and trust in friendships. When you live thinking you’re all alone in the world and no one will come to your rescue, or you’re going to be left out or you’re going to be abandoned, your friendships won’t be life-giving but energy-sucking instead. Let go of the grasp and surrender to the journey of friendship and trust in God.
Six, learn to be a listener. Almost everybody in this generation wants to speak their piece of mind, but few people listen. Deep inside, people are longing to be heard, and seen, and known. There are some practical ways to be a listener. They share and reflect back to them – what I hear you say is this, is that right
Seven, spend time with each other. Call each other. Don’t limit your friendships to just text messages. Hear each other’s voices, listen to each other’s tones. Have coffee together. Go shopping together. Do fun things together.
We are created and made for a relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything else falls short. It is my prayer you walk away from each of these episodes knowing Jesus better or wanting to know Him even more. Let’s figure this out together because we don’t want to waste our lives.
Put the work in your friendships. Prioritize each other, not in a co-dependent frame, but from a sister-friend standpoint. And now, I would encourage you to call a friend and just thank her. Express your appreciation and thank them for letting you into their hearts. Go! Don’t put it off.
From one woman to another woman, I invite you to grace, let’s keep sharing gospel truth in love and mercy and help more women find truth in the chaos of lies and hype.
Thanks for reading.