Today I want to talk about women and our relationships with one another – how sometimes we’re lacking. Maybe we have quite a few friends. Maybe you only have one or two. But of your friends – how many REALLY know you? How many are you completely and totally vulnerable and honest around? Do they see you at your worst and best? Do they know your “horrible” side? Do you feel that you can be honest with them about everything? Can you talk to them when you’re having a bad day? Will they truthfully rejoice with you when you have an amazing day and sincerely celebrate with you?
I sit here at times and am completely blown away – when I think about where I came from, not even that long ago, and where I am today? It’s honestly amazing. I used to be one of the most insecure and superficial people. I cared so much about how I looked and what people (ok, mainly women) thought of me. I put on a front (whether or not people bought it is unknown to me and I don’t care to know) on an almost 24 hour basis, even in front of my husband. I tried to be someone I thought other people and my husband wanted me to be. I thought it was my husband’s responsibility to make me happy and that I was the one who had to make him happy. I didn’t dare leave the house without make-up on or “nice” clothes on. I said what I thought people wanted to hear and when someone said something I didn’t like, I just took it and stored it away to think about, over and over and over, later, when I was home. I would drive myself insane with worry about what they might be saying about me, behind my back, to others, making up conversations in my head about what they could saying. Because of this lack of self-esteem, I was very leery of women and building a sincere relationship with them.
I remember my mom and other older women giving me some wise counsel – stating that there will come a day when I will no longer care so much what others think of me, when I’ll be secure in who I am and where I am in life. My parents told me so many times, growing up (ok, even after I was married and not living at home), that my security and self-esteem needed to come from the Lord. My happiness needed to come from Him, not my husband, other people or my situation. Because, after all, the Lord never changes while humans are just that – human. Fallible – almost certain to “fail” us several times a year, if not more often. Why? Because we place expectations on each other, even when we try not to. Sometimes those failures come even when we don’t place expectations on one another. So, inevitably, feelings are hurt. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to have hurt feelings, or to feel let down, disappointed and sad about a lost, torn or broken relationship. Just that it’s a HUMAN relationship – where perfection will never happen. No matter how hard we try ourselves to make someone else happy or not fail them or they try to not fail us – it just can’t happen. However, once we’re able to extend grace to one another, and release each other from the expectation that it’s our responsibility to make one another happy, and instead we rely on the Lord for that happiness? It’s amazing. The pressure to be perfect, to look perfect, to be everything to everyone is released. Ok, so there’s still pressure at times. Sometimes I still have the feeling to compete, or at least keep up, with other mommies/wives/women. Simply because, as long as we’re on earth, we still have the human nature inside of us. But we need to stop EXPECTING things from one another and start loving on one another as much as possible.
For some reason, as women, there seems to be this natural-born competition with one another. Why? Why do we try so hard to out-do one another? Before I had a child, I noticed this. As a single woman, there was competition to snag that hunky guy, the best guy, the sweetest guy. Then as a wife, there’s the competition to have a clean, well-run household whose husband thinks you’re the best thing ever and I want him to tell everyone that. As a mom, there’s competition to have a well-behaved child, have your “stuff” together and yet keep the love-life hot and heavy. I felt that if I failed in a single area, the perfect woman would come along and be more than happy to point out all the things I’m doing wrong and how she’s doing them perfectly and all without breaking a sweat. I see this even in the Christian culture and it saddens me. It seems Christian women have a really hard time admitting when they are having a rough time. We put on a front. When someone asks “how are you doing?”, we’re super fast to respond with “I’m doing great, you?” or “I’m good, you?”. I know that I, personally, felt that if I were to admit that I was having a rough time in my marriage, or my work life, or just with my spiritual walk, it was admitting defeat. Or that I was not a “good enough” Christian. I thought that other women would look at me like I was inferior. As if I couldn’t figure life out. Now, I’m not saying go around constantly complaining, that’s not at all what I’m proposing. However, the Lord has given us each other to do life together. To come along-side and say “hey, you know what? It’s ok that you’re not ok today/this week/this month/this year. I’m here for you. What can I do to help you?” To ensure that our fellow sister in Christ is not feeling alone in her struggle. I’ve had a few people come along side me like that. They didn’t judge, they didn’t point. They helped me stand when I couldn’t do it myself. They prayed me through my trials. They spoke truth to me. They didn’t sugarcoat things either. If they saw a sin, they lovingly pointed it out. There are 6 women (Rosemary, Kathy, Beth, Laura, Ann, Amiee *UPDATED 09/07/2016 – I need to add that there’s a 7th friend, Christine – she speaks amazing truth into my life and I’m so thankful for the friendship we share! Bonus is that she does live near me! :)) who speak truth and love to me and have now for years, some since I was a child. Some of them on an almost daily basis. A few of them, unfortunately, I don’t speak to that often and yet, there’s still that bond and they aren’t afraid to be vulnerable with me. They speak truth, they speak love and they speak life into my life. They are fun to be around and when I leave (whether a phone conversation, text conversation or in-person), I leave revived! (I feel I should also mention that these women do not live near me – it stinks, because I can’t have as much face time with them as I would like. However, it does show that a long-distance friendship can still work wonders for you! These women live anywhere from 3-8 hours away! It takes work, but it’s so worth it. :))
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (NLT)
They don’t have to be there for me like they are. When my marriage was really struggling a few years ago, these women were my strongholds. I know it wasn’t a fun time for them. I’m sure it was emotionally draining for them. But they prayed and loved me through it. They are women with attributes that I strive to have myself – a source of comfort and encouragement for other women who need it, who aren’t afraid to admit when they are struggling themselves, but do so with that constant joy that only comes from a close walk with the Lord. I want to be transparent. I am not someone who has it all together. I don’t want to pretend to have it all together either (that is so draining!!). Why pretend? Why not be honest? Give yourself permission to be honest! Find yourself at least one close friend with whom you can be completely honest. Be vulnerable with them. When they ask how you’re doing, make sure you’re honest. Also, make sure you’re there for them. If they say they’re having a rough day, don’t give them some “pat” answer like “it’ll be ok”. Be there for them. Listen to what they’re saying (and sometimes not saying) and really care for them. Don’t be afraid to share a personal story to let them know you can empathize. And if you can’t really understand what they’re going through, be honest and tell them that. Let them know you can’t fully understand their situation, but that you want to be there, how can you best help them? That alone makes a huge difference, trust me!
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (NIV)
So go out there – love your girlfriends. Love them with Christ’s love, even through their flaws. Because we all have them. When life is rough for them, be right there for them. Love them through it. When life is going well, stay there – rejoicing with them. Because there might come a time when you’ll need them just as much, if not more. Cultivate those relationships. Life is always easier when you have a few close girlfriends with whom you can be yourself. Sometimes it’s being goofy, or serious, or ridiculous..sometimes the imaginations run wild. Sometimes, it’s sitting in silence while one grieves. But be there. Without the competition. Just be there, no matter what. Like Christ.
Whew…that was way longer and deeper than I thought! 🙂 Now to go, myself, and practice what I preach!