Many of us hesitate to be authentic with others because we have been hurt in the past or assume we’ll have more time once we come out on the other side of a season of busy or of surviving hard things. I have a bad habit of avoiding people I care about when I struggle. I fear burdening or scaring my inner circle away.
Some of us, even when life is going well, allow other time-sensitive activities to take priority over deepening the relationships we have.
Thus, many of the relationships that should give us life are not reaching their full potential because of fear or unclear expectations within the relationship.
Research Versus our Intentions
Research unanimously and unsurprisingly shows that social support is the most overwhelming predictor of happiness, longevity and overall resilience. Surrounding ourselves with people who “get us” supports our ability to cope with stress and hormone balance.
Maintaining meaningful relationships requires intentionality. As life leads us on new and interwoven paths we naturally grow closer or farther in friendship. While impossible to be lifelong, inner-circle friends with every great person you meet, taking inventory of your relationships is worthwhile. And key to remaining present and with your people.
Helpful practices to proceed with love and intentionality:
- The gateway to enduring friendships is to be one. Seek to know the other person. When seeking to establish newer relationships, you might have to share your hang-up first. Let the other person know it’s safe to confide in you.
- Tragedy is unifying. Neighbors who share spare toilet paper and kitchen staples stick together. Walking with your inner circle through hard things fosters meaningful bonds.
- Seek to see one another as equals. How are you similar? What strengths can you offer one another? As God’s image bearers, what aspects of His character do you see in your counterpart? Are they a peacemaker? An advocate? A creator or multiplier? Naming what you see in your significant relationships reinforces the value of having them in your life.
- A simple message via text or on socials is a good interim check-in between scheduled and often more lengthy, quality catch-ups.
The Key to Lasting Friendships
The key difference for my lasting friendships is knowing they accept me, flaws and all. Because I’ve been transparent about my weaknesses I have nothing to hide. There is freedom for each of us in being known and loved.
Be willing to help identify and carry the weight of her greatest hurt. Is your friend unmarried, recovering from a broken romance or dealing with career or fertility issues, or other challenges that leave her feeling on the outside looking in? Show care for the recurring issue that keeps her awake, pin-ball ricocheting around in her mind. What makes her nervous because someone might ask about it in social gatherings?
Recognize that because your loved one’s pain is often invisible there is trepidation. Fear that no one else will know to ask, nor be able to relate if they learn about what’s hard. Or worse, if others discover her insecurity, she’ll be judged. Understand that it likely colors every choice she makes. Being aware of one another’s hang ups can help you know how best to offer support and understand their motivations and responses to daily pressures and opportunities.
What Artists Can Teach Us
Likewise, I wonder if there might be a parallel between our unwillingness to express our true feelings and why the works of many artists throughout history have not been discovered or appreciated until their lives have ended.
Creatives pour great passion into their projects. Many fear criticism or lack of appreciation for the process from conception to finished work. Some artists feel true art is never fully finished (perhaps there will always be more to say) and the world is unprepared to acknowledge the meaning behind their pieces.
Similarly, in our person to person relationships we fear that our care and energy put into the relationship will not be reciprocated or appreciated. Or we take for granted the simple presence of our friend or loved one.
Why then do we often wait until it’s too late to tell friends or family members how we really feel? Often we don’t take the time to share our true hearts toward those we care about until their eulogy.
What a loss that many creatives and those we have cared for will never know the significance of the legacy left to those who encounter their lives’ work.
Tell Them You Care
If you were to reach out to the first five significant people that come to your mind what would you say to them? What has their presence in your life meant to you? How are you better for knowing them? How could it impact the health of your relationship to send a note or say those words to them?
Various acts of care over the years can help our own burdens feel a bit lighter. Our lives’ journey feels less lonely because we are seen, heard and valued. We can offer the same support to our inner circle, be it a special milestone, or simply an arbitrary, surprise acknowledgment of gratitude for their presence in our lives.
What a gift we can offer our beloved friends to sow love along the way instead of risking regret because we’ve waited until it’s too late.
To read more…
To explore a bit more the idea of why some creatives withhold their work from the world and reminders of why it’s important to celebrate your relationships with other women check out these articles: