The past couple years have taught me so much about relationships. In the midst of pain and struggle the Lord allowed a lost friendship to be rekindled. This was like a rose blooming in the desert. Dr. Karen Purvis says, “Everyone desires to be heard and accepted”. I believe this is true.
This friend is someone who loves me unconditionally. It is a picture of the love of Jesus.
I call this friend my “face to face” friend as I can live honestly with her, without fear of rejection. Together we are reading a book called, “Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t”. I’ve only read the first third of the book, but things are fitting together in my head…like missing puzzle pieces. Years of confusion are fading away and I can see much clearer now.
This book helps us acknowledge unhealthy traits in a relationship. No one is perfect, that’s for sure! However, if the person is defensive when approached with a problem then this is a red flag. The authors believe unsafe people fall into one of three categories;
- “Abandoners” (People who can start a relationship but who can’t finish it)
- “Critics” (People who take a parental role with everyone they know)
- “Irresponsibles” (People who don’t take care of themselves or others).
I am grateful that in my sanctification process I’ve been moving out of the role of critic friend. I confess it’s easy to fall back, but generally it’s less and less! I now clearly see specific people who often hurt or manipulate me falling into one of these three categories, along with the red flag of defensiveness. What’s a good friend to do?
In pondering this, I was reminded of Mark Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage” where he talks about different kinds of friendships. He describes three types:
- “Face to Face” an emotionally intimate relationship
- “Side to Side” a relationship where you work together towards a common goal
- “Back to Back” a relationship where you are headed different directions, most likely opposed to one another
This book made me realize I am either “Face to Face” or “Back to Back” in my relationships. Consequently I try to have an intimate relationship with an unsafe person and I am left feeling vulnerable; often hurt and / or manipulated. I often was left with the feeling that I had done something wrong in the friendship and drowning in false guilt.
I love most of these people dearly and I don’t want to turn my back on them. What’s a good friend to do? We need to realize that an “unsafe” person isn’t necessarily a bad person. Most of them are in the process of growing and changing. Those who follow Jesus have the encouraging promise of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying power. I’m purposing to extend grace and love to these people in my life.
I want to walk “Side by Side” with these struggling friends or family members. It can be very good, just not very deep. Just because they are incapable of meeting my desire to be heard and accepted does not mean I turn my back on them. I can love unconditionally. It is a picture of the love of Jesus.
However I do recognize their limitations at this point. Most of the time these limitations have little to do with me and I don’t need to take it personal. I can protect my heart, and walking “Side by Side” accomplishes that. This actually empowers me to limit my interaction with them and to interact positively. It is much more emotionally healthy and a heck of a lot less frustrating.
I’ve always told my kids, “We don’t have to tell everyone what color underwear we are wearing!” I realize now that what I was really saying is, “Not everyone is a face- to-face friend!”
Healthy, realistic relationships are what helps us be a good friend to all sorts of people.
King Solomon declares in Proverbs 18:24 – “A person who has friends may be harmed by them, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
I am grateful for my rekindled friendship, my rose blooming during my desert time.
Thank you for hearing me and accepting me and loving me unconditionally.
You are a picture of the love of Jesus.