Let the Sparks Flyposted on August 6th, 2012 / by Deb DeArmond / 4 Comments
“You’ve been more honest with me in the last 15 minutes than any of my friends over the last six months.”
We sat companionably close, although absolute strangers. The nail salon was fairly quiet on a Sunday afternoon. She was experiencing trouble in her marriage. The second time around for both her and her husband, and only 18 months in, they were struggling.
The issues were not unexpected. Clashes over his kids, her kids, even though all of them were grown and living away from home. “He prefers his son to me,” she said, a sad expression on her beautiful face. “I resent him. He takes advantage of his dad’s generous heart. He should be on his own. I can feel myself becoming angry when I know he’s coming over.”
She had talked with friends about the situation over the last few months. “One half of my girlfriends say I should just let it go. They remind me he’s good to me, he’s generous, even to my kids. Ignore it is their advice.”
“The other half tells me to walk out. ‘You don’t have to put up with this garbage’ is their opinion. ‘You shouldn’t play second string to his kid.’”
I shared with her a perspective based on the Word of God. It struck a chord in her heart. She acknowledged that she believed that marriage had three partners, the first being God. “We made a commitment. Not just the two of us, but God, too, when we got married.”
“If you demand your husband choose between your two year relationship, and his 20 years with his son, you may lose. You already said he feels guilty over not being there for his boy. He may be trying to make up for some of the pain his son experienced in that divorce.” She nodded as tears filled her eyes.
“If God has been invited into your marriage, then decide today, that there are no deal breakers in your relationship. Make up your mind that you are in for the long haul. Once you make that decision, you will find it easier to give it to God and let Him deal with it,” I suggested. “You have not been able to change your husband’s mind on this matter. Why not let God take the lead and you provide the prayer support.”
“Wow. Thanks. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me,” she said quietly. “I wish my friends had been as helpful,” she said.
My nails were dry and as I stood to leave, she smiled and said thanks. I squeezed her shoulder in encouragement, and stepped out of the salon.
Her parting words played over in my mind: “I wish my friends had been as helpful.”
As I drove home, I kept thinking about her friends. Two camps of opinion. Neither of them healthy or helpful. Put up and shut up or walk out the door.
Why was it easy for me to be open and honest with this woman? Easy. I didn’t know her and would probably never see her again. We are not friends.
Friendship is a funny thing. Sometimes we forget how to be good friends. Some of us may have never learned.
I heard Andy Andrews talk about his experiences of working with athletes whose behavior had gotten them in trouble. He always asks them the same question: “Define for me your idea of a really great friend.” More times than not, he says the answer is the same.
“A friend is someone who accepts me for who I am and doesn’t try to change me, “ is the most common response.
That’s rubbish, according to Andrews. A friend is someone who wants you to be the best person you can possible be. A true friend desires you to be the man or woman God created you to be and actively accepts a role in making that happen.
“A real friend is someone who challenges us, who doesn’t ignore bad behavior or walking in a way that displeases God,” according to Andy.
I agree wholeheartedly.
It’s tough, however, to be on either side of that kind of healthy behavior. My friend may be uncomfortable challenging me and I may be defensive or angry or hurt when I’m challenged. That makes her more uncomfortable and she finds it easy at the next opportunity to either a) tell me what she thinks I want to hear or b) says nothing at all. Neither is a great outcome for our friendship or me. I continue on a negative path and our chances for intimacy in the friendship begin to erode.
For the last seven years, my business practice has included serving clients as an executive coach. I gather feedback from others about the client, we do some assessments, and I provide insight into both their strengths as well as their opportunity to be more successful by addressing specific behaviors.
While most of my clients know that some ‘not so hot’ info may be coming their way, it can be very difficult to hear. I always tell them that if I ask, ”Do I have your permission to tell you the truth as I see it?” they can always say “no.” But the next question to follow will always be, “Okay. If not today, when?”
This is not tough for me to do. They are not paying me to be a friend, but for professional assessment and direction. It can be far more difficult with a personal friend or family member. But if I choose my comfort over my friend’s benefit, I’m no friend at all.
Proverbs 27 could be called the friendship manual of the Bible. Take a look at these verses, taken from the Contemporary English Version.
“A truly good friend will openly correct you.” Verse 5
“You can trust a friend who corrects you, but kisses from an enemy are nothing but lies.” Verse 6
“The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still.” Verse 9
“A friend nearby is a better than a relative far away.” Verse 10b
“Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.” Verse 17
When iron strikes iron, you can bet sparks fly.
The Word of God is very clear. Friendship is a gift that lifts our spirit and is meant to result in benefit for each party. We are God’s gifts to one another to help ‘grow us up’ into who He called us to be.
It’s a big responsibility to be a friend.
Proverbs 17:17 reminds us “A friend loves at all times.” That means we love one another enough to be candid and kind, open and honest, preferring one another in love, always – not just when it’s comfortable or convenient.
My brief encounter at the salon with the smell of acetone in the air was the easy stuff. It’s harder to do it when I might face rejection, tears, or anger from someone I care for deeply. But if I am indeed a good friend, I will ask the Holy Spirit to give me just the right words to reach the heart of one I love. I will deliver it with as much grace, mercy and love as I can. And having done so, I will let God be responsible for the outcome of my words.
And I will work to be sure that if my friend follows the same courageous path and sharpens me, I will see it as a gift of love. Even if it takes my breath away for a moment. I never want to forget the power of a Godly friendship and its value in my life as a believer, as found in Ecclesiastes 4:10: “If you fall, your friend can help you up. But if you fall without having a friend nearby, you are really in trouble.”
And we don’t want that, now, do we?