Judy Dippel, Eugene Author
The Art of Authentic Friendship: Real Women, Real Challenges, Real Solutions
Relationships are continually shifting and being redefined, and it seems that as we approach the holiday season, when we’ll be spending time with both friends and family, these pearls of wisdom from our “Relationship” chapter in The Art of Authentic Friendship are something to strive to wear and give out at every gathering this Thanksgiving and Christmas.
We know that at the core of every important and meaningful friendship is a close relationship that adjusts and compensates as needed. In order to stay healthy, relationships require plenty of commitment. The following “pearls” are the qualities that can strengthen and help you sustain more satisfying relationships. We shop for the perfect gift, but if we wear these actions and attitudes every day, we help our friendships (and family relationships) remain dynamic and growing. These pearls are the perfect gift!
As 1 Corinthians reminds us, “Love is patient and kind. It bears all things.” Patience, when put into action, can be a tremendous present to give a friend or family member. It illustrates that you care for them through thick and thin. Patience shows you can bear up, and let something irritating slide off, as you choose to forget or forgive. It also gives you the perseverance to come alongside a friend or family member who may have long term problems, complaints, or pain.
Patience, when materialized in human form, is seen as even-tempered, caring and diligent. Women, who are able to personify patience, bring expressions of kindness and wisdom that touch gently and humbly. In the words of Vauvenargues, “Patience is the art of hoping.”
Even a spark of encouragement given to a discouraged friend or family member can rekindle hope and soothe the spirit. In Romans 1:11-12 Paul tells believers that he wanted to see them so they could encourage each other. He says, “I long to see you…that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”
For believers, sharing the bond of Christ can be especially powerful. The strength of encouraging words should not be underestimated. In mere seconds, they can uplift and inspire.
Kathi, age 55 wrote this note to her friend, “Your friendship has been a catalyst in my life. When we are together, I come away with renewed vision and energy to reach beyond where I am and follow my dreams. Thank you for that! There is something about our being together that thrusts me forward—it is true! Isn’t that what a part of friendship is all about?”
Unconditional love and acceptance are qualities Christians are called to demonstrate, just as Christ has demonstrated these qualities in His relationships. All relationships that remain close, and stand the test of time, understand the absolute grace and mercy that’s contained in unconditional love and acceptance.
In describing the most important blessing friendship has provided, Mary, age 54 said, “To be fully known and still loved and accepted! That is the closest to being like God that one person can be towards another. To be given that from a friend is huge…and freeing.”
Felicia, age 35 added, “Having someone who knows you well enough, and loves you well enough to gently point out your blind spots but at the same time puts up with your faults; that’s mercy in action.”
Loving unconditionally means you believe in, and respond to the best in a friend or family member, regardless of her mistakes and weaknesses. It does not mean you accept sin, or turn a blind eye towards it. Loving unconditionally means you care enough about someone to love them even when it’s hard and at times, undeserved.
Respect and integrity go hand and hand. It takes integrity to balance between giving good counsel to friends, or being too blunt and hurtful. You want to share enough, but not too much. It takes integrity to walk this fine line in the right way. Respect allows you to forge the appropriate and correct way to share and interact in healthy relationships.
When an attitude of respect exists, it builds confidence between friends. It also bestows high esteem and regard for others opinions and feedback. Jill, age 28, said, “To me, respect means there is truthfulness, reliability and honor in my friendships and it brings with it certain rights and privileges. My friends can say nearly anything to me, if I know they respect me.”
Loyal friends (and family) remain devoted and trustworthy. It is a valuable quality, but must be mutually earned and does take time to develop this allegiance. A loyal friends actions stand out; they are faithful and steadfast…constant regardless of what might or might not be occurring in life. When others walk out, a loyal friend steps in.
Jennifer, age 47 said, “My marriage came undone after my husband repeatedly broke my trust and left me for another woman…They were constant companions when I couldn’t be alone, and they remained true and faithful friends when I had no one else to turn to. They reminded me there was still plenty to love about myself. If that’s not loyalty, I don’t know what is.”
The character, Truvy, played by Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolias said, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” If laughter could be prescribed in daily doses like medicine, everyone would be healthier. Proverbs 15:15 states, “He who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.” Relationships that share a strong sense of humor, no matter how far-out or whacky it seems, tend to grow into fast friends and enjoy a “continual feast.”
I encourage you to serve plenty of laughter up at every gathering this holiday season. Also, you can enjoy the side-benefit of more calories being burned!
An undeniable quality to any relationship is the ability to serve one another in times of need. The give and take between friends (and family) needs to be balanced. When friends consider themselves equals, this is a natural outcome. But some women find it difficult to be on the receiving end of help. They may find it tough to relinquish control, believing someone’s help proves they have a weakness or fault, or they feel too self-conscious to accept the attention given them. When you only give to others and never allow others to serve and give to you, the relationship cannot expand and grow as it naturally might. Eventually the friendship loses important vitality and strength which are important ingredients for lasting relationships.
A thriving relationship can’t help but produce good works, and in doing so strengthens bonds. Friendships and family relationships that mutually serve one another reap huge rewards. So, I encourage you to give pearls of wisdom out freely this holiday season—acts of patience, encouragement, acceptance, respect, loyalty, laughter and service. Priceless blessings will reflect back onto you from the “pearls” you choose to give. I hope your friends and family give the same! Happy Holidays!
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