If you can avoid two of the most destructive forces in any relationship, it’s actually easy to grow a friendship. The friend becomes, naturally, closer and more dear to you. When we lived in Colorado, we saw so many evergreen saplings trying to grow up. As long as they made it through the early years, they were easy to grow. And then suddenly we would find those evergreen grown taller than us.
The lesson applies across gardening to friendship. Protect those early years in friendship, and you can suddenly see incredible growth. It’s almost like magic.
But any gardener knows better. Weeds are a real killer and fighting them regularly is not smooth or magical.
Today I want to share two of the most harmful forces set up against friendship. These are the weeds of friendship; they are hiding and deceit. Put like that you might think these don’t affect you. But they affect all of us.
Hiding goes by many names: denial, positivity, cheerfulness, efficiency, avoidance, chipper personality. It takes depth and usually some serious grief to be able to face the things most of us hide. Just like weeding, you have to go to the roots. So you might need some motivation to dig down deep.
Hiding ourselves or pretending to be someone else is a sure sign that your friendship won’t last. It reminds me of the time I befriended a woman who was pretending to be someone she wasn’t, just so I would want to spend time with her. You can read that story here “Pretender Friends.” None of us want to find out that we have befriended someone who doesn’t exist. And no one wants to befriend someone who hides their most honest thoughts. I think the best gift you can offer to a friend is a hospitable place for them to share what most people cannot sustain hearing.That’s the best way to weed out deceit in your friends. Offer a safe, open place where you might not agree, but you don’t condemn.
Deceit also sounds so harsh and evil. But we all are tempted to fudge who we are to look more acceptable. Whenever I meet a new person, I’m tempted to put on the person I think they will want to see. This is doubly true if I realize we don’t agree or see eye-to-eye.
I have no doubt that my own strongly shared beliefs turned many a new friend away or into hiding as they tried to find a way to both connect with me and be their true selves. All of us hide places we think are less acceptable. Instagram is a good place to see this at work. Most people only show the good selfies, the highlights of their life. The feed itself is about sharing the good stuff, and we all end up vying for positive attention. We all know the ugly stuff isn’t going to get us “hearts.”
We are tempted to do the same in our friendships. We hide, we fudge the truth, we share selectively with the intention of deceiving. We avoid the hard feelings, the difficult conversations, the uncomfortable confessions. We are afraid and so we don’t share what we’re actually believing or fearing. Deceit can simply be “going along to get along” or niceness, which sounds good. But niceness, if it hides truth, isn’t actually very nice, not in a friendship you want to grow. I guess the best metaphor for this is the manure that grows the best flowers. Sometime the truth stinks, but it sure brings growth.
Now, of course, this honest sharing must come slowly, gently. But we can (even at the beginning) find ways to share honestly or carefully. We can say “Oh, that’s a good conversation for another time.” or “I can see both sides.” or “I’d like to share more of my thoughts on that.” instead of pretending we agree or see 100% eye-t0-eye. Then we will avoid deceiving and misleading our new friends.
Once you’re determined to weed out the hiding and deceit from your friendships, it’s quite simple to grow together. This is because you’re working with the real material of who you are, who they are. You know if you’re a natural fit. You know that if this is the real John or Lisa, even if they change, you’ll at least get a memo about it.
After honesty enters the friendship, you only need one more ingredient to grow. You need faithfulness, which includes time, but requires more than just time. Let me close with three examples of what I mean.
- Be the faithful one. If there’s a silence in the friendship, reach out. Don’t assume they are mad or resentful or distant on purpose. Reach out and see how they are. Let them know you miss them. Be steady and show up even if they are sort of missing in action for awhile. Often, they’re fighting a difficult battle and really want (and need) a friend.
- Be the type of faithful you want. Assume the best you can. So assume they meant something in kindness, or at least ignorance before gathering more info. Keep truth close to you as you remain faithful. I like to use questions in these situations, something like, “When you say this, I felt this. Did you mean that?”
- Model faithful sharing in the areas that matter the most. In other words, share your life, faithfully, with them. Don’t assume they know what to ask. If your last art show mattered to them, text them. “I’m having a huge art show Sat, and I wanted you to know about it because even though you live across the country, if you lived here I would want you to come.” This is a good way to volley, or initial the volley to share the most important things in your life. More on volleying below in my March post.
With these three, growing a friendship really can come naturally. And that’s where I want to leave your this month. Notice the friendships that grow naturally, that’s a sign they’re meant to last.
The Friendship Posts
Expecting Better Friendships: Friendship Fountain, Sorting Friendships and Downsizing Friendships
What is a Friend: Balloon Friends, Companions, It is Good You Exist
The Pace of Friendship: Walk with Me, Return the Volley, Trains and Rollercoasters
Growing Friendships: Friends and Flowers, Growing a Friendship, Weeding a Friendship
Healing a Friendship: Forgiveness, The Work of Healing, The Crucial Question