Let me tell you about a wicked cake.
We all want to make a great layered cake of friendship, but another rising concoction threatens our time and our love in friendships.
What goes into a frenemy relationship?
Terri Apter, co-author of Best Friends: The Pleasures and Perils of Girls’ and Women’s Friendships writes that “among female friends there is: a wish to offer support and see a friend thrive, on the one hand, and a fear of being left behind or out-shone, on the other.”
Women have love and unkindness mixed into every friendship. Unkindness fueled by envy or insecurity.
Mix envy into kindness for a friend and you have a frenemy cake. This concoction happens almost spontaneously, rarely intentionally, always insidiously. As Sally explained in A Gossipy Fine Line, frenemy behavior can be as easy as gossip.
Frenemy in Training
I see the frenemy cake rising in myself.
I come home after a long day spending time with a woman I don’t like. Actually she doesn’t like me, stinging me with little snippy comments, like nettles in my soul. I hate being insulted without being able to put my finger on the exact insult. Women do that well, smooth as cream even when they’re working against you.
I loathed this woman more each moment I spent with her, wanting to not care, but caring deeply about what she thought of me.
I see layer one rising: insecurity.
I was bound by obligation to remain with her and yet longed to pull out my bag of thistles and give her a taste of my needles. The battle I fought to not lash out left me mostly silent, often despondent and as my husband told me afterwards, looking like I was trying too hard.
Darn it all! Why did I even bother trying to be nice when it feels like a losing battle?
Layer two rising on top: disgust with both myself and this “friend.”
So in the evening hours I took refuge in my hotel room with my books and music, my notebook full of observations for a writing project and a bag of cherries soothing my pin-pricked emotions.
I feel all the distaste for my own sex as I check emails, update on blogs, spend time lingering on friend’s updates thinking of things that are too embarrassing to admit.
Unkind things toward those I call friends.
Surely, not ME
Perhaps because I was hoping to outgrow it, I didn’t pay much close attention to this spongy cake.
But now I’m sure, whenever I’m feeling insecure about who I am, frenemy cake is cooking in the oven.
One way to melt the power of frenemia, to resist the temptation to make my cake and eat it, too, is to throw open the door on the reality in my soul. If you haven’t faced the frenemy in you, I can guarantee it looks a lot worse than you first expect. And like most messes I’m afraid it’s going to look a lot worse before it’s going to look better.
As I’ve written (I’m Worse, You’re Better), confession is all about owning things.
Confession is a lost practice. We rarely do it, or do it only generally (“Yea, I gossip, sometimes).
Confession is like diving naked into a pool, it feels cold and stunning and in the end almost too good to be true.
One reason I follow Jesus is because he came for sick people he wanted to make clean. As long as I remain convinced that I need to be cleaned up, every day, again and again, I can be a Christ follower. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.
In one account of Jesus life I found this: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:
‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said,
‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (Luke 18:9-13).
Jesus praised the tax collector.
When I admit I’m insecure and unkind to friends, Jesus is right at my elbow, cheering me onward into honesty.
Like a woman who confessed at a recent retreat “Lord, forgive me for my one-upmanship”, we all can agree we have that problem, too.
Take a moment and consider what provokes you to cook up a frenemy cake in your soul.
What’s your first layer of insecurity?
Your second layer of unkindness?
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