Archive for the ‘strengthen friendship’ Category

So far, in our Tough Cookie Series we have taken a look at The Demanding FriendThe Unaware FriendThe Disappearing Friend and The Unforgiving Friend, The Guilting Friend.  We’ll close with the Confusing Friend.

With the Olympics these last few weeks I’ve noticed how meaningful each country’s anthem, played in their language, feels to the gold medalist. They suddenly hear their language, unique and special to their identity.

In friendship, we all speak a language unique to us. And our family of origin or our spouse know it better than anyone else. The key to good friendships is finding someone who wants to learn our language. And I’m not just talking about love language, I’m talking about the specific words we use that mean something nuanced to me or you.

When my husband and I find our son with a tummy ache, our first response is, “I’m sorry.”  This is our family’s way of saying “I’m sad you are in pain. I wish I could make it better.”

But that’s just our family. When our babysitter hangs out with our son, she was intrigued that a two year old is so quick to say, “I’m sorry.” She’s surprised that he tells her, “I’m sorry,” when she scratches her arm on the hike.

She and most of the world use “I’m sorry,” to communicate personal responsibility in the pain.  But in our family it means something different.

This doesn’t mean that the way we use, “I’m sorry” is the right way.  It is simply our shorthand to empathize.

We all have ways to communicate unique to us, our language. But to others this dialect can feel confusing.

The longer you walk with a close friend the more chances you’ll have to face their confusing side.

We communicate one thing, but our friend hears something else.  The only way out of confusing-ness is to learn how to communicate, not necessarily better, but more appropriately. Friendship is nothing if not learning another language.

Each friendship gives us new ways to communicate. In the end we’ll both know another language.

Friendship is one way immersion. Each friendship is a two-way language course, with new confusing ways of communication crossing and hopefully forcing each of us to stop and evaluate how to communicate better. We’ll both leave changed, not just one of us.

If your friend requires you to do all the language learning and has not learned your ways of communicating, guess what?

You’re being treated as a foreigner in your friend’s country with no emotional culture or language to share.  Instead you need to be acting as two sojourners traveling to each other’s countries.

Sometimes it’s easier to spot these foreigner friends in other situations than in our friendships.  You see the mother who requires her child to fit into her life from food to bedtime to travel. She makes no accommodation for her child’s sleep schedule or eating needs. The child’s language is being erased by the mother’s. Or you see the mother who terminates all her work, interests and outside-the-home hobbies for her child. She forgets what used to make her feel alive, she stops having friendships outside of her children’s friend’s parents. She loses her own language for her child’s.

Both mothers are losing something precious.

The same with friendships. We each have friends who have required that we learn their language. The question that is key is how have your friends learned yours? How have you asked them to change their communication for your needs?

If your friend asks you to text her back immediately to show you care, how have you (say you’re an introvert) explained that you feel close when your friend doesn’t expect to see you each week. How has your friend learned your language enough to respect and speak your language (maybe an email instead of demanding a get-together each week).

Confusing friends are normal, but one-way confusion leads, inevitably, to an imperialistic relationship.  We don’t want to be the colony that our friend takes over and remakes her image.  We all need to know that our language, even if it at first feels like confusing communication, is cared about enough for someone to learn our native tongue.

But if you find yourself learning lots of new languages with your friends, but not seeing your friend’s learning your language… it’s time to find a better friends.

Good friends want to know how to speak with you, in your language. And they will make the effort to keep trying, even if their pronunciation is off and their grammar silly.

They will try because they think you are worth it.


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In third grade the most popular girl in school invited me to go to Disneyland with her.

We got to take off school. We were in heaven.

Photo credit: socal.catholic.org

I wore a pair of flowered pants that I thought were pretty. My friend wore spandex pants that looked really good on her legs. A long slouchyT-shirt came over the top, tied at her hip.

Then entire day she kept looking at me and saying things like, “Can you pull your pants up, they’re so baggy.”

I tried, but seriously, baggy pants are hard to find.

I couldn’t tell her my mom wouldn’t let me out of the house in spandex.

I couldn’t very well defend my choice as the best pair of pants for the occasion.

I just sort of slunk around in my bagginess.

On the way home I felt pretty ambivalent toward my friend. Why did she invite me if she was going to spend the whole day telling me how embarrassing I looked to her?

I guess she didn’t realize my behind-the-times wardrobe since we, mercifully, wore uniforms to school.

Disneyland wasn’t as fun as I had hoped it would be.  And our friendship sort of fizzled after that.

She took someone else with her to Disneyland the next year.

Photo credit: stylehive.com

I never convinced my mom to buy spandex.

Thank goodness for the uniforms.

The times a friend has corrected me live eternal in my memory.

There were my closest friends who once all told me to stop being so bossy.

They were right.

There was my third grade friend who wanted me to get with the spandex fashion.

She was wrong.

There was my husband, yesterday, who told me he felt like my voice was too stern for the situation.

He was right.

How to give your opinion?

A few tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Do not . . . 

– offer advice or correction when you’re not invested in the friendship long-term.

– ask your friend to change something she cannot currently change whether because of finances, family upbringing or personal courage.

– require your friend to take your advice after offering it.

– assume you know what it’s like for her before speaking into her life. For example take time to investigate the feelings of a stay-at-home-mother before critiquing or broadly summarizing their lives in public or in private.


– share if an outfit looks unflattering with your friends who are safe and long-term, with whom you have both received and given suggestions and advice on fashion.  This is especially true if they ask you for your honest opinion about their clothes.

– explain the thing that bothers you about a friend when it personally tramples you. For instance, if a friend has hurt you it is appropriate to share this with them, most particularly if they have indicated their openness and safety to listen.

– pray about the things that bother you to determine if it’s your issue or theirs. Consider using these phrases to share if you’re not certain, “I have a problem, I feel confused, left out, etc. . . ” or “I’m not sure what to do right now, I feel (fill in emotion word here). . .”

Overall, it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid fixer-uper friendships.

I do not feel flattered or loved when I find out my friends have taken me under their wing to fix my fashion or my habits or my career choice.

I want friends who see me and say, “Oooh, I like that girl” (Thanks, Molly Aley) because of someone I already am.

When I’m believed in and loved, and know it, I can hear almost any correction.

Do you agree?

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The following is an excerpt from a fantastic book I just finished…and cannot recommend enough.

“I am working at my desk one day, eyes poring over something.  You know how you can feel when two eyeballs are staring at you?  I look up and it’s Danny.  He’s a short, chubby ten-year-old who lives in the projects and is one of the fixtures around the office.  A goofy, likable kid who does not do well in school.  He seems to have purloined this oversized sketch pad, nearly as large as he his.  He has it resting on his arched knee, and in his right hand is a pencil.  He’s sketching me.  He works furiously on this drawing and then positions his pencil, held up at me, as if to size up the subject of his portrait.  this is a technique he has retrieved, no doubt, from cartoons.  He works on the portrait and then stops and holds his thumb and pencil at me to, again, capture my essence.  This cracks me up.  It is completely charming and funny.  So I laugh.

Danny gets quite annoyed, “Don’t move,” he says, with not a little bit of menace.

Well, this makes me laugh all the more to think it makes any damn difference if I move.  I’m howling a lot now.  Danny turns steely on me, not the least bit amused.  He becomes a clench-toothed Clint Eastwood.  “I said, ‘Don’t move.'”

I freeze.  I stop laughing, and he finishes the portrait.

Danny rips the sheet and lays the thing on my desk, revealing his obra de arte.  And there in the middle of this huge piece of paper, about the size of a grapefruit, is me, I guess.  Apparently, I been beat down with the proverbial ugly stick.  It is Picasso on his worst day.  My glasses are crooked, my eyes not at all where they should be.  My face is generally woppy-jawed, and it is an unrecognizable mess.  I’m kind of speechless.  “Uh, wow, Danny, um … this is me?”

“Yep,” he says, standing proudly in front of my desk, awaiting a fuller verdict.

“Wow, I hardly know what to say … I mean … it’s … uh … very interesting.”  Danny looks a little miffed.  “Well, whad ya spect.  YA MOVED.”

We squirm in the face of our sacredness, and a true community screams a collective “don’t move.”  The admonition not to move is nothing less than God’s own satisfaction at the sacredness, the loveliness that’s there in each one – despite what seems to be a shape that’s less than perfect.”

Tattoos On The Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

Ch. Water, Oil, Flame

A great comment to add to our blog on female friendship, where we hope to encourage a “Don’t Move” approach to ourselves as women, the satisfaction of our own sacredness and the loveliness that lies in each one of us…

note: the title and content (minus my small note at the end) of this post is taken directly from the book Tattoos On The Heart.  Authorship – Gregory Boyle.

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Last year I wrote about stitching the cloth of friendship. I want to re-visit some of these threads and push them a little deeper.

For the full conversation, take a moment to re-visit The Recipe for a Good Friendship.

In the comments one reader asked about self-aware-ness, how was it valuable to friendship and what exactly made it good.

Good Self-Awareness

How is self-awareness richer than deep breathing and mat work at a gym?

Photo credit:yogaworldtours.com

Self-awareness is actually a vital ingredient in authentic friendships. Self-awareness is the fuel that powers humble people, those women we’re all drawn to because of their ability to be simply, themselves, no more, no less.

Self-awareness begins with an accurate assessment of who we are, what we can offer, what we can be and what we cannot be.

Self-awareness is precisely the reason most friendships don’t last a lifetime. The more we know about ourselves the more we come to realize our current friends simply don’t know or don’t want to know us.

Not Who I Was

Bee and I used to connect over mocking feminism, now I’m a feminist. What do I do?

In high school Lauren and I played sports together, now we don’t even live in the same town. How can we connect when we don’t have much to connect about anymore?

Ana has kids my age and lives in my town, but we don’t have more to talk about than our kids. Is our friendship worth pursuing?

If friendship requires connection points, and the more points we connect the more close we can be (for more see The Recipe for a Good Friendship), then how are you connecting with your friends?

Are these authentic connections?

Or do you long for more?

If I’ve been faking (so as not to hurt feelings) my interest in knitting club, but then I grow to realize I’d rather watch The Office and make cookies during that time, my knitting friends don’t really know me.

Photo credit:unappreciatedknitter.blogspot.com

By skipping knitting club I’m being more Jonalyn, than by going and making everyone happy. Of course, skipping out on groups that expect you bring up another barrel of issues.

What about hurting their feelings?


And isn’t friendship about working hard when then going gets tough?

Sally and I are big proponents of sticking it out when friendship is hard. We recently got a chance to practice this with each other.

We all want to be faithful friends, but faithful to what?

Faithful to each other


faithful to who we really are.

With a masters degree in ethics, and a firm knowledge of Scripture, I think doing the right things is very important. But as my therapist once said, “Most of life isn’t black and white, right or wrong. We know a few moral commands (think 10 Commandments), but most of life we make decisions with complete freedom from God.”

God says, “You get to choose and remain faithful not to what others expect out of you, but to what I put in you.”

Self-Aware of God’s Ingredients

What did God put in you? What if you were free to find out?

If you want to go or not go to knitting (or any other) club?

To forego the playmate when I really don’t connect with her.

To leave the church because I am more fake than known.

To stop attending that group because I simply bores or exhausts me.

We do too many things because we think they’re “moral issues” when God has said, “You are free.”

So what could you do that would make you more the person God created?

What do you need to stop doing?

What friendships do you know won’t last a lifetime? and for good reason?

Sally writes well on how making changes with our friends involves both kindness and compassion, not simply dropping off the face of the earth. For more about transitioning check out her P.S. What I Haven’t Said.

Regardless, being self-aware in order to become more of who you are will require more work, but it will make you more free.

And this world needs you, the faithful you, the one God made.

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Most of us have a handful of friendship stories.  We can attest to how other women bring us fun, laughter, love, support, anger, confusion and pain.  To know and be know over time amid experiences like these is a sweet gift.  It takes a lot of courage to let a friend into who you are and the nuances of how you work, continually showing your real self as you learn, age and grow…and to offer the same to a friend.

With all that can happen between two people, it is good to have an idea of a few things that can help a friendship stand the test of time.

Be Realistic.  

Not all friendships last a life time and not all women have it in them to maintain a long-term friendship.  There are different types of friends, and different seasons of our lives that certain people fit well into.  Within any friendship, it is good to remember that:

  • People change.
  • People disappoint and surprise.
  • Sometimes words do not match actions.
  • Many of us put on a happy face and keep the “real me” hidden.
  • Many women have secrets and long to be known, loved and free.
  • My relationship with you is not all about me.
  • As we get older, we have more things we are committed to.


We are all different.  We all do friendships differently – the time we devote, the level at which we are willing to share, the expectation for the life of a friendship.  Jonalyn and I had a great time completing the Myers-Briggs and hearing new things about one another, and laughing at things we already knew.  Then, wouldn’t you know it, we recently had situation that challenged us to do exactly what we present in this blog – love and enjoy our differences, listen to learn, keep an open mind, stand up for ourselves, seek resolution and move forward with clear hearts.


Personality is dynamic and allows us to be unique, beautiful and interesting all within one person, but it sure does help to relate to another person through values, interests or life-experiences.

Honesty and Growth.

These two things are a great basis for a friendship, but also great aspirations.  They are always present, always needed to help maintain a long-term friendship.  Honesty and growth are good buddies in themselves…one begets the other.

It is true that growth brings change, which is scary for most people.  Being honest can be scary, too.  We are territorial beings that love predictability and patterns, even in people.  It is also true that some women do not want relationships to grow, and some say they do but when push comes to shove, cannot offer the honesty with themselves and honesty with another that it takes to maintain a dynamic relationship.


As we grow, we change.  Are you the same person you were in elementary school?  How have you changed since you had your first best friend?  What things have happened that changed your outlook on life or your perspective on women?

Just as we are waiting for winter to turn into spring, there are times in friendships that welcome new friends and usher out ones that no longer fit well with where we are in life.  This happens with major events in life, groups we belong to, heath diagnoses, values we embrace, loss we incur, places where we live, projects we put our time into, and age.

“We’ll keep in touch!!” is often the promise.  Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.

S#*t Happens.

Relationships are like pressure cookers.  Before too long, friends are required to deal with one another’s issues.  We ALL have issues.  (As soon as you think you don’t, think again.)

When you enter into a relationship with another human being, you are ripe for personal growth.  In easier times in a friendship, relating to another person can seem easy-peesy.  Then something happens.  A misunderstanding, a betrayal, another person…something that shows who we really are.

Some relationships can withstand what it takes to work through these situations, including the aforementioned honesty and growth.  In situations like this, we sometimes experience very disheartening surprises, like a friend who is less committed the relationship than you thought, one who is unwilling to be open or be in need.  (Jonalyn told a great friendship story like this in last month’s post).  This is often when we go through a break-up or a friendship dies.

Deep or Shallow.

Friendships need a bit of both.  Friendships that are always in the deep part can be burdensome at time and lack the color that laughter brings.  There is only so much time we can devote to deep thoughts and feelings before we feel the need for rest, a break, some space.

Shallow is fun and less threatening.  But it can get boring.  In a continuously shallower friendship, there is often an itching to go deeper, know more, see more.

You can’t surf on the sand, you can’t sunbathe well out in the deeper rolling waves.  Both have a purpose.

What other elements have you found important to a long term friendship?  We’d love to have your input!

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Love In Action

Sally and Grace...Before She Hit High School To Celebrate "Singles Awareness Day 2012"

My high-school-aged cousin Grace texted this morning that she is celebrating Singles Awareness Day instead of Valentine’s Day.  I laughed and texted back that I remember numerous single Valentine’s Days in my middle school, high school and college years.

We all fall somewhere on a love continuum at any age – lucky in love, disappointed in love, waiting on love, enjoying love, confused by love.  It is easy to get tangled up in what it means to love ourselves and how to go about doing that.  It is easy to get tangled up in how to express love to others.

Friendship is a great place to express love – in detail.  Valentine’s Day offers us an opportunity to move beyond “I love you.”  I say I love you to each of my closest friends, but I am learning to tell them what I love about them.  It is more difficult that it sounds!

Don’t Just Think It, Say It.

Today, offer a friend detailed love.

  • I love that you are _______.  I see that when you _______________.
  • I really appreciate that you are ____________.
  • You are good at ___________.
  • It is important to me that you know that I love you, but also WHAT I love about you.
  • I really admire that you ______________.

Grace a few years later!!There is a difference between “I love you” and offering “I love you and here are a few details of that love.”  Watch your friend’s face when you tell them what is so great about them.  Let the silence linger as they hear about themselves.

We live in a world starved for love details, and sometimes the broad, general “I love you” leaves us wanting more.  So no matter what Valentine’s Day means for you as far as romantic love goes, today is a great chance to offering a friend “more”. Dig out some less-used adjectives and practice celebrating our differences out loud!

  • thoughtful
  • creative
  • attentive
  • responsive
  • open
  • caring
  • intelligent
  • willing
  • adventurous
  • courageous
  • brave
  • hopeful

Any adjectives or descriptions of a friend you can add to the list??  Let’s hear them!

Interested in Part 2 of “Is It Selfish To Love Yourself?”  Take a look!

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I watched Adele perform at the Royal Albert Hall last night . . . on DVD. One song about friendship stood out to me. She sang “My Same” after explaining how her longtime best friend is so different from her. Her friend, for instance, was wearing a pink dress and red tights to the concert. Adele wore a typical black dress. She pointed this out, then she sang,

Photo credit: hypebeast.tumblr.com

“I say we’ve only known each other a year
You say I’ve known you longer, my dear
You like to be so close, I like to be alone
I like to sit on chairs and you prefer the floor.”

Good friends will find differences.

You will uncover them and find they appear to be rocks, but I know Sal and I are constantly working on scrubbing those rocks clean and polishing them up. How many diamonds are in those rocks?

I’ve been thinking about what makes for good friendship the last few days. A few things stand out as necessary, as much as flour, sugar and baking soda in a cake.

Sugar, for it keeps things sweet: reminding each other and yourself that you love and care for each other.

Flour, because it builds strength: finding the best way to communicate, not just for you, but for your friend.

Baking Soda: tears, because they carry each of us to be fully ourselves, whether in frustration or pain or anger or hope.

(Oh, I know there’s lots and lots more in the ingredients, but this list is a start)

Then you mix and mix, but not too much because you don’t want to over do it. 🙂

Bake at 400 degrees: Disagreements, because they reveal what you’re really making… a competition, a replacement parent, a child, or a friend.

Photo Credit: janedjacobs.wordpress.com

And then you take the cake out of the oven, and you find, you’ve created a masterpiece. This is how I feel about my girlfriends, particularly of Sally and me, particularly this week.

As Adele rings out, “Think we’ll never match at all

But we do, but we do, but we do, but we do . . .

Walking with each other

Think we’ll never match at all

But we do.”

Let’s keep walking together through this land of female friendship.

p.s. Can you think of other ingredients in your friendships that make masterpieces?


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