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Archive for the ‘acquaintances’ Category

I was shopping at an antique gallery in Los Angeles when the owner, who I’d know from years previous, came up.

She complimented my hair and called the women surrounding her (clients? employees?) and said, “Look at her hair, it is sooooo cute, isn’t it?!”

Photo Credit: Nina Leen, 1947

I don’t like being called cute, and I don’t like being a spectacle.

She started talking about her new paintings, and what she could do for me and I barely could contain my annoyance.

This is one of the types of women I just don’t like. I don’t want to be around people who aren’t genuine good listeners. And I just wanted her to leave me alone.

I escaped and started browsing for things on my list, feeling vaguely disappointed in myself.

I needed my husband’s artistic ideas before purchasing a few items so I called him and settled down into a corner where the hopefully  no one would find me.

I opened my book and read,

“Marriage partners (or friends) either call order and beauty out of chaos or intensify chaos.” (Intimate Allies by Dan Allendar, which I have not read, but which was quoted in: Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women by Dan Brennan, a book I’ve suggested all my friends buy).

Friends notice their friend’s beauty. They call out order; they see goodness.

What beauty was I missing in the antique dealer?

Why couldn’t I see any good in her?

Why didn’t I even want to try?

I was calling out chaos in her.

My husband and son arrived in a matter of minutes.  We started looking around and the owner spotted my son, “Is that your son?” she wanted to know.

“Yes!” I couldn’t help smiling because of how she was smiling. “He is so beautiful.”

I paused.

She was willing to see beauty.

I tried again with her, smiling into her eyes and willing myself to notice order and goodness.

It doesn’t come naturally, but it’s beautiful when we try.

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This is the second post in our Tough Cookies series where we address friends who make friendship hard. Last time Sally wrote about The Demanding Friend. This time . . .

It’s 10:15.  You’ve been waiting at the park for 15 minutes past. You text your friend who was supposed to meet you.  She texts back, “I thought 11. Getting ready now.”

It’s happened before.  You thought you were clear.  You’re left waiting thinking of all you could be getting done at home.

Photo credit: meditationbeats.com

You wonder if your friend is just unaware of time.

You also wonder if you’re unaware of how unclear you are.

******

You’re on the beach and your friend starts doing yoga in full swing. After reps of Downward Dog and Warrior, you start wondering how to point out the strange glances she’s drawing. You’re wondering if she cares as much as you do.

Is she just blissfully unaware?

******

You’re traveling abroad and find yourself at a ruin in Italy where all bathroom stalls are out of toilet paper. Your Type A friend always carries a roll. When you try to break her away from the group to privately ask for her stash of tp, she cheerfully pulls it out and hands you five squares. When you ask for the whole roll, she pushes you over the top by loudly demanding, “Just tell me how much you need?”

What do we do with unaware friends?

When do we share that their unawareness is bothering us?

Many of the unaware things we do (crunching ice, interrupting, popping our gum, monologuing, etc.), while annoying don’t necessarily mean the friendship is over.  We just need to evaluate how important the annoying things are… to us and to our friendship.

Every friend will do something that shows they’re not as aware of the things we care about. We do it, too.

This doesn’t mean we have a doomed friendship. But if we’re honest, we will admit to ourselves and God that their unawareness bothers us.  Pretending we’re not bugged only means our denial will spill out in “unintentional” hinting, which then becomes our unawareness bugging others.

We always need to admit it to ourselves.

Sometimes we need to share it with our friends.

So when do we bring it up?

Try using these questions to process:

  1. How much and how badly does their unawareness bother me? Is it keeping me from loving them well?
  2. Could your friend say of you, “She really lets me be me, even though I know we disagree or she doesn’t like it when I ….”? In other words, are you a safe person?
  3. Is your friend safe? When you want to bring up something that bothers you, how do they respond? Are they glad you noticed and shared? Are they insulted? Do they receive your observation with interest or curiosity or are they threatened and hurt? This will indicate how honest they really want you to be with them.
  4. It helps to think of the four seasons friends as the best to begin those honest conversations that start with, “When you do x, I end up feeling embarrassed or annoyed…”

Let’s say you’ve figure out your friend is

So how to your bring it up?

First, draw back into your memory of when YOU were that unaware friend, the one who didn’t know you didn’t know. Remember how blissful it felt to be unaware, for a moment.  Remember how ashamed you could feel when someone alerted you to your ignorance without bathing it in understanding?

This is our first lesson: If you’re going to let an unaware friend know, enlighten them kindly.

Think of how you like to learn you have spinach in your teeth. I don’t want to learn this from my bathroom mirror after hours on the town with my girlfriend. I want to be told, discreetly, ASAP.

For instance:

Direct approach: “Hey, you’ve got spinach in your front teeth. This one (tap your own tooth in a mirror so your friend isn’t digging around in her mouth for five minutes).”

Indirect approach: “I think you have something in your teeth, you want my mirror?”

Friendship works because our friends see the exceptional qualities in our souls that no one else can offer them. These are often the flipsides of the things that bother us.  So anytime you’re about to wallow in your friend’s unawareness think of the reason she’s like that.  My always-late friend, for instance, is never annoyed when I’m late. My yoga loving friend is someone I could never embarrass I’m public.  Your tp rationing friend is…. someone who….

Photo credit: redbookmag.com

well, that might be worth bringing up.

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In my work with Soulation women often email me asking for advice.  Sometimes close friends want to know my theological position on a controversial topic.  Commenting women come to my blog often wanting me to both connect with their question and connect with them.

Are these all my friends? In what way?

Photo credit: .kenokel.com

What are my responsibilities with each of these friends?

How do we make definite yes and no decisions about friends who seems kind, but for whom we just don’t have time.

I feel frustrated, regularly, by the lack of time I can dedicate to those I’m acting as a mentor, counselor and spiritual guide to. Each speaking trip and book sold means I will probably get more practice with this frustration.

As an extrovert I usually feel delighted and eager to try. And try I do.

But befriending for life every person who wants to connect is not a reality, nor is it kind to my life-long friends.

Each of us has had the difficult decision to know how to understand a friendship’s limits.

Sally gave some helpful distinctions between a Four Seasons Friend, a Hot and Cold Friend and a Seasonal Friend.  What I loved about her post is how she shared that none of these friendships are better or worse. Rather, you decide which friendships you want to invest your time with.

Dating the Wrong Guys?

The first step in deciding friendships is taking time inventory.  How much time do you currently have to devote to a new friendship? This is a tricky evaluation because after work or church or family or hobbies and friends we don’t have a lot of time.

But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re happy-busy. Just like a date Friday night doesn’t mean it’s a fun date. In friendship, like dating, it’s easy to waste time with the wrong peeps.

Photo credit: davidwygant.com

It’s been my observation that most women spend at least some of their time with friends they do not enjoy.  In fact, there’s something in women that keeps us hanging on to friends with drama, controlling tendencies, hot and cold patterns all in an effort to be “nice.”  It’s the good girl complex that keeps us from evaluating if this friendship is a life-giving place of growth.

Two years ago I wrote this in the post “The Recipe for a Good Friendship

Psychologist Jean Baker Miller writes about five components that make up all “growth-fostering relationships”.

Each person will feel:

  1. a greater sense of zest (vitality, energy).
  2. more able to act and does act.
  3. a more accurate picture of herself and the other person.
  4. a greater sense of worth.
  5. more connected to the other person and a greater motivation for connections with other people beyond those in this friendship. In other words, frenemies drop away and friendship becomes more possible.

Friends who do not bring life can very easily book you up all week long.  No friendship ought to keep you from growth.

Put another way, keep your Friday nights free for someone else.

Top Three

I believe it helps to consider that you can only be really close to a handful of friends. Closeness requires awareness of the everyday occurrences.

Photo credit: Sex and the City

You already have close friends in your life. If they’re mothers, they’re the friends that you’ve already asked and found out how their Mother’s Day went.  Whether you like it or not, these are probably your besties.

I’ve found I can only be really close to two, maybe three friends. And I’m a high energy extravert. I entitle them to know how I’m feeling before and in more detail than any other friends.  Sally is one of them.

I reserve knowledge about my feelings for our conversations that (even if other friends ask) I do not share in this kind of detail.

I call to cry or rail or laugh or announce things to Sally and a few others before I post it online, before I share with others.

Even if others ask.

My Four Season Friends have priority.

Guilt?

Any time I feel guilty for not being “nice” which translates into devoting longer and longer emails or phone calls or play dates or information to friends who want to be closer I consider this question, “Are they in my top three?”

If no, then I give myself the freedom to not make them top priority.

By saying no to them, I’m saying yes to my three.

In fact, I can say, “No,” with quiet conviction because I now know nothing really compares to friends who can stand up through all the seasons with me.

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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.

Do

– 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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In a recent study in Cinncinatti, BFFs were found to help relieve stress in young girl’s lives.

So girlfriends can continue to be anchors, helpful supports when we’re not sure what to do or how to respond to life’s pushes and pulls.

But not just any friend will do, as I explained last week, some friends are gold and others are silver.  Let me elaborate on that metallurgy.

Photo credit: mariuszstankiewicz.aminus3.com

Some friends are gold and silver, others are . . . rusty tin.

When it comes to friendship, some women are going to corrode your ability to trust. Some “friends” are going to leave you convinced you have nothing to offer.

These friends may be hiding in the shadows, ready to appear when you return home for Thanksgiving this week. These friends may be subtle and sneaky and insipid, but regardless you have the power to invite them into your life or hold them at arm’s length.

Consider the close friends who give you safety to let you be you.  Now use them as your gold template. How do you keep the rusty tin from cutting your arms?

A few tips to preserve your heart and mind for the gold and silver friends in your life.

  • Listen, but don’t share. Ask questions until you find one value you share (see list of values ). Spend time learning about these value in their life. For instance, “How have you been spontaneous this week?”) Give yourself the freedom to hold your values closely and privately.
  • Minefield alert.  Consider ahead of time the topics or values that leave your ears ringing, the places you feel picked apart and devalued by them.  Choose ahead of time to state the minefields to yourself and then plan to avoid these topics as a way to keep the peace. For instance, my friend accuses my anti-Juice Plus stance as the main reason I get sick, so I avoid topics of eating, cooking, restaurants and working out.
  • Sally offers a good list of ways to perk up your holidays, instead of getting stuck doing (or being) the false stuff.

As the Jewish King Solomon says,

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Renoir's Two Girls Reading in the Garden

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