When it comes to developing friendships, are you using building blocks or wrecking balls? If you want to build strong, authentic, and intimate connections, you need to avoid the three wrecking balls that will destroy a friendship.
LONGING FOR FRIENDSHIP
Over the past few years, I have had the wonderful opportunity and privilege to speak to many different groups of people about the power of connection and the necessity of building authentic, healthy, and strong friendships. I believe this topic resonates because I often speak to women—and women are primarily relational beings (amen?).
God created women with an innate need to connect with others. He built it into our DNA. Think back to the Garden of Eden. Adam was created first and got to work right away, naming all the animals and taking care of the garden. The key word here is: “work.” This is probably why when men meet each other for the first time they usually ask, “What do you do?” It is how God designed them. As for Eve, she was created because God said it was not good for Adam to be alone. God created her for someone, and she was immediately put in the context of a relationship.
We, as women, define our lives by the strength of our connections. When women interact, many of their conversations revolve around people. We ask each other questions about our children, husbands, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. It is all about our relationships.
And it’s about our girlfriends too, right?
We seek the kind of women who will come alongside us and walk with us on the journey. Whether we admit it or not, we long for friendship and connection.
One of my favorite scripture verses that speaks to this comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (The Message):
“So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind.”
We want to know that we are not alone, that we are all in this together, and that we have someone to encourage us. We desire connection, communication, and commitment, which are the foundational building blocks of healthy friendships.
However, there is another side to friendship, isn’t there?
Wrecking balls are the things that destroy, tear down, and devastate relationships. I have been on the receiving end of some of these wrecking balls (as I am sure you have), and the effects are painful, devastating, and long-lasting.
If I am truly honest, I have also been the one who has swung one or more of these wrecking balls into the foundation of connection, communication, and commitment—tearing down relationships I have spent years building.
So what are the three wrecking balls that will damage and destroy a friendship?
Wrecking Ball #1: Comparison
Comparison is the opposite of connection. When we are dissatisfied with where we are in our lives, it is so easy to start looking at those around us to see how we measure up. Instead of championing our friends and their successes, we use the wrecking ball of comparison. We quickly get caught in the trap of comparing anything and everything: kids, spouses, physical attributes, career choices, houses, financial situations, spiritual lives, and even other friends!
There are only two ways to go when we compare:
- We feel better about ourselves and better than our friends, which can lead to pride and a false sense of security.
- We feel worse about ourselves and start to feel less than others, which can lead to jealousy and insecurity.
Wrecking Ball #2: Competition
The reason it is so important to stop at comparison is that it often leads to this next wrecking ball—competition.
If you find yourself lacking when you compare yourself to a friend, you may start competing to “catch up” or to boost your self-esteem. Rather than cooperate to build the friendship, recognizing that everyone has unique gifts and talents, we want to be more, have more, and do more (and not in a good way).
For example, you may find yourself thinking these thoughts (or even saying them out loud!):
- She may be a hands-on, fun mom, but her house is always a mess. I am a better homemaker.
- She may work out every day and look great in her jeans, but I spend my time on things that build my character, like volunteering and serving others.
- She may have an important job and financial success, but I have made bigger sacrifices for the sake of my family.
When you set up these compare/contrast scenarios, you force yourself to compete to maintain your status. It can be exhausting—for you and your friends.It also destroys any chance of intimacy or authenticity. How can you be real, honest, and vulnerable with someone you see as your competitor? It is almost impossible.
Wrecking Ball # 3: Criticism
Moving from competition to criticism is almost inevitable because it is an easy place to go when we fail and feel miserable about ourselves. When we don’t measure up or grow weary of competing, our natural tendency is to criticize. Unfortunately, many women are experts at using words as weapons.
Criticism, according to Webster’s dictionary, is defined as “the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing.”
If some of your conversations begin with the following phrases, these are warning signs that you might be using criticism as a wrecking ball:
- I can’t believe that she…”
- “I would never…”
- “Did you hear/see what she…”
When we give in to criticism, three things can happen:
- We display our ego and insecurity.
- We set the standard by which we will be judged (ouch!).
- We alienate people and isolate ourselves.
Instead of communicating with our friends by speaking the truth in love, we tear down with words that cut and bite—either to their faces or behind their backs. Critics often have a difficult time building and keeping friends because women are afraid to open up and trust them.
Even if you have felt the impact of these wrecking balls or have knowingly (or unknowingly) been a one-woman wrecking ball in some of your relationships, there is hope! The Bible tells us that there is a way to encourage one another, include everyone, and build up hope.
We can choose to connect, cooperate, and communicate instead of compare, compete, and criticize. Philippians 4:2-4 (The Message) tells us how to do this:
“Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”
Building Block #1: Connection
Instead of sizing up other women, choose to connect by initiating contact. Take a risk and reach out to someone. Some connections will click and stick, and others will not, but do not let that discourage you. You will find your people if you reach out with vulnerability and authenticity. And once you do, invest intentionally in those relationships. Champion those women, cheer them on, and collaborate to build each other up!
“A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 (ESV)
Building Block #2: Commitment
After building on the foundation of connection, we need to understand that forming genuine and lasting friendships takes time and commitment. Instead of competing to get ahead or to feel better about ourselves, we recognize that real strength comes from uniting our unique gifts, resources, and passions and using them together to accomplish great things for Christ and his kingdom.
“It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, but if there is no one to help, tough! By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst…” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (The Message)
Building Block #3: Communication
C. S. Lewis says, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” When we become women of connection, it allows us to communicate honestly, openly, and authentically. The goal of such communication is not to point out faults or catch others making mistakes, but rather to motivate, encourage, and inspire.
The Bible tells us that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) so we do not have to avoid the hard conversations. Communication builds lasting friendships when we speak the truth in love to bring hope and healing.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted…and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27: 6, 9 (NIV)
If you want to develop lasting, healthy relationships with other women, the choice is yours:
- Will you tear down with the wrecking balls of comparison, competition, and criticism?
- Or will you choose to strengthen with the building blocks of connection, commitment, and communication?
God’s Word gives us the guidance and the tools we need to avoid the wrecking balls and use the building blocks to build strong, authentic, and lasting friendships.