“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9
My best friends aren’t my best friends because they make me feel good about myself-at least not all the time. Over the years I’ve been told by my best friends: “You really are kind of hard on your kids.” “He’s your husband Judy. His needs are as important as yours.” “You might want to pick your battles and decide if that’s a hill you really want to die on.”(parenting and marriage) “You need to be quiet and listen sometime.” “You should think about the concequences of your actions if you take that route.” In a world of very confusing messages on the expectations of motherhood, marriage, and the workplace, it’s often difficult to glean the good from the garbage; the cream from the crop; or the truth from the fiction. So that being said, it follows that surrounding yourself with one, two, or three well rounded, wise, imperfect but learned women, is unequivocally important for separating the truth in our lives from the lies which we can otherwise easily believe about ourselves and our present circumstances. On its face, this sounds like a plausible concept. Yes, cultivate a few close BFF’s so I can receive my daily affirmation. But the flip side of this storied union of gal pals, is the pervading question: Can you take it when they are not necessarily “affirming” you? Can you accept constructive criticism from someone you know and trust? True acceptance of critism is illustrated by a subsequent response of serious deliberation, and if neccesay, action taken as a result of the criticism. When my sister expressed her veiw, over a perceived lack of respect on my part for my husband’s feelings and position on a matter in our marriage, it wasn’t at all what I beleived she would say or what I wanted to hear. But as I mulled it over in my mind, this is what I did know about the source of the criticism: 1 This person has no hidden agendas. 2 This person cares for me unconditionally.
3 This person has my best interests at heart. 4 This person isn’t trying to fortify her own position in my life or in the given situation. (a personal agenda) In fact, if anything, when a true “best friend” meets the 1st three criteria of this “measuring stick,” it’s highly likely that she knows she’s risking her relationship with you. She is taking a chance and trusting that you will, in turn, trust what you know about her, and therefore listen to her with that credibility in mind. So the next time you have a friend say something critical to you, first make a conscious decision to explore the truth in the criticism. Apply the measuring stick above. If you know or believe in your heart that the advice giver has an ulterior motive for taking this opposite stance, then glean what you can from her observations. Don’t respond in kind, meaning don’t respond to what you perceive as ill intent on her part. But consider this: while she may not be the person in whom you can put your trust for sound advice when the road is tough, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something about yourself from what she said. But on the other hand, if your friend really does meet all three criteria on our measuring stick of credibility, and you Still choose to NOT listen to her, much less act on anything she says, then you might consider the possibility that you are unteachable. That is a strong word I know. However, over the years of my single, married, parenting life, and in the workplace, I have had my own share of unteachable moments.
Finally, if all you ever hear from your “besties,” is how much they totally agree with you, how wonderful you are as a parent, employee or spouse, then you might consider diversifying your relationship investments so to speak. Maybe you should invest some time cultivating a relationship with someone who has a proven track record of making mistakes and learning from them-someone who is full of humility and grace. These women can teach me a lot.
Okay, the truth is my best friends do hold me accountable. I fully trust and know if I left my husband, or dropped the proverbial ball drastically in parenting, they would be the first to call me (or tackle me) look me in the eye, and say “What the heck is going on?” And it’s highly unlikely that would be in a text message! Furthermore, if they knew something about my kid that I did not know, i.e inappropriate posting on social networking, or inexcusable behavior away from home, I would fully expect them to fill me in! BUT they are also the very first to comfort and affirm me. Remember the measuring stick? People who love us hold us accountable. So it just goes without saying, they will affirm and validate me as well.
None of us are an island unto ourselves. As much as I think I want to be sometimes, it’s not how God created me. I need my friends, and my friends need me. My family needs then to be in my life as well. And I need then to speak into the lives of my daughters with both their words and their actions. I am a better person-not perfect by any measuring stick-but better mom, wife, employee, thanks to their input. My best friends are made up of equal doses of love and truth, the two ingredients needed to make a great friend. They challenge me to be a better human being.