November 5, 2012

The Danger and Beauty of Friendship


“If you say that one more time, I’m going to be angry,” she said, and seemed to grip the steering wheel a little tighter.

“Say what?” I asked and she reminded me of a very important part of Chinese culture that slipped my mind.

Saying, “thank you,” especially repeatedly, is basically like saying, “I know you think we’re friends, but we’re not.” Amidst a flurry of seafood eating, marathon running, redwood seeing, and deep conversations, I was frustrating my friend by continuing to say “thank you.” I thanked her for picking me up from the airport, taking me to see the bridge, treating me to dinner, letting me drive (she’s the worst not a great driver), and taking me to a massage after our race. My thankfulness was perceived as offensive — not because I meant any harm, but because of her cultural background.

After I apologized for hurting her feelings and reiterated how dear of a friend she is to me, we went about the rest of the weekend both of us grateful we have a close enough friendship where we can be honest about hurt feelings and sort them out together. I think that’s rare in most friendships.

I chalked the situation up as cultural misunderstanding, but then realized upon more reflection how many thousands of times we say things that hurt one another or feel wounded by an innocent comment. I was at lunch last week, and one of our editors mentioned to an author that his question, “How did you meet your husband”, triggered some deep insecurities inside her. He asked a normal question, but in the context of a difficult marriage, she perceived the question different than it was intended. She finally was able to tell him how his question made her feel — moreso to clear the air than anything else.

Think of the last time you took offense or were hurt by what someone said to you. Did you talk to them about it? Did you write them off afterwards? Since I love words, I tend to hold onto what people say more deeply than I often should, and simultaneously, I am often careless with my words.

Real friendship is not stuffing our feelings down and pretending everything is ok. I formerly believed the “Christian way” to handle confusing words was to just sweep my feelings far away and show grace. But, real friendship is courage to tell one another in truth, always in love. Friendship is about believing the best in each other and knowing feelings will be hurt, words will harm, but we’re in it together because we need each other. We need closeness with people who will challenge us to soar to the highest heights and carry us when it’s hard to take the next breath.

Let’s stand shoulder to shoulder with our sisters — in honesty and courage with the waters of Grace flowing through us. Oh, the dangers and complexities and beauty of that which we call friendship.

Will you tell us about friendship in your life? When is the last time you were hurt by your friend? Did you talk to him/her about it?

Originally Published: November 5, 2012
Category: Relationships
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