If there’s one school subject that still makes me sweat bullets and my heart rate gallop, it’s math. Please, for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t make me do math beyond what is required to measure ingredients or compile a grocery list.
But when reading Chip and Joanna’s The Magnolia Story over Christmas break, I was intrigued by a section where Chip describes his dad’s math equation on achieving goals, especially as it pertained to Chip’s ability as a baseball player. Chip writes,
“For my dad, achieving goals was basically a mathematical equation: ‘If you hit a hundred balls a day and you work out this many hours, this many times a week, then this is what happens and you win state championships.’
I followed his advice, and lo and behold, A plus B really did equal C for me. If I did this, then I achieved that.”
I was thinking about this as it relates to several things, including friendships. Friendship is a topic I’ve talked about here many times. Perhaps it’s my history as a military wife who changed communities often, but I’ve always been curious about the topic of friendship, specifically how to find friendships and how to be the friend I want to have.
So as I let Chip’s math equation roll around in my head, I thought about this: If I initiate communication with gal pals + make myself available by saying “yes” to invites extended my way, will that equal real and lasting friendships?
My initial answer is yes and no. I think it will sometimes. But when hearts are involved, nothing is as simple as a math equation. It will be more complicated than that, more messy than that. You can do all the “right” things and still struggle to make lasting friendships.
Still, as I thought about it more, I realized there is one outlook on this friendship math equation that you can take to the bank:
Not initiating communication or making myself available would certainly hurt–possibly event prevent–me from finding real and lasting friendships. After all, the only way to guarantee never making friends is never trying.
As I’ve walked this planet for over 40 years now, I’ve learned that while I need to put some work into making friends, I also need to remove roadblocks that prevent me from being a good friend to someone else. I need to hold up a mirror and do a little blind spot checking. Here are just 3 things that have helped me with this along the way:
Apologize if and when necessary. Listen, I can easily identify when I’ve been hurt. I’m sure we all can. But what’s less easy to identify or own is when we’ve hurt others. Sometimes, we’re just not aware of it or too blinded by our own pain to see.
Not long ago I apologized for something done to a friend several years ago. Upon first glance at my situation, I thought I was the one that had been wronged, not the one who’d wronged another. But with time and perspective, I did see how, from her point of view, my words and actions were hurtful. So, I owned up to it and apologized. Easy and fun? No. But the right thing to do? Yes. And really, it’s always appropriate to own what is mine to own (and leave alone what isn’t), even if the pain was caused unintentionally.
Err on the side of grace. I’ve mentioned before I have a mile-wide sarcastic streak, and it can bubble up to the surface when I feel slighted or hurt. But really, sarcasm is just graceless pride in a cute dress, and I need to sit on the sarcasm. While there is a time and place for rebuke or addressing hurts, it should be done lovingly and directly after much prayer and consideration. It should not show up in graceless, passive-agressive sarcasm. (Preaching to myself!) Erring on the side of grace in friendship is doing my best to make one good choice at a time as I see the face of Jesus on others.
THINK. Recently, my good friend Jennifer Dukes Lee (or JDL as I like to call her) posted a fantastic instagram pic with the words, “Before you speak. Think. T: Is it true? H: Is it helpful? I: Is it inspiring? N: Is it necessary? K: Is it kind?” I think that is an excellent guide for keeping myself in check as I strive to use my words to build up and edify my friends and loved ones.
The community of (in)courage (including yours truly) has written a book that will also help you be the friend you want. The just-released Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement not only offers you tools that act as a guide for you, but it offers stories that let you know you’re not alone. Really, it’s the book I wish I had as a young military wife when I really didn’t know *how* to make friends.
The road to true-blue friendship can be difficult. Sometimes, it’s downright scary. The (in)courage community makes it a little easier and less scary as they travel the road with you through Craving Connection.
Extra note for local Colorado Springs folks: Buy #cravingconnection at either Mardel’s on Barnes & Powers or Barnes & Noble on Briargate Blvd, and you just might find a Starbucks giftcard inside! Oh happy day.