Today I am thinking about friendship, like big deep friendship thoughts. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's me already missing my close friend that is moving so very far away this weekend, or knowing how much my kids will miss her kids and the dear friendship they've made. Maybe I'm thinking about friendships because of the kind friend who let us use her car while our was in the shop, or maybe it's the sweet anonymous package I got in the mail today, a generous gift from a generous friend. Or maybe it's the friend I made not long ago, who I granted access to my whole life, and how that turned out to be a mistake.
Whatever it is I'm thinking about friendships and the good friends I have and the long journey it took to get here, the bad friendship choices I've made at times and the wisdom and intuition I've ignored. I've cheated myself out of many good experiences because of fear of rejection or just plain insecurity or pride. There's a lot I wish I could tell my younger self about what I missed because of what I didn't know. But I can't go back. I can however look forward and share all these things I wish I could tell my younger self with my own daughter. So here it is, my dear Tallulah Marie, a letter from your momma to you, may you learn from my mistakes, and find the blessing of true friends earlier than I did.
Lesson 1: Have girl friends. Don't be the girl who doesn't like girls. There was a time in my life when, I'm ashamed to say, I thought I was too good for female friendships. I believed myself to be "above the drama" and more of a "guys girl". I prided myself on not having girl friends because I believed all girls eventually got catty and mean and I believed if I kept myself apart from other girls I could keep myself from being hurt by them or from acting like them. My darling daughter I can't tell you how much I missed out on by waiting so long to develop female friends. I didn't protect myself, I got hurt anyway because that's just life, and I probably would have experienced the hurt I feared if I'd pursued female friends, but I know now that it would have been worth wading through some of the catty girls to find the right girl friends. Don't hide yourself away from girls for fear of being hurt or because it's cooler to have guy friends or because whatever. Be brave, there will maybe be pain sometimes but there's no reward without that risk. You won't regret the friends you made but you will always regret the friends you missed. (Also I didn't mean to make that rhyme so don't mock your poor mother.)
Lesson 2: Be yourself. You're wonderful. You're curious and opinionated and adventurous and kind and loud and silly and any friend worth having will want to know the real you. Don't ever pretend to be something you're not for the sake of getting someone else to like you. When you are yourself all kinds of people will be drawn to you, people just like you and people wildly different. Being different from a friend is one of the best parts of having friends, you learn and grow so much from each other. And having a friend just like you is a precious gift, it means having someone who understands you in a specific and unique way. But to find these friendships you have to be yourself. Don't cheat others out of knowing you and don't cheat yourself out of being known.
Lesson 3: Check your behavior. In an honest and critical way ask yourself this question: Would you want you as a friend? The kind of friend you are is the kind of friend you will have. Be loyal and kind and selfless, give more than you take, cheer your friends on, be happy for them when they are happy and be sad with them when they are sad. Be strong, I'm not telling you to be a doormat or be taken advantage of, but I am telling you to be a humble and servant hearted friend.
Lesson 4: Apologize easily and forgive easily. Many friendships are trampled beneath prideful steps. Don't be too stubborn to forgive someone who's hurt you, or to stubborn to apologize when you've hurt them. You are many wonderful things sweet girl, but perfect isn't one of them. Seek grace when you've made a mistake and extend grace when your friend has. I have lost a few good friends because one or both of us made these mistakes. Don't let being right become more valuable than your friendships. Apologize when you need to (and even sometimes when you don't), and forgive every single time.
Lesson 5: Have integrity and have standards. Give everyone a chance, allow everyone the opportunity to be a good friend, the right kind of friend. But never allow someone into your heart who is only there to cause destruction. I know I said don't operate from a fear of getting hurt and to forgive every single time, but here is the key to both those things: it's okay to kindly and respectfully release toxic people. Be friends with everyone, but use wisdom and discernment when giving out intimate access to your heart. Don't trust your heart to someone who tries to talk about other people with you (they'll talk about you with other people guaranteed, and while we're on the subject, don't you be that kind of friend either); don't trust your heart to someone who is manipulating you or wants something from you. The Bible tells us to run from the company of fools, and my darling daughter, obey that command. Jesus may have ministered to everyone but even he had an inner circle, a group that he allowed access to that not just everyone got. Jesus' qualifier for his inner circle should be your qualifier for your inner circle: a devotion to and desire to please Jesus himself.
And finally, the lynchpin lesson, the thing I wish I had understood so much earlier than I did, Lesson 6: Any one of us can only have or be one of two kinds of friends - the kind of friend who leads people toward God, or the kind of friend who leads people away from God. The world wants you to believe the lie that you can have or be a neutral friend but the truth is there is no in between. This doesn't mean you badger or push people, it simply means you lead toward God in an active way. You speak when your fear tells you to be silent, you walk away when your desire to be included tells you to stay, you bring truth when you're surrounded by lies. I think we both know what kind of friend I want you to be and have, but in case you need it spelled out (you are my daughter), be someone who leads toward God, have friends who lead you toward God. The regret of missed opportunities or bad influences can be unbearable, especially when we didn't realize that's what they were at the time.
I know how much it sucks to have a parent say "learn from my mistakes" but my prayer and hope is that in this instance, if only in this instance, you learn from my mistakes. I can't wait to watch you walk this journey and meet all the wonderful people who will impact you and those you will impact. You're wonderful Lulabug, don't ever forget that!