How Not to be a Needy Friend
- Anne Peterson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2016 2 Sep
In What About Bob?, Bob Wiley begged his therapist, “Gimme, gimme, gimme, I need, I need, I need.” And we all laughed.
But being in need is not funny.
This article was difficult to write because if a person is in need they are hurting, and the last thing they need is someone pointing out that they seem “needy.”
So instead, I want to share how I have been learning to not be a needy friend. And yes, I said learning. I have not arrived.
I wonder if I’ve had so many friends so I wouldn’t wear anyone out. I still did it, though.
I later realized the reason I talked so much about my problems is because that’s how I process them. Maybe you do too.
Out of my close friends, Bonnie always stood out. She saw me at my neediest and loved me anyway.
Bonnie told me the truth and sometimes it hurt. But believe me, it hurt a lot less than the time I got a letter from another friend. Line by line she bluntly told me how I come across. Sadly, she forgot to add grace. Grace helps us swallow difficult things.
I promise to tread lightly, but let me share four things which I believe kept me in that needy place.
1. I went to my friends instead of going to God. Bonnie always asked me one question I grew to hate, but needed to hear:
“When you prayed, what did the Lord tell you about that?”
I could have gone to God. I mean eventually I would, when I was done with everyone else. When there was no other place to go. Sometimes God was last. It wasn’t wrong to go to my friends, but if I had prayed first, God could have shown me which friend to go to. And maybe I wouldn’t have felt the need to burden my friends by sharing everything. And I mean everything.
Going to God first would have been the best thing to do. And while I think we know that in our heads, sometimes our hearts want to talk to someone face to face. We want to see the person we’re talking to, hear their voice. Sometimes we choose second best.
2. I used my friends as counselors. Eventually my hurts were too much. One crisis led me to a counselor where I saw it was what I needed all along. Some friends are great at listening and being understanding. But some issues require a trained professional.
Before I went to counseling, I’d be exhausted after going to one friend after another. A counselor was able to give me tools that would help me navigate my life. Then when
I met with friends, I was freer to talk about other issues. When I was deep in my pain,
I couldn’t see other issues, or even other people.
Was going to a counselor hard? Yes. Sometimes it was extremely painful. Often I’d come home completely wiped out. But eventually things began to get easier. It took time.
3. I didn’t have boundaries in place. In the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, they talk about how one of our boundaries is our skin. And if we were abused physically that boundary was violated. That was true for me. I soon identified other boundaries I never knew about.
One boundary I had violated was time. If someone had about twenty minutes, I went overtime. Eventually I understood why I did this, which helped, but our reasons should never become our excuses.
When I was young, my mother went to work. I lost valuable time with her. Then when I was sixteen I lost her to a stroke. She was the one person who would listen to me. I began looking for people to fill that spot. But oddly, I was drawn to those who had little time. In my mind, if I could find a busy person who would give me time, then it proved I was worth it.
As you might guess I got disappointed over and over, until I finally discovered what I was doing and why.
It was my teenage son who pointed out to me one day when he saw my indecision, “Mom, why can’t you just make up your mind without asking everyone else?” The truth was, I couldn’t. I was too afraid I would choose the wrong thing, causing someone else to be unhappy.
I realized in time, in order to please God, I had to care less about pleasing others. Jesus came and did what pleased his Father alone; he didn’t need to check with anyone else.
At times, I felt like I was too much work for God. But the good news is, God had started the work when I trusted Jesus and God’s not a quitter. He was in it for the long haul.
Life is hard. In order to navigate some of the hard places we need help. We need to call on God. Before I’d leave Bonnie’s house she would often ask if I wanted to pray. Often I would let her pray for me, out loud. And those prayers made me feel loved and reassured me that God cared about me.
If you only take one thing out of this article, take this: Go to God first.
God can show you who you should talk with, when you should speak, and when to be silent. The more you go to him, the more you will see he’s the friend who’s always there. God cares more than anyone could ever care. In a world that where independence is exalted, God wants you to lean on him. And he will meet your needs. No matter how many you have. How do I know? He meets mine. And believe me, I’m needy; I need him. Every hour of every day.
Anne Peterson is a poet, speaker and published author. Some of her books include her memoir, Broken: A Story of Abuse and Survival, Real Love: Guaranteed to Last, and children’s books, including: Emma’s Wish, The Crooked House. She recently published Droplets, a poetry book for those in grief. Anne has also authored 42 published Bible Studies and over 30 articles with christianbiblestudies.com/Today’s Christian Woman. Her poetry is available in gift stores throughout the U.S. as well as in 23 countries. While Anne enjoys being a poet, speaker and published author, her favorite title is still, “Grandma.”
To find out more about Anne you can visit her at:
Publication date: November 10, 2015
Anne Peterson is a regular contributor to Crosswalk. Anne is a poet, speaker, published author of 16 books, including her latest book, Always There: Finding God's Comfort Through Loss. Anne has also written and published another memoir, Broken: A story of abuse, survival, and hope. Sign up for Anne’s newsletter at www.annepeterson.com and receive a free eBook by clicking the tab. Or connect with her on Facebook.