Coaching Corner: Evaluating Your Friendships
- 2006 29 May
As a single, your friendships are obviously vitally important to your life. Unlike married couples, who lean heavily on each other to be that intimate friend and life companion, singles typically rely on a broader circle of friends to corporately fill that role. For example, as a single you may turn to one friend for comfort, to another for fun, and to a third for spiritual accountability. Such diversity in your friendships is actually good and healthy, as it reflects God’s design for genuine community set forth in the Bible.
Since our friendships are so important, it’s interesting to notice how haphazardly we often stumble into them. Unlike our dreams regarding our future marriage, which are usually quite expansive and detailed, we rarely dream much about the sort of friendships we really want. And we rarely question whether the friendships we have are really the best ones for us.
The greatest commandment, Jesus said, is to love God with all your heart, and to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Unfortunately, many Christians have had the tendency to equate “loving your neighbor” with being friends with everyone who comes along and never saying no. But that was never part of God’s design. Friendship is always a choice — one that requires wisdom and serious forethought. But before you can decide whether someone should or should not be included in your circle of friendships, you have to know what sort of friendship you actually need and want in your life.
What is your highest hope for friendship in your life? Notice, I’m not asking about your highest hope for your friend; rather, I’m focusing on the relationship itself. If you could have a friendship that was everything you dreamed, what would it look like? What sorts of things would you regularly talk about? How often would you connect? What activities would you share? What would this ideal friendship feel like? And perhaps the most important question of all: How would this ideal friendship change you? What would it release in you? What would it inspire you to move toward, or to let go of?
Take some time to dream about the sort of friendship you really want in your life. Write up a description of the friendship, making sure to include your thoughts on all the questions above.
The next step may be a little less comfortable, but it’s important. Make a list of the friends you would say are a part of your “inner circle” — not casual friends whom you see from time to time, but the really close friends with whom you tend to share the deeper issues of your heart. One at a time, evaluate each friendship against the description of your ideal. What aspects of the friendship are really working well? In what areas does it fall short of your dream? In what areas, if any, is the friendship actually the opposite of what you want or need?
Of course, no friendship is perfect, and there will always be room for growth and improvement in every relationship. But this simple exploration can be an important step toward recognizing those friendships that may actually not be serving your dreams or God’s purpose for your life. A few of them may even be toxic to your heart.
Once you’ve evaluated your friendships, you have three choices about what to do next:
1. You can accept the friendship as it is. Generally, this option only applies to those friendships in which you feel totally satisfied. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those, why not share your friendship dream with them anyway, and rejoice together over how God has blessed your friendship?
2. You can renegotiate the friendship. Tell your friend what’s working for you, and what’s not. And ask for change. Make the requests specific and concrete, and avoid any hint of blaming (after all, you both created the friendship you now have). Also, decide ahead of time what you will do if your friend says no to your requests.
3. You can dissolve the friendship. Though it may sound harsh, this is sometimes the healthiest and most loving choice you can make for a friendship that is effectively and consistently dragging you down and pulling you away from your dreams and God’s desires for your life.
Your close friendships deeply influence the person you are, and the person you will become in the years ahead. Therefore, be careful to choose your friends thoughtfully. And do not be afraid to say no.
Michael D. Warden is a Professional Co-Active Coach, nationally certified through the Coaches Training Institute, and a member of the International Coach Federation. Michael’s clients’ one common trait is their passion to live a bigger life — to discover what they're here for, and boldly go after that vision with confidence and authenticity. Find more on his life and work at www.michaelwarden.com.