About a year ago I led a discussion on female friendships with a group of teen girls. In preparation for that class, I asked some ladies whose friendship I highly value for their wisdom on cultivating and nurturing healthy, God-honoring friendships.
What they said was so rich — and is still so rich — that I wanted to share it with you (with their permission of course). I hope you will read through their words and then at the end share your own wisdom and experiences.
“Tenderness is the first thing I think of. It stuns me every time. I think time is a huge piece of the friendship process. It takes time and shared experiences — some of which you can create and some that just happen to you mutually as you go through things together. Good communication is super important, just like in marriage. Good listening skills.
There are rhythms to friendship too, and knowing that and not freaking out about it is important if you are in a long-term friendship. Sometimes the friendship is wide, sometimes it is deep, depending on what’s happening to the people involved.”
–from Teresa, my dear friend of 12 years (8 together and 5 apart). She’s the one who wrote this popular article about our friendship after I moved across the ocean.
“The main thing I can think of with girls is that it’s just as important to be equally yoked in your closest friendships as it is in a marriage relationship, and that we get in trouble when we start comparing ourselves to someone else (in a discontented way).”
–from Sarah, my dear friend since university days (15 years and counting).
“Female friendships are vital in my life because we are designed to be a part of community. Some characteristics that I think are important with girlfriends are honesty — if something is bothering you or you feel like God is calling you to talk about something with your girlfriend it’s crucial to listen and be honest with friends instead of letting a conflict or problem come between you. Also vulnerability, so your friends can see ‘the real you.’
With vulnerability comes accountability, and this is my absolute favorite part of friendships because it’s truly a beautiful depiction of the church when friends see our weaknesses and can still love us but encourage and help us change! Pitfalls in friendships from my life are when I compare myself to friends or begin to judge other girlfriends when this happens I am not able to have a true godly friendship that is honoring to the Lord.”
–from Chelsea, a former youth group member who’s been a dear friend for 10 years now
So to recap, some of the most important qualities in our friendships are:
- Spending time together
- Maintaining honesty in our communication
- Listening well
- Vulnerability – letting people see the “real you”
- Accepting accountability for our shortcomings
- Accepting the various rhythms in our lives
- Being “equally yoked” – cultivating close friendships with other believers
- Avoiding comparison and jealousy
- Staying humble and avoiding judgment
What about you? How have you experienced female friendships, either in positive or negative ways? What are the things you’ve learned along the way? Anything to add to our list?
Melanie Shankle wrote my absolute favorite book on friendship: Nobody’s Cuter Than You. I laughed so hard, and then I cried so hard. I loved it so much I bought a copy for all the ladies on my team. You can watch the book trailer here.
Christine Hoover wrote my absolute favorite modern book on grace from a female author: From Good to Grace. (Did you catch how I left space for my favorite modern book on grace from a male author — Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God?). Anyway, Christine is coming out with a new book called Messy Beautiful Friendship. I haven’t read it yet, but I know it’ll be good, and she’s been publishing a series of blog posts highlighting some of the book’s content that you might want to check out.