A couple of weeks ago, a girl friend was sharing how different people she knew felt unsupported and uncared for by “friends”. We delved a little into how we long for genuine and open friendships…where we don’t have to fear judgement and can honestly unload whatever was on our heart. I have a feeling, in our increasingly isolated society, that this is a common desire of many.
I posted on being genuine recently…on being ourselves and not what we think others want us to be. On the other side of this friendship coin is being vulnerable. That is a scary word for some…or maybe for many. We’ve been there, shared something deep from our hearts to have it thrown back in our faces or used against us in some cruel way. We vowed we’d never let someone get close enough to do that ever again. We stick to the happy, safe and comfortable topics. And brick by brick, we’ve built that wall.
Now, sure, no one can use a deep fear or struggle (or anything) to hurt us anymore, but we’re also more alone, carrying more fear, struggling by ourselves….and feeling like no one cares. Not even those we call “friends”.
It’s a bit of a vicious cycle:
I keep my pain to myself so you can’t hurt me by brushing my pain aside. You think I’m totally fine, so you don’t think to ask further if I’m ok. I feel unsupported and alone. Meanwhile, you think my life is great and don’t want to bring up your pain to burden me with. So I think you’re fine. I don’t ask how you’re doing. You feel unsupported and alone.
I’ve found, it needs to start with myself. I need to stop hiding behind pride, self-preservation, fear, whatever it is…and take the risk of opening my heart up to a close friend. They might not know exactly how to help, but from there….we walk together in the struggle and figure it out together. Two of my besties chided me once that not turning to them when I was struggling was an insult to their friendship. They were there for me and expected me to make use of that. My mind and heart opened to what vulnerability and true friendship was from then on. I had more courage to pull down the brick wall.
Interestingly, this lead to their bricks coming down too. And suddenly, not only was I not alone in my particular struggle, but I found that others struggled with similar things too. There’s actually common understanding and from there I received more prayer and more support than could have imagined.
This is not a guaranteed result every time though. I have opened my heart and have been burned. But it’s a blessing in disguise because I now know who isn’t a true friend, which frees me to build relationships with those who will prove themselves to be such.
Genuine and open friendship has to start somewhere. Someone has to reverse the cycle of becoming more isolated…why not let that person be you? Have courage to be vulnerable first. No risk, no return.