My friend texted me at 5 a.m. – then followed up with an email.
In both messages she apologized for a reaction she’d had the night before. Another mom had acted self-righteous toward her, and as she was reeling from that, she said she took it out on me.
I wasn’t angry because I knew her response was out of character. Still, I appreciated the apology. I was glad we had the chance to talk it out so the event didn’t come between us.
As soon as I could, I called my friend to assure her we were good. “Don’t worry about it one more second!” I said. She confessed she’d been up all night long worrying, mad at herself for not handling the situation better.
That part got to me.
It hurt my heart for her. And it reminded me of the times when I’ve been in her shoes.
Kicking myself for a bad reaction.
Tossing and turning in bed as I wished for a re-do.
Mentally beating myself up for what I did or said.
This event got me thinking. I remembered an incident the week before, when another friend was out-of-town, and her babysitter forgot to pick up my daughter for dance. It wasn’t a big deal because the studio is nearby, and I could take her. Still, my friend felt terrible about the slip-up. She apologized profusely and asked for grace.
I told her the same thing: “Don’t worry about it one more second. We are good!” We all make mistakes, and the truth is, I’ve made mistakes similar to both these friends before. I know what it’s like to be on the other side…and maybe that’s why I could respond as I hope they’d respond to me.
With a sincere desire to not let the little slip-ups ruin a good relationship.
Unfortunately, this seems far too common these days. I believe little slip-ups, tensions, and resentments that build up silently are eating away at relationships. Among women and teen girls (audiences I write for) one cause is an expectation of perfection from our friends. Just as we expect perfection of ourselves (and berate ourselves when we fall short) we expect it from those around us. And when they slip, we get stingy with grace.
Pope Francis, with his trademark humility, has defined modern society as a “throwaway culture” marked by disposable relationships. He says we’re quick to say Good-bye, and I agree. Many relationships today have very little loyalty, and given that, it’s no surprise why people get clingy and insecure. We live in an age where people trade in friends like they trade in used cars, replacing dinged up old ones with shiny new ones when they hit an unexpected bump in the road.
Expecting perfection makes it easy to write people off. While relationships certainly need standards of kindness, respect, and consistency, they also need grace and forgiveness. Any relationship that lasts long enough will have highs and lows. Seasons you click and seasons you don’t. Learning to respectfully talk things out and love a person even when the feeling fades can help keep things afloat when those low points come.
This is how relationships survive. This is how friendships go the distance for 20 years or more.
Recently I spoke with a woman who mentors teen girls. She’s planning a speaking event for me, and as she shared the heart of her group, I realized she has a great pulse on their inner lives. The struggles she walks her girls through are the same things I hear about everywhere I travel.
Issues with friends.
This mentor has wisely observed that what begins as an issue between 2 GIRLS often escalates into an issue between 2 GROUPS as word spreads and people takes sides. Someone’s feelings get hurt or they get angry, and rather than talk with the person who hurt them, they talk it out with everyone but that person.
This breeds drama.
This blows issues out of proportion.
This gets everyone puffed up, turning friend groups into gangs.
Issues can often be resolved (or partially settled) if the 2 people involved have a calm conversation that’s not an attack. Nobody teaches this life skill, yet they should. In my personal life and in parenting, I’ve seen relationships restored and strengthened when 2 people learn to sit down, hear each other out, listen, and see the situation from each other’s perspective to get the full story.
Sometimes getting out of our own head is the best therapy of all.
My favorite advice this mentor gives her girls is: “You’ve got to give your friends room to have a bad day. We all get moody and grumpy sometimes, and you have to create space for your friends to be themselves.”
Wow. That’s powerful, isn’t it? Does it give the girls permission to jump each other’s case because they feel salty or on edge? No, of course not. As I tell my daughters, you’ve got to know yourself well and control your emotions so your emotions don’t control you. Just because you’re in a mood doesn’t give you an excuse to take it out on someone. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for forgiveness when you lose it or mess up.
What it does mean is that our friends need grace like we need grace. Our friends need safe relationships they can count on, people who love them unconditionally – even on their salty days – and won’t dump them over every stumble. Relationships are very important to most females, and more than anything, we want approval. That is why we worry so much when we do mess up…because we’re scared of ruining a good thing in this culture of little forgiveness.
We women and girls are tough on ourselves, and that makes us tough on each other. While we can’t stop the train of disposable friendships, we can do our part to counter it. We can decide to not be that friend who dumps their friends on a whim by choosing instead to:
*Forgive people for their slip-ups – and ask for forgiveness when we slip up
*Presume positive intent until we know the full story
*Be kind to ourselves so we can be kind to others
*Handle conflict without taking opinions polls, leaning instead on the counsel of 1 or 2 wise and trustworthy people
*Bring a humble spirit into our relationships – approaching people with open hands, not boxing gloves
*Let go of the notion that a “perfect friend” exists
*Stay mindful of our flaws when we get judgy over the flaws of others
*Remember everyone’s life is hard, and when a person acts out, there’s often a hidden issue brewing below the surface that helps explain a lot
Chances are, someone in your world will stumble this week. They will mess up and feel terrible, maybe lose a little sleep.
As you consider your response, remember the times when you’ve messed up. Call to mind your own mistakes. If someone threw a bone to you, remember that gift of grace. Think of how it felt to realize they wouldn’t give up on you – or think less of you for being human.
That’s the comfort people hunger for these days.
That’s the security that gets lost in a throwaway culture.
That’s what helps a friendship survive and get past the inevitable bumps in the road.
We all have bad days – and we all need friends in our life who allow them. Friends who make us feel okay when we’re less-than-perfect. Friends who can witness our messy truths and love us anyway.
That is the friend I want in my corner.
And therefore the friend I strive to be.
On Aug. 18, my new book Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter releases. It’s gaining fantastic early buzz, and by pre-ordering now, you’ll receive amazing incentives like downloadable prints and prayers. Simply redeem your receipt here. Pre-order through Amazon, and you’re guaranteed the lowest price between now and Aug. 18.
I’ve also written books for teen girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know and Liked, used widely across the U.S. for small group studies. To keep up with future posts, subscribe to this blog or join me on Facebook, Instagram, and the Girl Mom podcast
Posted by Kari on November 12, 2017