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Christian Women's Magazine | Solving Friendship Dilemmas

JBU Fall 2013

By Janet Johns

It had not been a good week. I was recovering from a nasty illness, the house was a mess, and I was so grumpy that my family asked if I would like them to move out. Then a friend called. 

I was pleased to hear from her but when she asked me, “How are you?” I hesitated. My heart was screaming, “Feeling awful, and wanting a shoulder to cry on,” but my voice had a life of its own. “Fine,” I said. “Everything’s fine.”

I have a problem; I hide my “vulnerable self.” When I am feeling my most vulnerable, I work my hardest to hide it. I love my friends. I want to nurture and cherish them and show them that I love them. I like to be the strong one, the listener, the person to lean on. God is telling me that friendship is a precious two-way relationship, and I need to learn some humility and honesty. So I’ve been asking myself some difficult questions. How did I become so skilled at hiding my deeper feelings? And how do I learn to reach out and admit when I feel weak and vulnerable?

Some of us spend years practicing the art of hiding our “vulnerable self.” Along the way we learn to answer the question, “How are you?” evasively or even dishonestly. We boldly smile to hide our real feelings. We become skilled at deflecting questions; instead of drawing other people out so we can hide ourselves away. We become convinced that people will like us more if we are always strong. Hiding our deeper feelings has sad consequences. There may have been times when we struggled alone instead of calling one of those friends He so lovingly gives. In darker moments, we may have been desperate for someone to pray for us, yet we have wept in solitude. 

I recently came across the Old Testament story of Jephthah’s daughter. Jephthah made a vow to God, and as a consequence, his daughter knew she was never going to marry. In her grief, she took some friends and went into the hills to weep together. This tragic story illustrates just how well women can hold each other in times of trouble. Imagine what would have happened if Jephthah’s daughter had been too proud to reach out, too afraid of being selfish, or had decided not to burden others. She would have denied her friends the opportunity to comfort her.

So how do we solve the friendship dilemma of admitting we feel weak and vulnerable? As a first step, we should make a commitment to give an honest answer when asked about how we are. We do not always need to be the stronger friend. Hiding our vulnerability does not make us more likeable. We are not being selfish when we ask for help.

We need to embrace humility and honesty in our friendships. Let’s not be ashamed of deeper feelings of weakness and vulnerability. Instead, let our friends see the real us. 

Today the same friend phoned me again. When she asked, “How are you?” I took a deep breath and said, “I’m not feeling so good. Any chance you could come round to give me a hug and pray with me?” It was difficult for me, but my world didn’t fall apart. We shared a special time that brought us closer together – proof that God is able to bless my friendships when I am at last willing to reveal my “vulnerable self.”


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