Category Archives: Friendship

On The Importance of Encouraging Others

I’ve spoken before about the importance of being happy for other people—despite the unfortunate temptation that may exist without us to compare, judge, and tear others down in response to feeling threatened by the successes of another.  There’s nothing to be gained by trying to rob the joy of another, and attempting to do so ultimately only leaves us even more bitter and unhappy than before.  We all know this.  It’s best to share in the joy of the people around us.

But I want to take that a step further today.

Just taking a second to sit back and think about the people in my life, there’s a whole lot of joy to be sharing in.  I have family, friends, and classmates doing all sorts of amazing things ranging from raising families, to being guests on radio shows… from making videos for political campaigns, to studying to get a degree in education…from closing deals at work, to beginning college courses for the first time.  When I sit back and reflect on what God is doing in the lives of the people around me, I’m overwhelmed with joy and thanksgiving for God’s gift of these peoples’ presence in my life.

But as the picture that I keep seeing show up on my pinterest feed says, “…everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” even those people that appear to have it made.

The fact is that we all need encouragement, no matter where we are in life.  We all lose the forest for the trees every now and again, and sometimes it takes that friend or that stranger giving you a word of affirmation that, yes, God really does have you in this exact moment for a specific purpose.

So when you see a friend doing good work, affirm them.

Whether it’s changing diapers or making movies— it’s all God’s work.

And as for that hard battle…

Check out: How To Be Happy for Other People (In 4 Easy Steps!)

OFFICIAL BUSINESS:

As you may have noticed, the posting schedule as of late has become somewhat lax.  The wedding is 65 days out, people; and my last quarter of graduate coursework is well under way.

So, in an attempt to spare you all from every other post being titled, “OH MY GOODNESS THE WEDDING IS ____ DAYS AWAY!!!!”, I’m hereby decreeing that new posts will only be added once a week from now until the beginning of 2013.  🙂

Avoiding word vomit when evangelizing friends (in 4 steps, of course)

Here’s a problem: our Catholic faith is so vast…there’s so much awesome to share, that sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop—or where to start.  How do you distinguish between those times when you’re being helpful and those times when you’re being downright annoying and/or overbearing?

On the one hand, if people have questions, you want to try and be there with answers.  On the other hand, sometimes we forget that ultimately what this person is seeking is a real relationship with Jesus, and without that, your answers don’t mean a whole lot, no matter how perfectly crafted or philosophically sound.

So what do you do when your friend asks you a question about the faith and you’re so excited that all you want to do is grab your Catechism and go over it paragraph by paragraph with them from beginning to end?

Short answer: I’m not entirely sure.  But I have a couple of ideas…

 1. Breathe. 

Put yourself in your friend’s shoes.  If you suddenly and reluctantly asked a question about something they were passionate about but you only think is sort of cool, would you really want them to introduce you to their entire Pokemon card collection?  No.  (and yeah, I just compared the Catechism to Pokemon.  Lord, Have Mercy).

Take your friend’s words at face value and simply answer the question they asked and no more.  If they want to go deeper, let them make the first move.

2. Pray to the Holy Spirit. 

Ever done that before?  The Holy Spirit we all received at Baptism and were sealed with at Confirmation is someone we can talk to.  Plus, He gives out gifts.  Sweet.  Ask for them.

 3. Recognize: it all boils down to believing in, and coming into relationship with, the Person of Jesus Christ.

Did Jesus exist?  Is He really God made man?  Did He really rise from the dead?  If “yes” to all of the above, then feel free to point out that it means a lot.

  1. God is not dead.  We can talk to him and grow in relationship with him.
  2. That same God?  He set up a Church and guaranteed that it would be protected from the gates of Hell.  (Matthew 16:18) Because we believe He’s God, there’s a pretty good chance that 100% of the things that Church teaches as dogma are true.

Ok, but what if your friend believes that Jesus guy most likely existed but doesn’t really buy the spiel about the Resurrection and all that jazz?  Try this one on for size: Basically all of Jesus’ followers that He lived with on Earth died awful deaths at the hands of persecutors.  And they all went to their deaths proclaiming to their very last breath the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  I think it’s fair to assume that at least one of them would’ve cracked and dug up the body to save their life if it was all made up to make them famous (famous still counts when you’re dead, right?).

And then leave it at that.  Simple.  Introductory.  Remember you want them to meet a Person, not just read a book.

 4. Go surfing.

Or shopping.  Or to a movie.  Or out to lunch.  Point is: don’t take your friend’s first ever question about the faith as an invitation to talk about the Church and nothing but the Church until you’re watching them get baptized at the Easter Vigil.  Patience.  God has a great plan for this person’s life.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking it all depends on you.

 

How to Tell if You’ve Got a Good Friend

To tell the truth, I haven’t always been the best at being a friend.  I even used to think that I could get by without really having close friends at all.  I enjoy time to myself, and close relationships are kind of scary, so it was easy to tell myself I could do without close friendships.  But experience (and Philosophy class) has taught me otherwise.  We need friends in our lives.  Most people seem to know that this is true, but fewer people really understand the reason why.

Friends are there to help us become better people.  They do this by helping us think clearly.  The true friend knows who we are; he understands the way we think, and so he is able to help us come to conclusions we could not see on our own.

In a way, this is contrary to what a lot of people my age seem to think about friends.  We think friends are there to “watch our back” or to save us from our boredom.  In reality, a lot of our “friendships” do the exact opposite of helping us think clearly.

I have had my share of both good and bad friendships, so I thought I would draw from my own experience and put together a list of some of the qualities I have found to be most necessary in a true friend (and most lacking in a bad friend).

1.)  The true friend talks to you about things that matter

Talking about the weather is nice, and I love a good conversation about my favorite TV shows, but these aren’t the conversations I most look forward to having with my friends.  My closest friends are the people I can talk to seriously about what my goals for the future are, what I am struggling with, or go to for advice on any number of topics.  We may joke around and talk about trivial things at times as well, but a real friend tends to elevate the conversation.

2.)  A friend has no problem calling you out

I am the biggest baby when it comes to any type of criticism.  My feelings get hurt and I may become upset and defensive with the person giving the feedback, but this doesn’t stop my closest friends from calling it like they see it.  Despite how I may initially react, I am so thankful for this.  The real friend isn’t worried about hurting your ego a little bit if it means you seeing the truth.

3.)  Friends don’t ask or expect you to lie for their sake

Sometimes it takes losing a relationship in order to be a real friend.  The true friend won’t agree to lie in order to cover for someone else, even if asked.  Lying is damaging to us on so many levels.  The truth always comes out eventually, and a lot of hurt can usually be avoided if it comes out sooner rather than later.

4.)  Finally, the true friend is striving to be a good person himself

You can’t expect someone to be a good friend if they are not a good person.  The true friend will help you become a better person, so it follows that someone who is not a good person already can’t help you to become one yourself.  Friendships involve a give and take.  We both learn from our friends as well as teach them.  Make sure you are learning from teachers who know what they are talking about.

Getting Rid of a Bad Friend:

So what do you do if you find yourself in a friendship that is not good for you?  You run.

Aristotle says that getting rid of a bad friend is like getting rid of a bad habit.  And anyone who has tried knows that getting rid of a bad habit is extremely difficult.  In a similar way, getting rid of a friendship, especially one that has been a part of us for so long, can feel as excruciating as cutting off an arm that has been infected with gangrene.   But you really have no other option.  If you don’t amputate, the infection will spread throughout the whole body and eventually will cost you your life.

Finding a Good Friend:

Also as with habits, it is not enough to simply try and get rid of the bad friendship.  You have to replace it with a good friendship.  Otherwise, you will fall back into the old one.  We have to be picky about choosing our friends.  We can’t be so naive as to think the people we spend our time with have no effect on us.  So in choosing your friends, look for people who have the characteristics described above.  Look for people who challenge you to be a better person.

(if this post was familiar it’s because it was originally posted on January 25, 2011)

Breaking Up…With a Friend

I have received a few questions that fall under the category of discerning whether a particular friendship is good for you, and what to do if it isn’t.

We know from Scripture that Christ is pretty clear about loving your neighbor, and even loving and praying for your enemies.  On the one hand, it doesn’t seem like a very “loving” thing to do to just up and cut someone out of your life completely.  At the same time, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that, “bad company corrupts good morals,” and furthermore, Jesus says that, “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”

From Paul’s words we hear that we cannot play the, “my friends do bad things but I’m still a good person” card. And Jesus’ command tells us what to do when the inevitable occurs if and when we decide to keep the bad company anyway.

All of that sounds pretty cut and dry in the abstract.  But how do we apply it to our life?  In other words: How do we know if we need to cut a specific relationship out of our life?

For starters, you know that friendship (or friendships) that popped into your head the second you started reading this post?  I’m just guessing here, but they may not be the best people you could be hanging out with…

The way I see it, there is only one reason to cut someone out of your life completely.  “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”  Translation: If you find yourself committing the same sins over and over again every time you hang out with a certain friend or a certain group of people, you need to lose those friends.  And before you accuse me of being judgmental or of advising you to be unnecessarily harsh, hear this: those friends need to lose you, too.

This is a two-way street.  The relationship is mutually detrimental if it leads to sin, no matter who introduced the sin in the first place.  By choosing to walk away, you’re witnessing to the fact that sin is not acceptable, and that leading a holy life pleasing to God is worth any sacrifice.  That is a great act of love, and it is one of the best things you could do for the other person.  Staying in a friendship that centers on or leads to habitual sin is just going to continue to hurt everyone involved, and in a much more profound and potentially permanent way than bruised egos.

So you know you need to distance yourself from a specific person, or group of people.  But it’s much easier said than done, I know.  To help, here are some suggestions.

1. Be honest

Honesty is always, always, always, the best policy.  Explain to your friends that you need some space, and be honest about why.  Don’t blame them (use “I” words, not “you” words).  Say that you’re trying to change ____ in your life, and that you need the space so that you are truly able to do that.

2. Try to Avoid the Last-Minute Promise to Change

It may be that your friend will hear what you’re saying and, in an attempt to keep you in his or her life, will make some sort of gesture to offer to help you beat this.  This could be the most well-intentioned statement, but I would still advise to resolve to some distance.  The reason being: the habits you have formed while hanging out with this friend, or group of friends, may be deeper than you realize.  And despite best intentions to change, if the only thing separating last Friday night from this Friday night is a flimsy agreement to change, it will be all too easy to fall back into not-so-old [bad] habits.  You need the distance.  And, depending on how deep-seated the habits are, you need some drastic change to overcome them.

3. If You’re Convinced Your Friend Just Won’t Understand…

Then you just have to go cold-turkey.  Cut off all communication, even if it has to be without explanation.  Honesty is best, but if the relationship you need out of your life is so destructive that you do not even feel comfortable sharing your true feelings, then maybe they wouldn’t even be heard anyway.  If your friend does care about you, they’ll seek you out and ask you what is going on.  When you’re ready, you can tell them.  If they’re true friends, they’ll understand in that moment.

4. Be Patient (and pray!) for New Friends

The bad news: this may mean your next couple of weekends are kind of boring.  That’s really ok.  Better to experience a little bit of boredom than placing your soul in jeopardy, right?  God knows your struggle, and He’s with you through it.  Finding good friends may not come easy.  It may take an awkward young adult gathering (or 4), or putting yourself out there when it’s uncomfortable, but it will happen.  God knows you need friends, and do not fool yourself into thinking otherwise.  Just be patient in waiting to find the right ones.

5. Look in the Right Places for Friends

It’s kind of like dating.  If you’re looking for a nice Catholic girl, don’t go looking in the bar at 2:00am.  It’s not that you won’t find Catholics who like to have a good time, it’s just that you have a better chance of finding them if you first look for the “Catholic” part of the equation, and then narrow down your options from there.  Likewise, with friends, first look for the ones who are “good”, and then narrow down your options.  So start in places that have a high probability of “good” people, like church, school (the people that actually go every day), or even some sort of extracurricular activity.

 6. Pray for Your Old Friends

It will help you through the lonely times, and the reality is that you will always care about them, even if you don’t speak.  Praying for them is truly the best thing you can do for them and for yourself during this time.  And who knows?  Maybe in the future, after you have both had time to get over your bad habits, God will bring you into each other’s lives again.

The Guy-Girl Friendship

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Men and women can’t be just friends.

It was the main point of a video that made the rounds a few months back in the wonderful world of social media, shared below for your convenience.

Makes a compelling case.  But regardless of which side of the fence you find yourself on in this debate, I think there is one thing on which we can all agree: dynamics are certainly different when there are members of the opposite sex present in a group of people than they are in a group composed of only men or only women.  Translation: Ladies, your “best guy friend” acts differently when he’s with you than he does when he’s with his best guy friend (and he probably doesn’t refer to him as that, either).

As the video points out, the number one obstacle to a true guy-girl friendship are those pesky feelings.  You may not have them for your friend, but whose to say that your “friend” doesn’t have them for you?  And whose to say that your or your friend’s feelings won’t change (even if it be for no other reason than loneliness or boredom)?  Let it be said that this tendency towards “feelings” is actually a good thing, so don’t try to snuff it out, because it only means you’re human.  But knowing the tendency exists and being overcome by it are two different things.  It’s the difference between living in reality and living in the seventh season of a sitcom.  This is why we set boundaries.

The fact of the matter is: we are going to have friendships with people of the opposite sex.  It’s a good and healthy thing—except when it’s not.

Given that the guy-girl friendship is a different relationship with different dynamics than a friendship made up of members of the same sex, it’s fitting that behavior patterns ought to be different as well.  For example, it’s not exactly appropriate to have a sleepover with your friend of the opposite sex, whereas it’s totally normal behavior for friends of the same sex to stay the night at one another’s house from time to time.  But that’s an obvious one (or at least, it was when we were 10, maybe not so much sometimes now that we’re older unfortunately).  What kinds of emotional boundaries should there exist between friends of the opposite sex?

I’ve always thought that a good rule of thumb is to think of what it would be like if you or your friend was involved in a romantic relationship.  Better yet, imagine it was your husband or wife who had a friend of the opposite sex, and what boundaries you would want that relationship to have.  You probably wouldn’t be cool with them going out for coffee three times a week and texting every other hour.  If that’s the case and yet that relationship describes your friendship with someone of the opposite sex right now, then it may not be the healthiest of relationships.

If it looks like a date, walks like a date, and smells like a date, then it just might be a date.  Persistent one-on-one outings with the same friend of the opposite sex sends a message, not just to other people who may notice (and yes, they notice), but to yourself and to your friend.  Better to set the boundaries for yourself now than to be wishing you did down the line when things get complicated.

Have all of the friends of the opposite sex that you please, but it’s of the utmost importance that you also have close friends who belong to your gender as well.  I don’t care how well your best guy friend “gets” you— Only a woman can truly understand what it means to be a woman and only a man can truly understand what it means to be a man.  Trust me, your relationships with people of the opposite sex will be all the more meaningful once you have real relationships with people of the same sex.

And, of course, as all relationships ought to be, ground your friendships—regardless of gender—in God and in prayer.  🙂