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Prove You Love Me: How to Stop Playing Games in Your Friendships

Here are three things you can do to stop playing the “prove you love me” game in your friendships.

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I play a game with my friends sometimes, but it is not a game anyone wins. It’s a “game” called, “Prove you love me,” and it is exhausting and defeating for anyone who chooses to engage.

I am thirty-eight but have the emotional maturity of a middle-schooler at times. A friend doesn’t text or call in nearly a week or two and I am certain I am off “the list,” that unwritten list of priority friendships. Scrolling through Instagram, I come upon a picture of some of my friends enjoying some outing to which I wasn’t invited and I think, “They didn’t want me there because I am the killer of fun, or worse, they just forgot about me altogether!”

My husband and I decide to initiate a last minute bon-fire and start firing off texts and phone calls to see who is available to come. One after another, friends tell us of plans they already have in place. I conclude, “Clearly, I am the uncool kid. Everyone has plans, and I was included in NONE of them.”

You see, I feel loved most when I am given time and words of affirmation. When those are withheld for a period of time, I begin to grow insecure. I doubt another’s care for me, and if I am not careful, dive head long into thoughts that leave me feeling unloved and at times even hated. It can spiral downward at the speed of lightning, and I become sullen, despondent, and tempted to isolate myself.

I have even been known to sing, “Nobody likes me; everybody hates me. I guess I’ll go eat worms.” Transport me straight back to middle school because in these dark moments, this is what it feels like.

For the purpose of this article, however, I want to share what I have found to be most helpful when I find myself caught playing this relational game because the Bible tells me that even though I fear I may be the only grown woman who struggles with this, I am not.

I know the ways in which I am tempted are ways in which others are tempted as well. (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.) So I offer three ways in which I seek to wrestle down my thoughts and affections to bring them in line with what is true and lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy.

[lead]Assume the Best[/lead]

Prove You Love Me: How to Stop Playing Games in Your Friendships

One of the first things I try to do when ensnared in a web of unhelpful, unlovely thoughts, is to consider the situation from my friend’s perspective. Perhaps her phone died and she therefore hasn’t been able to text me back. Perhaps, she is beyond busy or burdened with something I know nothing about and just hasn’t had the time to be in contact. I shouldn’t be surprised that others’ calendars are full; mine is often the same way. I tell myself that another’s silence does not equate a lack of love just as my neglect to recognize her birthday or other special day with a gift, card, or phone call does not mean I love her any less. I am just really awful about recognizing these special days in such ways. As I want grace extended for my oversight, so I need to be willing to extend similar grace and understanding.

[lead]Get All the Love You Could Possibly Need or Want from God[/lead]

I must also remember a foundational truth: I was not made to be the center of anyone’s universe. I was made for the glory of another. I was created to worship God, to make Him the center of my universe. And as I was made for this, so was everyone else. My friends are not to make me the center of their worlds; they are to live according to the purposes of Christ. At times, that will include demonstrating love and care to me. But, in the times that it does not, I need not fear being unloved. I am loved by the One whose love is perfect, whose love never disappoints and knows no limits. His love casts out all fear. I can run to His love and be filled to overflowing by the One who always has time for me, Who always is enough, Who never tires of listening to me or reassuring me. (See 1 John 4:18, Romans 5:5, Isaiah 40: 28, Psalm 103, Romans 8:31.)

[lead]Look to Meet the Needs of Others[/lead]

When I am so consumed with myself, there is little to no room in my mind or heart to consider another’s feelings or needs. However, when I go to God to receive all that I need by way of my “love cup” being filled to overflowing, I then see others in a whole new light (i.e., not as the means to receiving what I need but as an opportunity to give what I have received).

What a difference this makes in relationships! My friend, who, according to my judgments was just moments ago ignoring or hating me, now becomes a person I want to bless, a person I want to pray for and love, no strings attached. Even more so, I am postured to see beyond the scope of my current relationships to people who may need me to reach out to them, to show interest in who they are, or to communicate value by simply recognizing their existence.

I have learned, painfully at times, that no one ever wins when I play the “prove you love me” game. There is only One who is able to bear the weight of this demand that my insecure, needy heart makes so often. His name is Jesus. He proved His love to me for all eternity when He willingly obeyed His Father unto death on a cross for the joy set before Him — the joy of seeing my face in Heaven with Him for all eternity. I am His joy. Always and forever. I need never fear. I need never doubt His love, nor do you.

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Briana is a truth seeker who wrestles with how to love God with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength and how to faithfully live Micah 6:8. She rarely turns down coffee, chocolate, red wine and soft cheeses. Eschewing labels and boxes, she’s reluctant to share she homeschools her 3 children and is completely sold on the real food movement. Briana “wears her heart on her sleeve” and married a “close to the vest” kind of guy, both having strong and opposite preferences for just about everything which makes for a “conflict more often than not” marriage, but one worth fighting for. She writes privately to order the chaos in her head. She writes publicly to encourage and persuade others of the one thing of which she is utterly convinced: that God is a big God and a good God and loves His people with an indescribable love. In her feeble and stumbling attempts to describe God’s love, she writes occasionally on her blog, Pleasant Places.

1 Comment
  • Amy Kannel

    Bri, I am late in saying so but I love this so much. I so appreciate your vulnerability and honesty here. This is great, practical, wise and hope-filled advice.

    The whole “assume the best” thing has been paradigm-shifting, life-changing for me (when I remember to do it, of course). I think I first learned it on a parenting message board I frequent and it was such a revolutionary concept. How quick I am to make excuses for myself all over the place, but assume the worst of everyone else! It’s so helpful and so much more loving to give the benefit of the doubt and assign positive intent–to my kids, to other drivers(!!), to random strangers, to my friends and family.

    I wish you lived close by–I think we would be great friends…if we could avoid playing the “prove you love me” game with each other :P

Articles

When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Articles

Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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Prove You Love Me: How to Stop Playing Games in Your Friendships

by Briana Almengor time to read: 4 min
1