Finding “my tribe” (as I have heard several bloggers refer to this) has been on my mind lately.
“My tribe” being those women who are closest to me; those who speak into my life, know me on a deeper level than most, and who are willing to push me in the right direction — toward Christ.
For many women, it’s difficult to build trust with others. So often what we share in (seeming) confidence is not honored and we feel exposed and betrayed when our struggles or deepest thoughts are shared with others. Walls that were broken down can be rebuilt in a second when we discover our innermost thoughts were shared with someone else.
Over the past several years I have focused intently on finding friends I trust and being a friend to others who can be trusted. Neither is easy and can’t be done in my own strength. It takes prayer and discernment in order to be successful at both. God has been faithful in revealing to me ways that I can have and maintain solid, healthy friendships. l have found some common themes throughout this search:
Approach Each Friendship Looking through the Lens of Christ
It’s difficult to see everyone the way Jesus does. Sure, it’s easy to see the woman who shares similar interests and has similar worldviews the way Christ does, but what about the woman who challenges you? What about the woman who struggles in her marriage or in parenting? Often it’s far more difficult to offer grace and love to someone who isn’t like us or who isn’t kind to us. But I find that God often puts people in my path that both need me and that I need in some way. We can only be iron sharpening iron if we are willing to be put in the fire and allow someone else to work off our rough edges. Likewise, being the hammer that sharpens another is critical.
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17, NLT)
Pay Attention to How the Women in Your Circle Talk about Others
Do you find conversation being steered to details about others that are or should be none of your business? Are hurt feelings or dirty laundry aired that would be best if you were left out of the conversation? Are there mentions of others seasoned with love and grace or a negative connotation? The way others speak in your presence about a third party can often be a sign of how they speak of you to others.
A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. (Proverbs 16:28, NLT)
Handling Conflict Biblically Is Crucial to the Proper Balance of Godly Friendship
When we have a falling out or disagreement with a friend, it’s very easy to seek out those who will console us and validate our feelings, especially when we feel wronged. What may be cloaked as “venting” or “confiding” in someone about a third party who has hurt us is often gossip. And it’s often not productive. Unless you have someone who will guide you in biblical principles and point you back toward the friend who wronged you to make amends, it’s likely there will only be more division. If the situation is too raw to continue talking with the other party directly involved, it’s best to step away and take time in prayer before speaking about it to anyone else. I have seen groups of friends destroyed when one person confided in another about a third person and “camps” were then set up. Creating cliques is polarizing and divisive and has no place in Godly friendships.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV)
Be Willing to Say the Hard Things to Those You Love
It won’t take long to find areas that need addressed when you start getting real with people. As you begin to lift the mask and allow the facade to fall with the select few who are in your inner circle, struggles and weaknesses will become apparent. How we approach those will say a lot about how much we care about our friend. Sweeping issues under the carpet for the sake of never making waves is a surefire way to destroy a friendship at worst and weaken it at best. Loving someone enough to offer insight and scriptural feedback is difficult, but it is what we are called to do as believers and as friends.
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15, NIV)
An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. (Proverbs 27:5-6, NLT)
Be Willing to Hear the Hard Things
Most of us don’t enjoy criticism. Hearing something we’ve done wrong or an area in which we’re missing the mark is never easy, but has its place in Godly friendships. We can be certain we haven’t “arrived” to the place where we no longer need rebuking, so if we set an understanding from the beginning that those in our inner circle have freedom to speak truth into our life, we can feel more prepared when someone shares an area of weakness they see in us. We would hope that these conversations would be seasoned with love and grace, but that may not always be the case. We need to pray that God will reveal the truths about us to us in these circumstances while alleviating the sting of the delivery.
Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend. (Proverbs 22:11, NLT)
Navigating relationships can be very tricky considering the myriad personalities and interests, strengths and weaknesses involved. When we find ourselves reaching a deeper level of friendship, those tricky spots can become even tricker. It’s so important that we keep all things in perspective and allow Christ to work through us to strengthen one another and to glorify Him in the process.
Not all friendships will reach this level of intimacy, and that’s a good thing. It’s wise to be selective with whom we will be transparent and open. Not all friendships are created equal. Not everyone is equipped to handle our baggage or struggles, so being judicious about sharing is a benefit to both parties.
Most importantly, place Christ at the center of every relationship. Allow God to lead you to those whom He has chosen for you. We will never be disappointed when we allow Jesus to be at the helm.