Good friends tell you the truth.
They don’t hold back when it comes to celebrating you. When you’ve done something remarkable, they applaud, loudly! When you look good, they tell you. When you’re being too hard on yourself, they help you realign your perspective. When you don’t see what makes you great, they tell you over and over again until you believe it about yourself.
A good friend will also tell you when you’ve missed the mark. If you’re being difficult, rude or insensitive, they’ll let you know. If you’ve let them down, they’ll tell you. When you need to lose weight, they’ll go with you to buy stretchy pants and remind you to exercise! And when you need to step it up in work, relationships or life, you can trust them to tell you what you may not want to hear.
We love a good friend, but there’s no escaping hard truths about yourself in their company. In fact, Proverbs 27:6 (NLT) prepares you for this reality, saying:
A sincere friend will wound you. They don’t mean to. They just love you too much to leave you in the dark about the things you’re doing that are hurting you or others.
Their wounds aren’t inflicted from a place of malicious intent. Sometimes they’re out of ignorance. Other times, carelessness. Still some wounds are borne from loving correction, as a good friend will tell you what you need to hear, even if you don’t want to hear it.
The hard-to-hear words of a friend may hurt.
Here’s how the wounds of one friend forever changed my life.
Not too long ago, I (Alyssa) received an unexpected email. A friend wrote, “I think my disappointment and frustration comes more from the bigger picture of friendship and perhaps ours in particular.” These words marked the beginning of an elegant, kind and very direct note about my shortcomings as a friend.
I wish I could say I received it well. But I didn’t.
Instead of considering what she had to say, I was immediately defensive. This friend knew the demands on my life. She even mentioned them in her note.
As I went line by line through the email, I refuted her claims and excused my behavior. How could she not see my dedication to her in my DM encouragements, text messages, hugs and conversations after church, an occasional phone call to check in, and morning meet ups at our favorite cafe for coffee and croissants about every six months?!
I was clearly making an effort.
Or was I?
I knew this woman. Her heart was sincere toward God and me. She had trusted me with a lot about her life and given me space to freely share about my own. She always made herself available for coffee or hanging out. And she was brave enough to tell me the truth about situations in my life on more than one occasion.
No matter how many ways I defended myself or called her perceptions into question, I couldn’t escape the nagging sense that there was truth in her words. The more I considered what she wrote, the more I could see evidence of her insights in our friendship and in my friendships with other women.
As I looked at myself through her eyes, I kept coming back to 1 John 2:6. This verse says that people will see how real our relationship is with God by the way we walk things out in our everyday lives. One look at how Jesus lived and it’s clear that walking closely with God is all about a very real, high-touch, quality relationship with Him and with others.
I thought I was doing this well. This is why the words of my friend felt like wounds at first.
Then I realized they weren’t causing me harm. They were actually cutting into unseen barriers and root issues that were stopping me from living in real relationships with others.
Here’s what I learned from the wounds of a friend.
Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. When someone trusts you with important things in their heart and you offer to be there for them, do it. Follow up, come alongside or check in to make sure they’re not stuck in a rut. If you say you’ll be there for someone, be there. Your words are empty without corresponding actions.
Connect—for real. Connection is what happens when you prioritize time with people on a consistent basis. In our quick text and DM message world, we think we’re connected. We even call hasty hellos, funny meme conversations and the occasional meaningful DM connection. While these tools make things easier, they don’t make things more authentic. Real connection is made in person. It’s intentional. And while it may be challenging to do this now, this challenge isn’t new. Before pandemic restrictions were in place, our schedules killed real connection. We build stronger relationships when we intentionally connect.
Speak their language. Everyone has a love language. But this language isn’t just for romantic relationships! Being a good friend means you get to know each other in a way that helps you speak someone else’s language well. If they need quality time, this is a chance to spend time with them doing what they like to do. If a friend thrives on words of affirmation, you can look for ways to fill their life with encouragement. Learning to speak the love language of a friend is another way to let them know you love them for who they are. (And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out the book The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.)
Do the work together. To be a good friend, you have to become one. This means you have to go through some stuff to be strengthened, stretched and sharpened into the shape of someone who is sincere in how they approach others. This kind of growth is never comfortable. And it never happens alone. You only become a good friend by being in relationship with other women who are on this journey too.
Since receiving this email, these four simple truths have strengthened my relationship with her and with others. I can honestly say I’m becoming a better friend every day… and the loving wounds of my friends are now a welcomed part of my life. Sure, hard words are never easy to hear, but I know they make me better. Now I choose to listen to them instead of defending myself against them.
As you think about the words of your friends, especially those that have wounded you, is it possible for you to hear them differently? Could it be there’s some truth in what they’ve said?
We encourage you to listen carefully and to let the words (wounds) of your friends reveal those places in your life that need to be addressed. You’ll be a better person and a better friend for it.
Until next time,