We’ve talked about what not to say to your single friends – and knowing what not to say is certainly helpful – but what do we say instead? How do we learn from stories like Sara’s, and create a culture within the church that doesn’t make single people feel like second-class citizens?
You’ll notice that this post isn’t entitled “Three Ways Married People Can Build Better Friendships With Single People.” There are three reasons for that. First, it’s ridiculously long and cumbersome, and would take up half of a tweet. Second, a title like that would perpetuate the very problem it’s trying to solve: defining people by their relationship status. Third, there are things single people can and should be doing to build better friendships with married people, too.
So let’s just talk about ways to build friendships.
It turns out that this is one of the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People. So not only will you be a better friend, but as you practice this in your friendships, it will spill over into other areas of your life as well.
Vulnerability and authenticity are found at the center of every true friendship. They are the risky steps we have to take if we want to know and be known by one another. Be real with your friends. Talk to them about the things you think and feel. If you don’t understand something about them, ask good questions, and if you still don’t understand, ask better questions. Find out what’s important to them. Find out what’s hard for them, and suggest practical ways you might be able to help. And be the kind of person with whom it’s safe to be real. Your (insert relational status here) friends need to know that they can tell you the truth, and still be completely accepted, no matter what.
Clear, direct, open, authentic, honest communication – in an atmosphere of unconditional love and safety. How many rifts in any of our relationships could be solved by this? Do everything you can to seek to understand the other person’s point of view. And try to resist the temptation to see their point of view as something that needs fixing. (Sure, sometimes it really might. But sometimes it might be your perspective that’s whacked. Keep an open mind, and pray about that.)
One of the questions I asked the group of singles I interviewed for this series was: “What do your married friends do that makes you feel special?” Not everyone answered the question, but of those who did, to a person, they all said something to the effect of “they include me.”
How would our social dynamics change if we could get rid of “the third wheel” construct? What if single people didn’t feel like they had to have a date to go out with their married friends? (What if their married friends didn’t expect them to?) What if we quit trying to pair everyone off, and just spent time with individual people, valuing their friendships?
Some of the strongest, deepest, and best friendships I have exist because at one point in time we said, “I’m committed to this relationship.” Friendships, like marriages, require committed investment. They will undergo change and growing pains (as we change and grow) but when built on an underlying and unwavering commitment (I’m in this. For the long haul.), they will be equipped to last.
Navigating relationships can be a tricky business. Seeking to understand can lead to tough conversations, during which we could maybe inadvertently cause hurt. But when we’re committed to each other (I will still be here at the end of the day, no matter what)…
Wow. Well. There’s something God can work with.
"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." —Fred Rogers via @momentumdash
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"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Einstein