I was asked to talk to you about friendship. The steering team asked me to speak because I've made some good friends here at MOPS. I don't really have a magic formula for friend-making. I don't have a step-by-step plan for you.
All I can do is tell you the few things I know on the topic, and hope that it helps you.
My dad was in the Navy for 20 years. I went to 4 schools in the 4th grade. From that, I learned how to make a friend in 5 minutes. I'll go right up to you, and I probably have, and say, “Hi, I'm Carrie” and most likely follow it up with too much personal information too soon. Because, you see, I didn't have time for slow-growing friendships when I was little. I had to make a friend, and quickly, before I moved away. I made a decision at an early age to just trust people.
My sister, on the other hand, took the opposite approach. She thought, I'm only here for 6 months so why bother? She didn't even bother trying, but then lamented her lack of friends.
Unlike my sister, I had faith that I could make a friend everywhere I went. I continually put myself out there, and had faith and trust that it would work out.
I did an informal poll on what stops us from making friends—from putting ourselves out there.
One thing I found that can stop us, and definitely has stopped me in the past, is perfectionism. Maybe my kids aren't always angels. Maybe my kids aren't even the same ages as your's and so why would you want to talk to me? Maybe my house wasn't as fancy as someone else's. I might say the wrong thing. I wouldn't invite people over because I didn't want them to see how I lived.
Who do I think I'm kidding here? If you come to my house, are you really checking my bathtub for mold? I doubt it. I realized if I kept waiting until things were just so, then no one would ever come over. I learned that true hospitality isn't about how things appear, but how comfortable a person feels. I can be sitting in a cluttered home where there are kids yelling (only because that's a kid's normal volume) and be completely at ease. That is hospitality.
Honestly, this is a constant struggle for me. I guarantee that the next time I have a gathering of people over that I will still burst into tears about an hour before people arrive because things aren't going according to my plans. I want it to be just so. I know it's wrong. I know that nearly everyone doesn't care about the state of my house, and that those that do can just bite me. I know that. But it's hard to overcome. I have to keep reminding myself that my best is good enough. That my best isn't your best. We don't all have the same circumstances or skills. We don't even have the same standards of what “clean” means. No matter what we do, we are never going to make “perfect.” I'm never going to be “perfect” on this earth.
According to my highly scientific poll, the main reason we have a hard time making friends is because of fear. We're afraid. I'm afraid too. I might appear confident, but it's an act. I'm horribly insecure.
Every time I meet someone new, or stand here talking to you, or even after knowing someone for months or years, I am afraid. I am full of fear. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of rejection. What if this person figures out I'm not really laid-back, cool & confident? What if they see the real me? I mean the core of who I am. Not who I put on everyday, but the real me. The me who thinks I'm a fool. I'm unlovable. I'm ugly. I'm a slob. I'm mean. I'm judgmental. I'm impatient. I'm inappropriate. I'm a filthy mess?
What if you find out I'm not perfect?
Would you still be my friend?
We all struggle with the same things. We just want to be known, and loved. I don't care how together you might appear to be, you're a mess. We should not sit here and think, “oh that so-and-so, she has it all together. Things look peachy for her!” Yeah right!
Why are we all so afraid? Why do we let fear dictate our behaviors? Do you know what the opposite of fear is?
I don't have all the answers here. I can say that as my faith has grown, I've been less controlled by perfectionism and fear. I still struggle with them, but they don't consume me like they used to. I still want to be liked, but I know now who I really need to please. It isn't you or my family or even myself.
Think about your closest friend for a second. It might be a friend, sister or your husband. I suspect that person knows you pretty well. That person has probably seen you all blotchy and puffy after an ugly cry. That person knows you think some ignorant thoughts. That person knows you are not perfect. Yet that person chooses to love you. In fact, that person probably gets upset if you say something negative about yourself! This person doesn't see those ugly things. That person just loves you.
Every single one of us, at our core, thinks we're a mess. We wouldn't need Jesus without it! But the truth is, even though I have all those negative thoughts about myself, they are not the truth. Because I have faith, what I really am is strong, confident, loving and lovable, and becoming perfect in Christ.