“only surround yourself with people who life you up”
A varient of this is a popular “inspirational” quote. I’ve seen it attributed to Oprah, but I’m not sure if that is acurate or not. I see images with this quote or others like it all the time in my pinterest feed. and it always bothers me.
What if we all did that? What if we all ONLY would be around people who would life us up? Not only is it self-centered, but it’s not practical. What if you’re having a bad day, so you call a friend looking for support and she says “sorry, this conversation isn’t really uplifting me, so I’m gonna have to let you go…”? What if instead of bearing one another’s burdens we all just tried to find people to bear ours. Unfortunately no one would be found, because, well, if we need their help, then we obviously aren’t uplifting them, so then they can’t help us right?
It really does bother me that such a horrible idea has become such a popular “inspirational” quote, even among many christians.
Believe me, I recognize that we can’t help every one. and I would never advocate staying in an abusive relationship. I have been through many pains and hardships and dealt with more than my “share” of abuse because people weren’t willing to cut the abusive person out of their (and by extension, my) life. So trust me when I say, I get that not all relationships are healthy, and boundaries need to be set (Kathryn has a great post about friendship boundaries if you are trying to figure out what’s healthy). But, I don’t think that is what most people are thinking about when they pin, or tweet or post this quote and others like it.
So what is friendship really?
I think about the really good, meaningful relationships that I’ve had in my life. I’m blessed to be able to think of several close friends that I could describe here. One in particular that I could share about it my friend Sarah.
She is a friend that has come to my “rescue” on a bad day more times that I can count. When she met me I was in the midst of struggling with PTSD, depression, and all sorts of other really deep stuff. Not exactly BFF material, but she was still there for me. I don’t think she ever woke up and thought to herself, “ooooh I think it would just be so fun and fabulously encouraging for me to go and do Paula’s dishes today, or bring her flowers, or text and make sure she’s doing okay. I think I will do all these things in an effort to ‘lift myself up and make myself feel good.” No, my guess would be that she did all of those things out of love. Thinking of me, before she thought of her own desires, working my needs into her already busy day. In each of those situations just listed I was not in a place to reciprucate her assitance or even have a nice conversation with her. I was very needy and not an uplifting person to be around, but she came. and she loved. and God took care of her. I wasn’t able to be a good friend on those days, but she was a good friend to me anyway.I have watched a few people like her in my life embody the words of Jesus in Luke 6 (See end of post). And I’m so thankful for them.
I could list nights when a friend has unexpectedly brought over dinner when she knew I was sick and having trouble caring for my family. I can think of times when my friends have been there for me in my darkest hours. Not because they were expecting me to repay them, not because I was lifting them up or able to offer any type of friendship in return. They did it out of love. Love for me, and love for God. They did it because of the love that God has placed in the hearts.
These are real sacrifices. This is friendship. Not friendship that seeks to gain, but friendship that is looking for ways to give. I’m not the best at this, but I’m getting better. Not because of my own ability to love, but because God loves me and is helping me to learn to love others in a self-sacrificing way.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one whostrikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. Luke 6:27-33
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. John 15:12-14