Things I’ve Learned About Friendship
by Jaclyn Toscas
Y’all, what a topic! I feel simultaneous elation and pressure writing about friendship. Like, do I need to be an expert friend before I can write about it? Nope. I think if there’s desire to improve at anything and any type of failure to go with it, we’re qualified.
This is a particularly special subject. We work our entire lives building friendships. And we love having friends!
I remember laughing about all the categories I created so that I could refer to all my friends as a best friend… Britney? Best friend growing up. Katie? Best friend from elementary school. Jaclyn? Best friend from junior high and high school. Lee Anne? Best friend in college. Charlotte? Best friend from summer camp. Raina? Best friend from Young Life camp. Yale? Best guy friend. And so on....
We are hard-wired for close connection to others.
I lived in the same suburb of Houston until I was 18. Aside from a few dramatic junior high friend breakups, I had some of the same close friends for a decade. Then I took a few increasingly large leaps. I went to college in another state. And after graduation, I moved to Washington, DC. This is where I learned a lot about friendship. And adulting. But we’ll stick to friendship for the sake of staying on topic.
First, making friends generally gets harder as we get older. And the ease of friendship that comes from living in close proximity is also increasingly rare. I quickly learned that friendships grow stale without mutual time and energy invested. I learned that friendship with others who are really different than us is a beautiful thing. I learned that some friendships are just for a season.
That last one was especially tough for me to embrace. I wanted to hang on to all of my friends. I was determined not to let geographic distance or major life changes be the reason that any friendship faded. But some friendships fade despite all your best efforts. And that really is okay. “Necessary Endings” by Henry Cloud helped me embrace this idea more fully. In one sentence, the book is about no longer looking at endings as bad but learning to embrace them as a gateway to better. This applies to our professional lives as well.
Remember that old nursery rhyme or song or whatever it is: “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold”? I happen to think all friendships are GOLD. They can be built over time or forged in an instant. They can last decades or carry us through one intense season. They all require time and effort. And I happen to think it’s always worth it. That is because the sweetest friendships are the ones where we regularly feel known and understood. Where we feel little urge to to explain, justify, explain again (are we being judged? misunderstood?)...no, they get it. Those precious friendships where there’s equal appreciation for differences and sameness alike. Pause. We need to appreciate differences as well as sameness. Depending on your personality, one will be harder than the other.
And you know I couldn’t write about friendship without referencing the old, familiar CS Lewis quote:
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
But what next C.S.? Here’s where it gets difficult…
“A friend loves at all times, and a (sister) is there for times of trouble.” Prov 17:17
Leave it to the Bible to take it to the next level. This brings me to my dream defenders. This powerhouse party of five came together in late fall last year. You might have guessed who two of them are. The Lord dropped these women into my life out of the clear blue amidst a season marked by pain, loss, grief and heartache. Times of absolute trouble as Proverbs describes.
We met at Camp Well. Camp for adults and one of the most beautiful and life-giving spaces for dreamers and doers. These women have brought new energy to my soul. They don’t replace or overshadow, they are an example of the immeasurably more that the Lord wants to bring to our lives. They add a richness to life that I can hardly put into words. But I’m pretty sure it’s because they’re a combination of the CS Lewis quote and the proverb....the “you get me” and “I’ll stand with you in times of trouble.” In fact, we are standing with each other in times of trouble. In four months, we have walked through significant times of trouble together. Heartbreak. Waves of grief. Anger. Loss. Chronic illness. Infertility. Hope deferred. Career transition. Scary tests and scans with our spouses and children. Professional disappointments, setbacks and promotions. It’s gotten real REAL quick.
And here’s what I have found to be the secret sauce of any friendship. We’re all going to fail and disappoint each other. But how quickly can we move past that? Will we continue to mutually offer grace and love to one another in the face of those failures and disappointments? Those moments when you think, “well sh*t you don’t seem to get me at all. Maybe I really am the only one.” You’re not. We’re just human. And there is nothing new under the sun. One of the worst things that can happen to us is isolation.
Which brings me to a conclusion. Refuse isolation. Reach out to that friend who is going through a time of trouble. If it’s you that’s struggling, ask your friend who you’ve been pushing away if y’all can begin again and recommit to showing more grace during a season of difficulty. I always think of my friend who brought me bourbon when she was sharing her pregnancy news with me. After years of trying and failing to conceive, she didn’t expect excitement from me when she and her husband got pregnant right away. She simply said, I wish it had been you first and I know we will have to show each other a lot of grace in this next season. It meant everything. And OF COURSE there have been times since when we’ve failed each other. But you keep going.
A few practical things I’m working on right now: removing SHOULD from my vocabulary. It’s ripe with guilt and obligation. Get rid of it wherever possible. If a friendship feels forced, maybe it is. Next, I feel overwhelmed by large general questions like “how are you?” “how can I be praying for you?” I’m working on being specific with my prayers and offers to help friends. Instead of “let me know if you need anything” (which puts it back on them) or “how can I be praying?” … offer to bring lunch over or mail something they love (“every girl likes flowers Gary”) or drop a little something by their house like their favorite bottle of wine! Send a text or vox or note: “I’ve been praying specifically for you that God would be near and that He would bring lightness and laughter to your days…. is there anything else I can be praying for you?” Pray they would be surprised by joy! Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes, because you never know where your next joy surprise or new friend might come from.
“...you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you.” -Saint Augustine
We hope that you will read this post and be encouraged to reach out to some of your dear friends and dream defenders today and thank them for the way that they've showed up for you and loved you well. You don't have to be an expert to be a good friend, but we agree that relationships thrive when you are investing mutual time and energy into them. We know that you loved reading Jackie's post on friendship and you can follow her over at her little space on the internet @convivial.life. We love her words, they constantly bring us back to truth and have so abundantly impacted our lives. On her blog she shares not only her love of good food and wine, but she also creates a space for celebrating life in the midst of pain and adversity. You can also check out her AMAZING clean crafted wine business scoutandcellar.com/jaclyntoscas! Clean crafted wine by Scout and Cellar contains no pesticides, no added sugars and zero added chemicals--wine like it is supposed to be, sign us up for that! Cheers!