Letting a friend be a friend
As I have communicated with close friends lately, I will often hear the qualifier, “But I’m not the one who has moved to another country,” when sharing anything even hinting of struggle from their own lives. I have been thinking a bit about how we can dismiss our own struggles, whether its to minimize their intensity or not even bring them up, when talking to others we feel have much bigger struggles in their lives. I realize there are times to keep our own struggles to ourselves, but I’m guessing we often do it when it’s unnecessary and when it might not be the best thing for the friendship.
Friends, you are hearing it from the horse’s (at least one particular horse) mouth. I want to hear about your struggles. I am not sitting here in Thailand thinking about how my life is so much harder than yours. When you do share any current difficulties in your life, I do not compare it to how difficult my day was or wasn’t. Believe me, I don’t. I care about you and I care about your struggle. While it is true that life as a new expatriate in Thailand is pretty intense with different daily struggles, there is still a lot of joy that comes in the midst of it all. And you know what? I don’t want to just think about my life and talk about my life; I’m already prone to being self-focused and don’t need any help in that area. 😉 I want to hear about your life. I want the opportunity to encourage you, to mourn with you, or to celebrate with you, depending on the circumstances of your life. Basically, I need the opportunity to be your friend.
Don’t get me wrong, I do the same thing. I can be talking with a close friend and if I know they are going through a time of intense struggle, I may not share my own struggle. I often do so as to not be a “burden” to the other person, which can at times be either a good or bad reason. But I sometimes do it because I’ve compared our struggles and somehow decided that my struggle does not warrant our attention. By doing so, I have just taken away an opportunity for the other person to be an encouragement to me and help bear my burden; essentially to be a good friend to me. I realize it’s not a black and white issue; that there are many factors involved. But isn’t it true that we often do this, that we take away the opportunity for people to love on and encourage us? By doing this, we are basically saying, “no” for them to the potential opportunity to be a good friend to us.
Let’s be gracious to each other when our own struggle is so intense that we have little to offer in the way of encouragement and “burden-bearing” to one another. But let’s also give each other the opportunity to be a good friend before dismissing or minimizing our own struggles and making the decision for them.
After all, shouldn’t we let our friends make that decision for themselves? Wouldn’t we want them to let us do the same?
In case you’re wondering, this post is not an underhanded way for me to communicate with my friends about how they are screwing up in our friendship (because they’re not). I don’t tend to communicate things I should merely talk to them individually about via blog posts. Just fyi. 😉