Every relationship in our life—both present and future—carries with it a degree of risk. If risk-free friendships you seek, find yourself more and more isolated you will. (Written in Yoda-speak)
In our increasingly lonely society, I wonder if one way we try to minimize relational risk is by using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. I’m not anti-social media. But social media can trick us into thinking we’re experiencing true relationship when we’re not. Digital friendships alone aren’t enough to keep us healthy emotionally. Another unfortunate byproduct of these social mediums is they can make other people’s lives seem perfect when common sense should tell us otherwise.
It’s weird, isn’t it, that we feel comfortable living our lives publicly on social media but at the same time we feel uncomfortable picking up a phone or talking face-to-face with people. I guess we think hiding behind the protective cover of technology lessens our risk. But does it really?
When it comes to friendships, some of us don’t even try—we simply hunker down and isolate ourselves. “Nobody is gonna hurt me!” we insist. And yet, when you consider that from the beginning of time God has wired us for friendship, cutting off communication with the outside world is a losing strategy. Solitude in small chunks is usually healthy. Solitude in large chunks is not.
So, the struggle continues: We need solid friendships, but we’re afraid of them. We fear loneliness, but we fear being hurt even more. We find ourselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place. And for some, we’ve given up hope that true, satisfying, life-giving friendship is possible.
If we are hard-wired by God for friendship—and yet find ourselves paralyzed by the fear of getting hurt again, stabbed in the back again, disappointed again–what can we do? What should we do? What must we do?
Here are two must-do behaviors that will help us with our struggle:
Avoid foolish risks
Some relationships in our lives are ill-advised or simply toxic. This blog is focused on relationships that need a little TLC, or have a degree of difficulty associated with them. If we think any of our relationships will be problem-free, we’re thinking incorrectly.
When I say avoid foolish risks, I’m talking primarily about dealing with or detouring around abusive people. An abusive person is one who harms you—verbally, physically, emotionally, sexually, etc.
When it comes to verbal or emotional abuse, avoiding foolish risks means figuring out a way to either manage these relationships by drawing/enforcing healthy boundaries, or, if our best attempts to stand up for ourselves fail to change the relational landscape, limit our exposure to those people as much as possible.
When it comes to physical or sexual abuse: if someone has placed his or her hands on you in anger—or violated you sexually—you must understand a line has been crossed. You don’t deserve to be treated that way. In such cases, putting geographical distance between you and your abuser until he/she gets the help they need is often highly advisable.
The Apostle Paul told his protégé Timothy to be on his guard regarding Alexander the metalworker, who Paul said “did me a great deal of harm.” Some relationships, despite our best efforts, will never get healthy. I’m not suggesting we take a relational machete and start swinging wildly—rather that we take serious inventory of those relationships that pulverize us emotionally, and make the necessary adjustments. The help of a skilled counselor—someone who will tell you the unvarnished truth about yourself first and then the truth about the person you’re struggling with relationally—can prove priceless in these difficult moments.
Avoid foolish risks. Which leads to the second must-do behavior:
Take reasonable risks
No risk . . . no reward.
Any business entity existing today came into being only because someone took an educated and well-planned risk. Ask a business owner how they got started, and every one of them will tell you stories about significant leaps of faith they took. And along the way, they’ve continued taking reasonable leaps, because without risk-taking, growth is impossible.
So it is with our relationships. No risk . . . no reward. It’s risky to make the first friendship move. It’s risky to open up your life to another person. It’s risky to let people know the real you. Should you be wise about who you open up your life to? Of course. But even with extreme relational due diligence, will you eliminate every smidgen of risk? Of course not.
I guess the question is: Are reasonable relational risks worth the potential reward? I can unequivocally say: “Yes!” Even though some friendships have ended in pain, I wouldn’t be writing this blog today if it wasn’t for friends along the way who stood by me in my darkest days. My best friends are a river of goodness pouring into my heart and emotions. My wife, my sons, my daughters-in-law, and yes—my granddaughters(one eight months old, and another one on the way)—make me emotionally richer, better, healthier, happier, and more fulfilled. Having friends I can encourage, support, talk to, dream and pray with makes life amazing.
You were never meant to navigate life on this planet by yourself. God didn’t create you to live in a relational vacuum.
So, the ball is in your court. If you don’t know where to start, here is a free download entitled: 7 Hacks to Building Healthy Friendships. This isn’t an exhaustive treatment on relationships, but it will give you a good start.
I’m rooting and praying for you!