In a world where women can unfriend each other with the swipe of a finger, how do we find friendships that we can trust to last? Maybe by first becoming those kinds of lasting friends ourselves.
As the community manager at the website incourage.me since 2010, Lisa-Jo Baker has had the chance to engage hundreds of conversations with women about friendship. She’s learned that no one can make us quite as unsure about ourselves as another woman. And nothing can wound as deeply as unkind words from a friend. While we are all hungry for friendship, it’s the fear of feeling awkward and being rejected, left out, or hurt (again) that often keep us from connecting.
But what if we knew we could never be unfriended? Would we risk friendship then?
Starting with that guarantee from the most faithful friend who ever lived—Jesus—this book is a step-by-step guide to friendships you can trust. It answers the questions that lurk under the surface of every friendship—What are we afraid of? What can’t we change? What can we change? And where do we start?—with personal stories and practical tips to help you make the friends, and be the friend, that lasts.
|Publisher:||B&H Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||3 Months to 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships
By Lisa-Jo Baker
B&H Publishing GroupCopyright © 2017 DaySpring Cards, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE FEAR OF BEING HURT. AGAIN. (FRIENDSHIP PTSD)
"Fact: Christian women will hurt you." — Mary
WHOEVER SAID, "STICKS AND stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you," must not have gone to junior high or been a woman. And while we might expect Christians to be the exception to this cruel rule, real life proves that they are not. "Anyone who has been in the church for very long has been hurt by people in the church." Christians aren't immune to "judgment, pride, self-centeredness, manipulation, abandonment, abuse, control, perfectionism, domination, and every kind of relational sin known to humankind. The walls of the church do not make it safe from sin. In fact, the church by definition is composed of sinners."
I've officially lost track of the number of stories I've heard from women who've been hurt by other women in ways that boggle the mind. Maybe we learn in girlhood how to invite and then disinvite a friend to our birthday party all in the same breath. My preschool daughter stunned me with that story this afternoon. With her wispy, baby breath I heard the words tumble out, "But then Sophie said I can't come to her birthday party anymore because I didn't play Fwozen with her on the playground today."
And I felt that terrible ache in my gut of something ancient beginning. Something so dark and ominous and seemingly inevitable that I wanted to stand Gandalf-like before it, blocking its way and bellowing, "You shall not pass!" But I know that I won't be able to bubble wrap her away from the world and all its sharp edges. So I want to be the one to equip her — to give her the courage and the tools to face the daunting statistics chronicling how we women treat each other.
That's why it's worth looking at the science behind our female craving for connection as well as some of the wounds surrounding the often-failed attempts for women to remain friends. We'll share personal stories of friendships failed and hurts survived by women just like us who chose to stay and try again. Because you're not alone in your fears. Not by a long shot.
"The hardest breakup of my life was with a friend." — Annie
My mom died one week to the day after I turned eighteen. And my first phone call after I got the news was to a girlfriend, Liza. I didn't even tell her what had happened. I didn't need to. I just asked if she could come and get me. Because she'd spent the last eighteen months keeping me company on the long, grueling journey of leukemia, hospices, learning to cook, and staying out too late to avoid going home to the cloud of sadness that hung over our home, she was no longer surprised by my requests. I didn't have my driver's license yet, and my dad was making phone call after phone call repeating the same terrible words over and over again. I wanted to get out of the house, out of range of that repeated disaster, out of my skin.
Liza's mom drove her over. And they took me back to their house. And I still didn't know how to break the news. Death is such an awkward conversation for teenage girls already awkward in their skinny jeans. But Liza did what she always did. She just let me be with her. She didn't expect anything from me. She fed me and shared her hair dye with me and played John Cougar Mellencamp loudly, and I could hide in plain sight because I felt safe in her bedroom knowing her mom would come in later and bring us tea or grilled hot dog sandwiches.
It was Dorothy who ended up breaking the news for me. We'd shared a classroom and church and youth group and too many hiking trips together to count since first grade, and there wasn't anything she didn't know about me. And as soon as her family got the news about my mom, Dorothy came looking for me. She had one foot in a cast and wasn't supposed to be driving, but she came limping up Liza's driveway with all my own sadness streaming down her face. She couldn't talk. Her grief was incoherent, and as soon as Liza's mom saw Dorothy, she came to find me and hold me, and I didn't have to put any of it into words — because that's what our friends do. Friends carry our sadness for us when we're terrified we'll be crushed under the weight of it.
One week before my life stopped, one week before I knew what it was like to be a motherless daughter, one week before I had to figure out a way to pronounce and swallow past the words, "My mom died," I was turning eighteen and thinking about prom and planning my dress with Bernadette and her mom. Where there were girlfriends, there was also the miracle of their mothers who loved me as their own and adopted me into their family traditions. After school and on the weekends when my dad was working, I always had a family to call my own even when mine was at its most fractured. And the day I turned eighteen, Bernadette's mom took me for a fitting of my prom dress. The midnight blue velvet fit like a glove that slipped on like a sigh after we'd had our hair and makeup done. Then Dad drove me to visit my mom at the hospice so I could show her the grownup version of her daughter. The nearly eighteen-year-old woman who had no idea that it would be the first and last time her mother saw her baby girl as a woman, grown into her skin and her curves.
That night after I'd cried off my makeup and heard my mother call me beautiful and kissed her paper-thin cheek good night, I was at Bernadette's house for a birthday celebration recognizing my coming-of-age into my own womanhood. With gifts and laughter and more tears and so much generosity crammed around the dining room table, there was barely room for all my mixed-up feelings of delight and sorrow.
Rozanna was another living life preserver. And her family's townhouse, the place where there were no bad dreams, where we talked about our boy crushes and whispered our hopes for what growing up might feel like. Where we felt beautiful because her mom insisted we were, made us twirl in our new shoes, and then fed us comfort and Greek pastries.
There was also Vanessa and Gertrude. Adene, Melanie, and Xenia. For nearly two years my girlfriends cried all my tears, and when we were exhausted from the crying, they made me laugh and took me out for cappuccinos andnever expected me to make conversation. They were my literal bones and marrow and sinew, holding me together so that I could figure out how to take another step forward when I'd forgotten how to breathe.
But what we didn't know is that grief is a very heavy thing to carry, and it sucks all the air out of a room until it suffocates even the brightest flame — and some friendships can't survive it.
Girls at eighteen are mesmerized by life. They need all the breath they can gulp down because there are so many stories waiting for them to inhale, waiting to wrap them up in wonder. So while I was living my own personal nightmare of a dead mother and a father who buried his grief in a hasty remarriage and then a painful divorce, my friends were growing into their own futures farther and farther away from mine. And it was inevitable that at some point they wouldn't want to carry my deadweight any further. They wouldn't be able to.
And so one night I was on the phone sharing the ridiculous, almost embarrassing drama that characterized my life the year after high school when one of them would call it quits. Would want out. Would want permission to let go of the weight of my grief that was drowning us both. And I understood. Because who wouldn't want to kick loose of that anchor and swim hard for the surface and great gulps of free air? I would have kicked free of it myself if I had the option.
But there it was. The breakup. And I stared at the phone and wasn't surprised but still there was a quiet trickle of blood from an internal injury that no one could see. You can bleed to death from broken friendships without ever telling anyone that it's happening. You can bleed from the loss of sharing the ordinary stories and secrets that make up the inner lives of girls. That's the magic of being invited into someone else's head. So when her door closes in your face and you're alone with your thoughts again, it's confusing even when it makes sense.
It will take you months to un-learn the habit of dialing her number, needing her opinion, wanting her company more than you want your own. "Neuroscience has discovered that our brain's very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person." So when that intimate link you've come to rely on as much as one of your own two legs is suddenly amputated, you'll trip and fall and forget over and over again that it isn't there to hold you up anymore.
We are wired to connect. As women, our craving for connection is so deep and our orientation toward attachment so primal that "we fear a rupture in relationship more than a loss of independence." And every time we go through a friendship breakup, we're teaching our brains that friends can't be trusted. So the next time someone invites us through the door into their secret world, we're less likely to step through quite as trustingly as the first time. There's a reason little girls on the playground introduce themselves within seconds and mere minutes later declare themselves best friends, while their mothers watch from separate park benches.
A rupture in a relationship can feel like a bomb going off and can shake through every layer of your life, causing a kind of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in all future relationships. The fascinating field of social neuroscience explains why. In his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, Daniel Goleman explains how every social interaction reshapes our brains through what is called "neuroplasticity." In other words, just like we learn not to touch that lighted candle after we get burned the first time, or how we might enjoy repeating the habit of late-night TV bingeing and ice cream, repeated social experiences teach us which relationships are hot to the touch and which ones are delicious. "By repeatedly driving our brain into a given register, our key relationships can gradually mold certain neural circuitry. In effect, being chronically hurt and angered, or being emotionally nourished, by someone we spend time with daily over the course of years can refashion our brain."
First as little girls and then as teens and adults.
The patterns we live over and over again in our friendships aren't by accident. They're the actual rewiring of our brains to connect or not connect based on past experiences. So if we've had a defining relationship that ended up being a bomb that exploded in our hearts, we're more likely to experience some degree of post-traumatic stress when we find ourselves in a similar relationship situation in the future.
A problem emerges when we've become so programmed to expect the explosion that we start to see bombs where there aren't any anymore.
Sometimes that friendship bump you've run into isn't a bomb going off. Sometimes it's just the equivalent of a car backfiring in a friendship, but our brains have been so deeply wired to treat all conflict as explosive that we are quick to hide, to shut down, to reject first. We're trained to anticipate trouble where maybe there is none. Because we're protecting ourselves from hurt, we start to anticipate being hurt. When those kinds of life-altering explosions have rumbled through our childhoods, they are especially capable of causing seismic shifts well into our adult friendships without us ever realizing it.
Angela tells me that her daughter was "voted out" of her group of middle school girlfriends during lunch period one day.
Lisa shares how a decade after she was rejected, abandoned, and divorced by the husband she loved so much when first married, the ache is still raw and real.
Becky has been hurt and watched her friends be hurt by church cliques.
Tracey's mom never had friends due to the abuse from her dad, so Tracey doesn't know what's normal and what's not normal when it comes to friendship.
I tripped over this discovery of how my early relationship experiences were still dictating my current friendships one afternoon when I was venting to my friend Janice about a friendship misunderstanding that had me twisted inside out. Instead of focusing on my current friendship frustration, she said, "Lisa-Jo, I think that there's a relationship bomb that went off in your life a long time ago. And that bomb is turning current friendship conflict into PTSD triggers."
She could see what I couldn't. She could see that my reaction to this current friendship conflict was way out of proportion. So we started to unpack it together because "our relationships have subtle, yet powerful, lifelong impacts on us." This means that while they can burden us with unwelcome PTSD, they also have highly reparative capabilities too. The relationship patterns we have learned can become the clues that lead us back to the scene of the original crime and equip us with the tools to investigate, understand, and prevent it from happening again.
So on a Friday afternoon I set out to investigate where my friendship PTSD was originating. I've never thought of myself as a people pleaser, per se, but what I realized upon investigation is that I've become an expert people defuser. So much so that any conflict in the air I automatically set out to defuse. I own that conflict like it's directed at me and about me, and I absorb it and I hurt with it and my skin feels raw until I've managed to defuse it.
I constantly interpret someone's feelings about a situation as their feelings about me. When a friend is frustrated about something and they share that frustration with me, I'm quick to osmosis that into a sense of frustration directed at me. And as anyone knows, relationships are constantly going to be chock-full of all kinds of feelings, and if we constantly absorb those as our own, then we're swallowing a Molotov cocktail of our own concoction. And I was living with explosive insides that hurt every time someone else's stress or anger or frustration bumped up against me. Forget backfiring cars, all I could see was a minefield. And I took on the job of clearing and defusing it like a boss. The problem: that job was never supposed to be mine. Yours either, by the way.
When Janice lovingly told me that my reaction to regular, everyday friend stress was turning my insides into smoking cinders and that I needed to perhaps poke around to find out where the original bomb went off in my life, I was able to see my story in a way and from an angle I'd never imagined before.
Mapping Your Friendship DNA
My mom and dad were a classic case of opposites attracting. She described herself as the studious firstborn who grew up in a reserved Dutch family, well trained in the art of politely squelching their conflicts and their frustrations through sheer force of will and good manners. My dad, however, was the youngest by a decade, the spoiled last baby of his parents — his father having just returned from fighting in World War II, his mother a tough farmer's wife who ran the family estate in his absence with an iron fist and tea every afternoon at 4:00 p.m. To hear it told, my mom described the world he brought her into as loud and full of big, shouty feelings that no one ever considerednot sharing. She said it was a relief. A shock, but it was a relief to meet my dad and his family because they lived all their feelings out loud.
My mom balanced my dad out. And our home growing up was one of big feelings — generous, passionate, loving ones. But sometimes, it was also a place where big angry feelings got out of control. Once my mom died and there was no counterbalance to my dad, I saw it as my firstborn duty to assume the role of the defuser. That's a lot for a teenager to own. That's shouldering adult baggage never intended for her. And turns out I've been carrying it ever since.
Until my friend Janice softly asked me what the bomb was that went off in my life. I looked back over my childhood and saw all the shrapnel of years spent living in the blast radius of a dying mother, a devastated father, two baby brothers, a shotgun remarriage, and the desperate attempt to put it all back together again. Or at least, to try to keep the peace. To say the right thing. To defuse.
I was ill equipped for it. A selfish teenager who mostly just wanted out. Who wanted to grow up into a different story and run away to another country for college. But I could never outrun the instinct to absorb the emotions around me as way of defusing them.
In case it's not already clear, that is not healthy. It's not healthy for an eighteen-year-old or a forty-one-year-old or a seventy-year-old. But old habits stick tight and it had never occurred to me that it might not be my job to keep the peace, to take the emotional temperature of every situation, and to try and fix it.
Excerpted from Never Unfriended by Lisa-Jo Baker. Copyright © 2017 DaySpring Cards, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: How We Define Friendship in This Book-It Might Not Be What You Think,
Part 1: What Are We Afraid Of?,
Chapter 1: The Fear of Being Hurt. Again. (Friendship PTSD),
Chapter 2: The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO),
Chapter 3: The Fear of Being (or Including) the New Girl,
Part 2: What Can't We Do about It?,
Chapter 4: We Can't Always Have Friendship Our Way,
Chapter 5: We Can't Expect Other People to Fill Us Up,
Chapter 6: We Can't Control Other People's Stories,
Part 3: What Can We Do about It?,
Chapter 7: Dare to Go First and Be Un-fine,
Chapter 8: Create (Imperfect) Time and Space Together,
Chapter 9: Experience God Together through Shared Sadness and Celebration,
Chapter 10: Live Like the Kingdom of God Is a Co-Op, Not a Competition,
Chapter 11: Stop Trying to Find a Seat at the More Popular Table,
Chapter 12: Give the Gift of the Benefit of the Doubt,
Chapter 13: Don't Be Afraid to Listen (Even If You Don't Like What You Hear),
Part 4: Where Do We Start?,
Chapter 14: Practice Being a Friend to Yourself Today,
Chapter 15: Practice Being a Friend to Someone Else Today,
The Never Unfriended Promise,