The Friends We Keep: A Woman's Quest for the Soul of Friendship

The Friends We Keep: A Woman's Quest for the Soul of Friendship

by Sarah Zacharias Davis

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307446114
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/21/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Sarah Zacharias Davis is an senior advancement officer at Pepperdine University, having joined the university after working as vice president of marketing and development for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and in strategic marketing for CNN. The daughter of best-selling writer Ravi Zacharias, Davis is the author of the critically-acclaimed Confessions from an Honest Wife and Transparent: Getting Honest About Who We are and Who We Want to Be. She graduated from Covenant College with a degree in education and lives in Los Angeles, California.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

My eyes flooded with tears that began rolling down my face. Horrified at my public display of grief, I had to keep myself from all-out sobbing over Isabel’s death before the person sitting next to me on the plane thought me mentally unstable and requested to be moved to another seat.

This was my third time reading the book The Saving Graces, and I cried all three times when each of the friends read Isabel’s letters after her death. I stumbled upon The Saving Graces, a novel by Patricia Gaffney, one evening when perusing Barnes & Noble for something good. The words “New York Times Bestseller” caught my eye, and I decided to give Gaffney a try, though I was unfamiliar with anything she
had written.

The Saving Graces is the story of four friends and how each is there for the others through the ups and downs of life: childlessness, broken relationships, love, illness, and death. I read the book three times because I wanted to join the friendship circle of Lee, Rudy, Isabel, and Emma again and because it deeply impacted the way I viewed friendship, both the kind of friendships I wanted and the kind of friend I wanted to be. For me The Saving Graces raised the bar, as well as the stakes.

I loved the way the others supported Rudy when she moved out of her home and through the abuse she encountered.The unmitigated appreciation for each individual friend was evidenced as Isabel wrote parting letters to her three friends. I was inspired by the manner with which the friends got snippy with each other, and yet quickly forgave and forgot.

Finally, I was moved by how the loss of one left an enormous hole that could not, nor would, ever be filled in the others. I found this especially, exquisitely stunning, thus moving me to tears each time I shared these women’s lives.They were there to defend, laugh, comfort, give physical care, and even
give space—all that real life requires. These were friendships of depth and honesty, strength and longevity. These friends loved each other in all their messiness. No one had to bring perfection to the friendship, only loyalty.

My reluctance to leave the world of the four women and close the book for the third time invited explorational thoughts of friendship. What was it about their friendships that left me reluctant to leave their company and return to my own life? Is that what my friendships were supposed to look like? Did I need to find a Rudy, an Isabel, a Lee, or an Emma to fill the longing that this novel surreptitiously uncovered in my soul? Did my own small collection of friendships seem not enough compared to the bond these four shared? And why not? Was it the way they supported one another or the way they alwaysmade time for one another? Or was it the way one could behave in a manner that was very unlovable and yet still remain loved?

At the risk of making a grand, sweeping gender statement, I’ll point out that some men seem to have categories of friends. They have work friends, friends for playing weekly pickup basketball games, golfing friends, and friends forced on them by a significant other. Seldom do they see these friends outside their category of identity, yet they would call them friends.

Many of the friendships women hold, however, seem to make their way beyond the circumstances that brought them together and meander into their lives through both the valleys and the peaks, eventually ending up in the women’s souls, where they can both restore and destruct. And yet, isn’t a real friendship one that would bring both the yin and the yang, so to speak? Is the multidimensional aspect of the relationship the very characteristic that makes it a true friendship?Would I have been so captivated and, yes, envious of the saving graces if their friendships contained no shadows?

History is rife with story upon story of love, commitment, bravery, loyalty, betrayal, and disappointment—all within friendships. And in our own personal histories, many of the same stories can be told Friendship is a relationship we desire and cultivate early in our development, whether we had an imaginary friend as a constant companion or we began the first day of school as a shy, pigtailed little girl inviting another to be our friend.

For a woman, the connection to friendship is innate and essential. It feels so vital to life and to living that the desire for it seems part of our fabric of being. Cicero said friendship “springs from nature rather than from need—from an inclination of the mind with a certain consciousness of love.”1 This is certainly true across generations and cultures. Early Chinese culture held women’s friendships as almost sacred. In her beautiful work of historical fiction Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See educates her readers about sacred friendship practices.2 The Chinese women of this patriarchal culture committed themselves to very deep friendships, knowing there was substance and soul that could exist in no other relationships.

There were two types of soul friendships: sworn sisters and laotongs, which means “old same.” Sworn sisterhoods were groups of unmarried women who became friends.These sisterhoods dissolved at the time of marriage. A laotong relationship was between two girls from different villages.Many superstitions were observed before two girls would be found to be a match.They were usually the same age and both born in auspicious years, according to the tradition. The girls were bound together in lifelong friendship, in a ceremony that was nearly equivalent to a marriage ceremony in its commitments and gravity.The larger world only learned of the existence of this tradition of special friendships when, in a crowded train station at the height of China’s Cultural Revolution, a woman was detained as a suspected spy after
fainting. Authorities searched her belongings in an effort to identify her and found papers written in a language none could identify. Scholars were brought in to examine the writings, and they discovered that the elderly woman was not a spy after all; rather, her writings were in a secret language used only by women in the region of Yao. This language was a secret for more than a thousand years.

Sadly, most of the writings in nu shu have not survived over the years as they were either buried with the women at their death to accompany them to the other world or destroyed in the revolution. In the twentieth century, the nu shu language is all but extinct and no longer needed. But its existence and use discloses the depth of friendship and community among these women—and the universal, powerful longing for friendship that exists among us, the desire to be known and heard.

How do you know your friends, and how do you find them?Most of us look back on lives decorated with stories of friendships from the time we were young. There are the friends we hurried home from school to play with every day. After donning play clothes and perhaps wolfing down a snack, we’d join them for some clandestine adventure until we were summoned to dinner at dusk. There are the friends who gave us our social life when we were teenagers, inviting us to something somewhere that opened an entire new world of cliques, jealousy, loyalty, and, ultimately, resiliency. There are the friends of our early twenties, alongside whom we entered independence, straddling worlds of codependency and experimental autonomy. There are the friends who champion us through many of the celebrations and disappointments of adult life, from marriage and professional promotions to buying a first home and having children, along with a myriad of heartbreaks and losses.

And there’s every kind of friend in between. The friend you go to the ballet with; the friend you shop with—the one who talks you into a regrettable purchase every time; the one who will tell you what you want to hear and the one who has the courage to tell you what you don’t; the friend from whom you always get the latest news on everyone else; the one who will listen when you need to be heard and the one who will talk when you only have energy to listen. There’s the role model, the mentor, and the friend with whom you have a love-hate relationship.There are group and work friendships, friendships within a larger community, the “our children are best friends” and “our husbands are best friends” relationships.

If so many different types of connections are called friendships, do they all come from the same well, some single essence of friendship?What is it that creates a friendship? Is it social obligation, the fact that you wanted a large wedding party so the pictures would look better, necessity, or essential longing? And if it is longing, is the primary catalyst our longing for someone’s friendship or that person’s longing for ours? Do we need to know the answers to these questions to be a good friend or to have a fulfilling friendship—or am I simply overanalyzing that which just happens naturally?

My worn paperback copy of The Saving Graces placed back on my shelf of fiction between authors Fielding and Grisham, these were the questions I went looking to answer.

For centuries poets, authors, and song and screenplay writers have sought to define friendship—with results ranging from Aristotle’s conclusion that friendship is “a single soul dwelling in two bodies” to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s description of a friend as “a person with whom I may be sincere.”3
Certainly a distinction should be made between an acquaintance and a true friend. Is friendship simply companionship? For me, this is not the case. The Saving Graces taught me a narrower, even sacred definition of friendship.

What qualifies someone to be called your friend?

I read a sweet story by F.W. Boreham about a little boy plagued by nightmares.4 Rather than visions of sugarplums, a frightening tiger intrudes on the boy’s dreams. Night after night, the child wakes in fear, a cold sweat, and a rapidly beating heart. His parents are concerned (and probably lacking sleep if the boy is crawling into bed with them each night), and they send him to a child psychologist. After listening to the boy recount his dreams, the psychologist gets an idea. He tells the child, “The tiger visiting you is actually a good tiger. He wants to be your friend. So next time the tiger appears in your dream, simply put your hand out to shake his paw and say, ‘Hello, old chap!’ ”

And so, the story goes, that very same night the boy asleep in his bed suddenly becomes restless. He thrashes about in his bed, sweating and crying out in his sleep, until a small hand, partly hidden by cotton pajamas, suddenly juts out from the covers, followed by a sleepy little voice saying, “Hello, old chap!” Thus he made friends with the tiger.

That story makes me smile, and I suppose, partly, this is because of the old English language that scripts a little boy using amusing terms like “old chap.” But is that how it’s done? Is mere familiarity how friendships are forged? Does simply banishing the title of stranger make way for friendship? Or is something more required?

Perhaps it is the banishing of danger.The reason the tiger trick worked on the little boy’s nightmares was that it removed the danger.Maybe that works inmaking friends too. Maybe, beyond simple introductions so thatwe are no longer strangers, we enter a shared space with a person that we hope is safe—safe for us to be ourselves and to be real.

What creates that safe space? Is it simply shared interest or geography? Is friendship born in similar goals or experiences? What about behavior? If two people act in a certain way toward each other, are they friends? If so, then what does friendship look like?

As I thought about how art imitates life, and ever a lover of art, paintings, literature, poetry, films, and music, I mulled the characteristics of friendship and the numerous recent pictures of friendship, specifically women’s friendships.When I interact with these different mediums, something in them resonates with me, something that moves me, and I stop and notice.Whether it’s a tearjerker movie, a painting whose brush strokes create a gentle gesture, or lyrics so poignant, art inspires me to pay attention to what is within myself.

In the 1980s film The Four Seasons, the opening scene depicts three couples going away for a few days in the spring. Toasts and speeches characterize this holiday together, and the couples celebrate the depth of their friendships.We learn that the men were introduced to each other after the women became friends. The following season, summer, one friend is missing. During the previous few months, one couple has divorced and a cute young girlfriend has joined the circle to now complete the six. I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the wife. Why is she eliminated from the circle of friends? And if the
women were the original friends, why have they agreed to oust her from the group?Why doesn’t the divorced couple at least get joint custody of their friends?

Throughout the movie’s four seasons, we see what each friend brings to the circle of friendship. We see the idiosyncrasies, bad habits, and selfishness, but also the commitment to one another through all the terrain in each season of friendship. And when one woman cries out in sheer frustration that, in spite of it all, she needs her friends and always will, we feel the truth of her statement reverberate through us.This was a climactic exclamation aftermonths of tension created by selfishness, lack of awareness, and judgment between the friends.

But yes, in spite of the hurts our friendships can cause, we need them, we want them.

Growing up I adored reading and seeing films of Anne of Green Gables. I still do. Anne, an imaginative and precocious orphan, comes to live with an aging pair of siblings, neither of whom has ever married. Marilla, a salty, no-nonsense woman, doesn’t have either the understanding or the patience for Anne’s emotions and antics. Matthew, her brother, is a soft-spoken and kindhearted man, though timid too.When Anne arrives in Avonlea and is invited to become part of Matthew andMarilla Cuthbert’s family, she sets out to make a friend. But Anne isn’t looking for just any acquaintance; rather, she is in search of a “kindred spirit,” a “bosom friend.”

“A—a what kind of a friend?”Marilla asked her, puzzled.

“A bosom friend—an intimate friend, you know—” Anne replied, “a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul. I’ve dreamed of meeting her all my life. I never really supposed I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true all at once that perhaps this one will too. Do you think it’s possible?”

Later, after learningmore about a potential bosom friend, Anne adds one more requirement: “Oh, I’m so glad she’s pretty.Next to being beautiful oneself—and that’s impossible in my case—it would be best to have a beautiful bosom friend.”5

With the unflinching honesty of a child, Anne expresses what we all secretly desire: a best, kindred-spirit kind of friend. The older we get, the more reluctant we are to ask for what we want or need, but Anne does so unabashedly. And in her eyes, her friendship with Diana ismade even better when her new friend is someone that Anne herself is convinced she could never be. Could it be that we go in search of friends who embody something we wish we were or long to be?

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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The Friends We Keep: How to Hold On, When to Let Go, and the Essence of Friendship 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
kherbrand More than 1 year ago
This book was about - you guessed it - friends. But not just any friends - women and their friends. Why we need them, how we make them, how we keep them, and even why we lose them. Each chapter shared some one's story that was relevant to the point that the author was trying to make. A lot of the stories I could relate to, or at the very least, knew someone who would fit in it. She explores a lot of the different sides to friendships, like the different ways we can love a friend, why we might need a particular friend - or why that friend might need us. What we get from a relationship - do we give or take from it? The book ends with how and why we need to be friends with our self. The chapter I really like was titled "The Lesson of Lucy Van Pelt". I am sure that many of you remember Lucy from the Peanuts comic strip and what we are talking about here is gossip. This is something that I know I am guilty of and it is so easy to fall into gossiping about someone else. We can cover it up by making it look like we are really just "inquiring" because we are worried about someone or we try to cover up our gossip by "sugarcoating" it. If you're not from the south, it goes something like this: "Since Anne Marie put on all that weight, she just looks poured into those pants. Someone needs to tell her those look terrible, bless her heart." Or, "Poor Donna Jo's husband has been cheating on her with his secretary, though I can't say I'm surprised. Men like women who cook for them, and she was always a dreadful cook, bless her heart." Add the word "little" and you can get away with saying even worse. "Shelby's wedding was sweet. Such a shame it will never last, bless her little heart." You get the idea. (The Friends We Keep, p44) She ends this chapter with a story about a woman who had a casual friend that she had known for years. They weren't particularly close, and had really only kept in contact through mutual friends. When the woman was having a tough time in her life she was confiding her problems in only her close friends. This casual friend and her husband were at a dinner party when someone asked about how she was doing. This casual friend immediately jumped in and said that it was not appropriate for dinner conversation, and stopped any story telling that might have occurred. The woman relates "I felt a connection to her, instantly closer than I ever had in all the years I'd known her." (p48) This really touched me and made me take a closer look at things I may or may not have said over the years. What if connection becomes greater by keeping secrets and sharing something personal to you rather than sharing what is personal to an absent other? What if power comes from empowering others rather than dominating them? What if friendship is cemented by rescuing a friend's reputation when it may be on the line? What if the glue that holds us together is discretion, no disclosure? (p48-49) My thoughts: This book made me take a closer look at why I feel I don't have a lot of close friends. Even as a teen, I had just a handful of girls that I would call actually friends. I grew up in a small town, where we knew everybody - but I didn't feel like I fit in well with most of them. This feeling continued in college where I still only can recall 3-4 real girlfriends. It did make me see how I could benefit from having more friends, and that I should work on thes
LovenGod More than 1 year ago
The Friends We Keep A Woman's Quest for the Soul of Friendship Sarah Zacharias Davis 2009 Waterbrook Press Non-fiction/Christian Living/Women Reviewed by Cindy Loven What are we asking from our friends? This is a question this author pursues deeply in her book The Friends We Keep. Do we want them to fill the void, that is truly only filled by God? Do we want them to accept all of our little idiosyncrasies? Unconditional love is a huge part of friendship, yet too often we find that our friends and even we ourselves cannot love unconditionally. Sarah Zacharias Davis, takes a look at friendship, and deeply probes into the whys, whats, and who's of friendships. Why do hurt the ones we love? Why do we use sarcasm to cover our hurts, instead of facing them head on? Why do we gossip about our dearest friends? All of these questions are addressed in this book. Who is our soul friend? Our true friends? Why doesn't certain friendships last? How do we intervene for friends in situations that can destroy them? So many questions she addresses and answers. Explore, and learn how to make and keep friends. The research on this book is incredible and vast, she quotes many authors, movies, and songs using their words to help convey her thoughts. A well written book. Definitely a book to share with friends. A discussion guide at the end, makes the book a marvelous book club or study group book. 210 pages $12.99 US
khiemstra631 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a rare book in that I did not make it all the way through it, but only read 3/4 of it before more exciting reads beckoned. I greatly admire the author's father, Ravi Zacharis, so I had high hopes for her book. Maintaining friendships seems like something most women struggle with so the topic intrigued me. The chapters are good and interesting, although it took me quite awhile to figure out that the anecdotes that begin each chapter and that are written in the first person did not necessarily refer to the author. The main problem I had with the book was its lack of a clear message. What I thought would be there, based on the introductory material, never quite seemed to materialize. So, I would rate it as mechanically sound but a bit fuzzy on its theme. Better luck next time.
Jemima79 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Sarah Zacharias Davis has written a meditation on friendship which draws upon her own experience, stories from other women and relevant literary references. She shares with her readers the results of her own quest for understanding why friendship is such an integral part of a woman's soul. She discusses the negative aspects of damaging friendships, why women long for friends, the temporary versus the long term friendships and how to let go when necessary. By examining the negative emotions that crop up in friendships the book outlines how trust and respect make for safe relationships where both parties can reveal there true selves without fear.I found this book to be very realistic and relevant to the understanding of something that is often taken for granted. It would be a helpful book to have around if you are experiencing difficulties in your relationships, or are interested in enriching your current friendships. By gaining understanding of how gossip, jealousy, competition and co-dependence can ruin trust your friendships you can be on guard if you find yourself falling into these negative states. The book also prompted me to think about the importance of friendships and how they have shaped my personal life experiences. It was easy to read and a beautifully presented book. My only complaint was that there were too many rhetorical questions throughout the writing.
dk_phoenix on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Well... I wrote a nice, long review of this and then pressed the wrong button on the keyboard and lost it. Grrrrr... so, I'll try to remember what I had to say.The question asked in this book is why are women's friendships so tricky?, and deals with questions of female friendship: why we want women friends, why some relationships go sour, how to make friends a priority, and what to do when it's time to let a friendship go.Written from a Christian woman's perspective, I'd recommend this book to any woman who's had a friendship go bad (haven't we all, at some point?), to someone who's wondering how to release a friend, or to anyone who wants to make friends more of a priority in their life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ChristysBookBlog More than 1 year ago
The Friends We Keep by Sarah Zacharias Davis is a fascinating look at the friendships women carry with them throughout their lives and a glimpse into why they are so important. Davis' book is a warm-hearted and enjoyable read that delves into questions about exactly what creates and maintains a friendship. Why are some friends with us for life and others only for a season? What purpose does friendship serve? She uses movies, books, and anthropology to explain what friendship looks like and how it changes from childhood to adulthood. The book is filled with poignant and beautiful stories about friendship and how it changes us. It's a book to enjoy and then share with your best friend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought I was buying a book on friendship. What I got was a book on Christian Teachings. DO NOT buy this book unless you believe in the book of fairy tales, otherwise known as the Bible.