3 Lessons from Dinner with Friends
“Thank you for being a friend/ Travel down the road and back again/ Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant…”
I’m almost certain everyone has sat on a couch unenthusiastically searching for something to watch on tv and landed on the hit show, Golden Girls, just in time to hear these words. There are those, like me, who complete these lyrics with a smile and accompanying sway. Indeed, there’s something about this simple theme song that resonates with us. Even more, hearing one of Sophia’s witty retorts at Blanche or her signature anecdotal stories prefaced with, “picture it, Sicily, 1960…” reminds us of the friends we hold dear. No one could resist the on-set chemistry of these four women as they shared a home and life together. Most recently, I shared dinner with four of my closest friends. In truth, they represent the friendships I longed for in my youth. I was raised an only child and quite the introvert. So, I grew accustomed to quiet observation, introspection and a calm-cooled collectedness. But life in ministry has taught me that our work cannot be done without company along the way. Whether, you’re a pastor, youth minister, or music director, you need strong friendships to support you. As I sat dinning and in conversation with them, I realized 3 things:
Friendships require we invest ourselves in relationship with others. Communication, quality time, and honesty are necessary in order for friendships to blossom into something lifelong and meaningful. While there may be some associations that are short-lived, true friendship requires a willingness to invest in our friends, their lives and their ministries. Even more, it requires an openness to receive investment from them. Then, a deep commitment to transparency and authenticity is necessary. Sometimes, this can be challenging because as ministers we tend to guard our privacy for the sake of being present for others. In a sense, we grow accustomed to listening than sharing. But, if we’re entertaining friendships yet unable or unwilling to invest ourselves through transparency or freedom of speech, then, we may assume, that friendship has stalled. Where you are unable to lend yourself fully in relationship with another person is where you must consider the extent of that relationship and its significance in your life.
The truth is, the randomness of life will frame and re-frame the lens through which we see the world – thus causing us to evolve in ways we may not have anticipated. When there’re people around us who lack the capacity to assist us as we become the people we were destined to be, frustration and tension are inevitable. Unfortunately, it could be, that the extent of personal investment into each others life has been met. Therefore, seek friendships that may provide long-term value and mutual benefit. Be willing to invest in people who are willing to invest in you.
As we dinned together sharing personal experiences, laughter and present concerns, I understood how friendships will lend space for you to gain greater perspective. As one who is prone to contemplation, I often get lost in the process of my own thoughts and emotions. As a result, my work, relationships and virtually every aspect of my life is understood solely through my particular lens without the benefit of outside analysis. In a sense, I’m the patient and therapist wrapped in one. I’m certain I’m not the only person who does this. However, friendships provide another lens through which we may see ourselves, affairs and challenges.
As we’re conditioned to see the world through a particular lens because of the experiences we’ve had, healthy friendships will challenge and invite you to consider things another way. Too often, we allow our understanding of something to become fixed in our minds to the extent that we don’t even to take the time to consider the possibility of something different. But, your true friends will offer wisdom gained from their experiences, advice and a helping hand – if the space has been made for transparency and honesty. At times, I’ve even found it helpful to bounce ideas off of some friends who are not involved in church at all. Their perspective is often fresh and unique. Hiding in tension wisdom gained from my friends, I’m then able to make a decision.
To an extent, our culture, inundated with ideas of independence and individuality has diminished the importance of interdependence. Interdependence is a mutual reliance between two or more people or groups. In other words, one is not mutually exclusive from the other. However, because we focus more on independence and less on interdependence, we’ve subtly forwarded an ideal of isolation and loneliness. So, while there’re millions of other people in the world who may have witnessed or experienced similar things as we have, we go on feeling as though we’re alone. But, the thread of human connectedness ties us together. We’re not as alone as we believe ourselves to be. As my friends and I shared with one another, I realized just how many of the challenges and uncertainties I’m presently facing, they had either met or are presently facing themselves. In many ways, it was reassuring to know that there were those who had already traveled where I’m at or are standing alongside me. Then, we must resist the temptation to believe rhetoric that perpetuates our independence at the expense of our interconnectedness. Ministry cannot be done in isolation nor independent of others. Even Jesus, savior of all humankind, had twelve friends alongside him.
Dawrell Rich is an author, pastor and public speaker. He is also the founder of Joshua’s House—a youth and young adult leadership organization that focuses on mentoring, community service, health & wellness and education. WWW.DAWRELLRICH.COM Twitter: @DAWRELLRICH FB: DAWRELLGRICH
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