Friendship Series #1: Be Real, or Begone
There are three things in life that I’ve decided I no longer have time for – hairdryers, United States Postal Service, and fakeness. But mostly, just fakeness.
In case you’re wondering, I don’t mean cheap chocolate that tastes like soap, or plastic flowers. I mean fakeness in people. You know the kind I’m talking about. When someone suffers from fakeness, for some reason or another, they simply cannot find it within themselves to be 100% genuine with you.
This has a variety of symptoms, of which I will list a few that I’m sure you will recognize.
· Agreeing with you on everything because they aren’t secure enough to disagree
· Sticking to “safe topics” in every conversation
· Going with the flow of whatever the majority votes for
· Not being open about their faith (or lack thereof)
· Playing down any concerns you may have for them
· Not telling the truth and/or hiding information
· An unwillingness to vouch their opinion
· Changing the subject when something starts to get deep
Any of those sound familiar? They do to me, because I’ve been tempted to put on the fake before as well. But I gave it up. Why? Because time has shown me that it not only dishonours God by being dishonest about who He created me to be, it’s also destructive to friendships.
I’ve been wanting to write the beginning of this series on friendship for a long time, and in preparation for it, I ran a few surveys on Google+ and Instagram. I posed the question, “What is the most important thing to you personally in a friendship?” A lot of the results I got back were surprisingly in line with my suspicions -
“Grace and authenticity! And KINDNESS. So many people only want to take, not give.”
“Investment. Goes hand in hand with authenticity I believe, but true friends invest their time and attention in you.”
“Godliness would sum it up for me. Part of that is faithfulness, and the older I get the more I realize how rare it is to have faithful friends, the ones who see you at your worst and don't turn their faces away, who stand with you in prosperity and in affliction, who generously forgive and are in the relationship for the long haul.”
“Authenticity [and] honesty are very important for me. Commitment is VERY important. I can't expect to ever be good friends with someone if I'm not willing to invest myself in the relationship, to laugh with them, cry with them, share my good moments (and hard moments too)... Basically, I think openness and commitment are about at the top of my list.”All incredibly insightful thoughts, and I could see a central theme beginning to emerge through all the comments. Since receiving this feedback, I now feel bold enough to make the statement that resonates with my gut feeling: The most important factor in a friendship is authenticity.
Yes, there are so many important traits to a friendship, and different people with different experiences will undoubtedly value different things in their friendships. Trust, love, loyalty and faithfulness are all incredible pillars that uphold a good relationship, and I do not discount them at all. However I believe that in a successful friendship, those pillars all rest on the single foundation of authenticity.
Reason being is that we are all human, and no matter how hard we try, we can never hide who we really are for long. If we enter a relationship trying to look a certain way in how we think, speak and act, though it may take time, eventually the façade will come crumbling down and the foundation of your friendship will be washed away by the phrase, they just weren't who I thought they were.
So why fake it? No one wants to be known as something they aren't, but if we're truly honest, the reason we do it is because it's safe. Sometimes it's simply easier to settle for a fake image and fun times with a friend rather then getting real. Authenticity is messy. Once you start getting vulnerable, all your junk comes to the surface: your pride, your insecurities, your pet peeves, your irritations, and a whole host of other unflattering flaws. It opens your heart to the risk of rejection, and it's taking the leap of faith to put your trust in another person's human hands. It calls for tears and words, both of which can be misinterpreted and misconstrued. But here's the thing: nothing worthwhile comes easy. In a world where we are all connected via social media, and everyone is a phonecall away, we all feel the weight of isolation and the loneliness of cardboard friendships. Fake simply isn't working. Granted, it's a risk to be real. But when you are real with someone from the beginning, you are starting at the start. You don't have a plastic image of yourself you need to tear down before your friend sees you as you truly are.
"But, what if people don't like the real me?"
Well, you've saved yourself from wasting time on another fake person too
Having said all of the above, this does not mean that the minute you meet someone you should tell them your life story in one hit. There are definitely levels of 'getting-to-know' a person, and it takes time to cultivate a relationship. The thing that I am standing up against, is the fakeness. The pretending. The path of fear that chooses to be deceitful, covering up in order to save face. Please. Don't do it. It's not worth it. I've seen the devastation of believing the lie that you can hold things together forever and build relationships on it. It simply does not work, and it's not the way God designed relationships to work. Love and trust and loyalty are precious, but they are on shaky legs if they're trying to exist on an imaginary platform. Only out of being truly authentic can real love, trust, and loyalty grow.
Jesus said that we shall know the truth, and the truth shall set us free (Jn. 8:32). When you know Jesus, you know the truth. So why do we feel better wearing a lie? The truth is that the image we are attempting to uphold is a lie, and it chains us to fake relationships that are unfulfilling and unsatisfying. Jesus came that we might have life and life abundantly, so if we desire to have genuine friendships that last, we need to be truthful and honest with each other. It is the truth of who we are - and who Jesus is in us - that sets us free. Not conforming to an imaginary image. Allowing Jesus the freedom to work in us and our relationships opens the door to a greater understanding of each other, and the outworking of Jesus' love in us. After all, wasn't it Jesus Himself who prayed that we would know unity as He and the Father knew it? I'm guessing He knows best how good friendships are formed.
I know that I have blogged a lot about being real before, but I thought to start this series on the right foot, I needed to address it again. Beautiful people, be encouraged. The person you are on the inside, you know that real one that shouts angry and impatient at your little sibling because they won't stop talking, that person who struggles deep down about not knowing what the heck they're doing with their life and can't seem to get it right, the person who has low days where hope and faith is hard, the person who gets high on sugar and talks ridiculously fast in a stupid accent, the person who stumbles and trips, the person who fails and falls - that person - is a beautiful mess, and is so much more worth knowing than a boring perfect person with their life apparently all together. You want to know why?
Because none of us are perfect, and when it comes to friendships, there is no better friend than one who can understand the height of our humanness, yet encourages us to look at the depth of God's grace. A friend who shows you their heart - that is a friend you'll want to hold onto. Take the dare. Be real with people. It's a scary door to open, but oh! How worth it. Let's not be fake. Let's be real.