Having girlfriends is the best – laughter and stories, deck nights and drinks, safe places to share your heart. But they can also be messy and confusing, especially when you feel mistreated. Or maybe when you mistreated.
I’ve been hurt. I’ve hurt – knowingly and unknowingly. Both don’t feel good.
For too many years, I didn’t invite people into my deep heart. I didn’t show that I cared for them too much. I didn’t allow their care for me to soak in too much. Why? I didn’t want to feel disappointed or sad or upset – with myself, with them. It felt safer that way, better that way, less risky. But you know what? It was lonely.
When you don’t have anyone to share your glad, mad, sad and scared with, you’re left living and learning and loving with your heart spaces, alone.
We weren’t created to do life alone.
But it can work. Living “next to” people can work. It worked for me for a long time. Yet, my loneliness grew. My longing to live “with” people deepened. My desperation to feel connected intensified. THAT was it – I had to become desperate for more – more than what I feared.
And so I took the risk. I keep taking the risk. Little by little the eyes of my heart are opening. I’m beginning to see that each person possesses something that I need, something that I’m lacking, something that only they can offer the universe. But first, before my eyes could see others, I needed to see me. I needed to know what was taking up space in me – my fear of rejection and not belonging, my false belief that I needed to be perfect to be loved and that people needed to be perfect to earn my love. Ahhh! This has been excruciatingly hard to confront, hard to confess.
But then there’s grace – this beautiful and mysterious and unexplainable gift. Grace is softening the parts of me that have been so closed, so hidden, so protected. My heart of criticism and cautiousness is melting into a heart of compassion, a heart that believes in connection. And it feels good. It feels life-giving. And the surprising thing is, that as my eyes have begun noticing the gift in each person, the more my eyes have been able to see (and believe) the gift in me.
Wow. That blows me away. That humbles me. That energizes me.
Friendship: it’s made to be a two-way street. We give, we receive. We bless, we’re blessed. We trust, we’re trusted. We’re vulnerable, we grow…together.
But…and…mistakes still happen. I make them. Others make them. It’s part of what comes with relationships. It’s not bad, it’s human. And what I’m learning is that it’s not really about the mistakes or the events, it’s about how the mistakes and events can be used for good – in us, in them. And just because a relationship fractures and breaks and dissipates, it doesn’t dismiss all the good that you shared, that you each offered. All the good, all the beauty – it’s a gift. And maybe, all the hard, all the brokenness, can be a gift too. Perhaps later in the relationship, perhaps later in another relationship. All that we’ve experienced and learned and lost can be part of our transformation, part of our wholeness, part of the gift of grace.
Maybe for you and your friends, you have the ability to talk and share – honestly, openly, humbly. And it brings you to a new place, a better place, a reconciled place. I celebrate that!
But maybe for you, in the midst of the brokenness and disappointment and hurt, you’re finding the courage to say, “I don’t have to live this way.” You’re not slamming the door, but rather, you’re choosing to step away because you are a person who values authenticity and reciprocity. And perhaps yourself. You’re choosing to say, “I don’t have to fix or rescue or save this friendship. Because I can’t. It’s not my responsibility to expose or awaken or enlighten or teach. I can let go of her, release her, so that she can find her own truth, and so that I can find mine. I can still care about and love this person from a distance. I can still be ‘for’ her.” There may be that voice of guilt or shame that tries to tell you that you gave up. But maybe it’s not that you gave up, but that you decided to stand up – for what’s good and true and whole for you AND for what’s good and true and whole for her. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care. It just means that you’ve realized it’s about trust – trusting that someone bigger than you has the ability to move each of you forwards in your own journey, at the right time, in the best way. And that what you’ve lost, what you’ve learned, can be used for good – to birth new things, in each of you – more empathy, more gratitude, more respect, more grace. Maybe even new friends.
May we enter into and cultivate the kinds of relationships that bring about goodness, wholeness, beauty. May we have the courage to see us, so that we can see others. And may we, together, offer all that goodness and wholeness and beauty – to one another, to the world.
Carissa Woodwyk is a writer, speaker, marriage and family therapist, advocate for the human heart. In each of these roles, she offers her story and voice and heart in ways that invite people to connect with themselves, with others, with God. She is co-author of Before You Were Mine: Discovering your adopted child’s lifestory. She and her husband have two children and live near Grand Rapids, MI.