“Encouraging Words for Today” – September 1, 2011
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
In some ways I guess the word ‘friend’ has always been a verb to me. I grew up with “In order to have a friend, you must first be a friend” – which seems to imply action. Thus, I have spent a lifetime ‘friending’ a whole variety of people and finding myself greatly enriched in the process. Along the way I’ve learned that both giving and receiving friendship take intentionality, humility, sacrifice, time, resources and lots of forbearance. But, oh, the benefits! To quote the Beatles “I get by with a little help from my friends.” Ahh, yes! Actually, this summer I got by with a lot of help (encouragement, support, and sympathy) from my friends far and wide…
In truth, the past three months have been a time of both engaging and disengaging from friends. Since my husband has been on sabbatical I have greatly missed regular interaction with our local church family, but I’ve had other opportunities to reconnect with childhood friends at a reunion, professional colleagues at a convention and scattered extended family at a funeral. I have chosen to spend some of my alone times in study, deep thought and solitude. And one of the great books I was able to read was from Lynne Baab who teaches and writes from New Zealand —“Friending.”
When you hear the word “friending” you probably think of facebook. I know I do. And some people get all agitated that social media sites are replacing true friendships. That may actually be true in some cases and yes, it may end up stunting a whole generation in the art of true friendship, but I think social media sites can also be helpful to friendships. Baab says “Two of the biggest friendship challenges of our time — busyness and mobility — have created distance between friends. Electronic communication, when used intentionally, can restore some of that lost connection. It can provide an immediacy that nurtures intimacy if the electronic communication is part of a broader, loving friendship.” Nothing wrong with facebook per se, as long as it’s not the only way you interact with friends.
In fact, my posts on facebook are sort of my way of catching people up with specific events or details in my life, so that when we actually get together we can move on to more in-depth sharing from the heart. Or as Baab’s book says, “It occurred to me that facebook is a modern equivalent of friends dropping by for a brief visit (and it’s okay if I’m in curlers!), or maybe even a bit like the old round-robin letters that my family used to do.”
Of course some people have thousands of friends on facebook and obviously cannot maintain any sort of real relationship with them (I realize this is especially true of we authors whose readers want to be our facebook friends). But why not? As long as we all know the level of intention here. Baab responds to people who protest that facebook and other forms of social networking are places where superficial relationships are fostered: “I find myself wondering why a broad network of relationships with acquaintances would be considered to be a bad thing. As long as a person has some close relationships that are nurtured carefully, having a wide circle of acquaintances is usually enriching and beneficial.”
“Friending” covers so much about the history of friendships and the new trends that are changing how we be a friend to one other. I greatly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it as it presents both sides of the whole social networking debate. But it also makes a point of showing that indeed ‘friend’ is a verb and takes initiation and follow-through, no matter what the medium. Sometimes I have been good about that with my friends, and sometimes I have been sorely lacking. Fortunately, true friends are able to both give and receive a lot of grace and forgiveness!
I’m glad Lynne Baab is one of my friends (she is also a contributing author to my book “30 Ways to Embrace Life.”) I’d like to close this blog with her words on friendship:
“Every act of friendship, large or small, builds a bridge. Every act of loving friendship brings healing balm to this broken world. Small gestures like passing on a compliment or sending a postcard, and large sacrificial deeds like flying across country to help a friend after surgery, are like stones in a bridge linking people together. ..Every act of friendship, whether it is well received or not, transforms us into people who know a little bit more deeply what it means to be a neighbor to the people around us. Friendship transforms us, even as it brings healing, reconciliation and warmth to the world.”
-Lynne Baab in “Friending – Real Relationships in a Virtual World” (IVP 2011)
under the mercy, Cindy
©2011 Lucinda Secrest McDowell