10 Questions that Foster Thriving Friendships

In our virtual world, we can swipe away friends as easily as we send leftover mashed potatoes into the kitchen trash.  We can polish our words and present ourselves as successful and popular, and even produce photos to back up our claim, but the longing of our hearts for true friendship — for genuine connection with another soul —  has to happen apart from Insta-glitter or the shallow disclosure of a tweet.

In Never Unfriended, Lisa-Jo Baker floats the notion that maybe our struggles with friendship happen because we are operating from wrong assumptions in our foundation.  We carry baggage from bad past experiences forward as if they were gospel, and we encumber relationships with unrealistic expectations.  We talk when we should listen, and we fret about our own small selves  when our eyes should be open wide to spot the needs of the other women in the room.

As community manager for (in)courage, Lisa-Jo is the girl in charge of relationships for that online gathering of hearts, but she doesn’t claim to have it all together yet.  We’re all friends-in-training together until we reach heaven.  In the meantime, we live our way into our best relational selves and seek to fulfill our God-breathed desire for community in ways that glorify Him and serve others.   Crashing into my own selfishness and self-protective strategies from the very first chapter of Never Unfriended, a list of ten questions bubbled their way into my thinking about friendship:

 1.  What would happen if I approached friendship from an active posture?

What if instead of asking, “Who will be my friend?” I asked “How can I be a friend?”  The words of Jesus come to mind:  “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. . .”

2.  What lies are fueling my fear of or reluctance toward friendship?

Whether it’s a past friendship gone sour or wrong thinking about my own self-worth and relevance, these lies poison friendship going forward and must be rooted out and replaced with the Truth.

3.  What’s the worst thing that can happen if I go first?

It turns out that we’re all still in middle school when it comes to being the new girl — or welcoming the new girl into our established group.  Radical friendship maintains an open circle for others on the outside.  A fierce commitment to community will fuel Brave and risk Awkward.  Lisa shares the example of volunteering to host a group in her home when she had just moved to a new state and a new church.  She took the risk and the result was a sweetly woven network of relationships.

When we keep score with the facets of friendship — Who texted last?  Who’s turn is it to host this time? — and then hold back to wait for “justice,” our world becomes small and stingy.  Lisa describes going first as “the cardinal rule of friendship.”

4.  Am I willing to be radically inconvenienced?

Caller i.d. has made it possible for me to screen out undesirable contact at will.  My busy homeschooling life gives me a ready-made excuse for “minding my own business.”  However, if I live within safe boundaries of efficiency and time management, I’ll miss out on “Velveteen friendship” that loves off my rough edges.  I’ll never become real.

Adrian Plass writes about incarnational relationships modeled on the example of Christ’s radical encounter with humanity:  “Shouting stern advice at people through a megaphone from a very great height never did do much good.”

And it never did make for close friendship, either.

5.   Do I use guilt to get my friendship needs met?

Particularly when distance is an issue, Lisa-Jo advocates for “Guilt-Free Friendship” in which there is no deadline for responding to emails and phone calls, in which each agrees to assume the best about motivations, and in which the tone is always generous and forgiving.

“Guilt-free friendship is the gift that women who are secure in their own sense of acceptance can give each other.”

6.  Is it a joyful thing to me when I see that my friends are flourishing?

God is delighted when His children strive for the well-being of others.  Taking a radical interest in the people around me, making time for their needs, and actively contributing to their success is clearly friendship in action.

7.  How much time have I wasted being “fine?”

Fine is a lie that we tell out of a dusty soul.
Fine is plexi-glass protection for our image of perfection.
Fine is a deal-breaker in the economy of true friendship.
Never Unfriended challenges readers to “step out from behind fine” and offer friendship instead.

8.  Am I ready to drop comparison and competition and embrace a co-op mentality?

Jealousy ruins the joy of the jealous, but it also stifles the celebration of its object.  Better to rejoice in the truth that “there’s enough work in the Kingdom for everyone,” and to lean into the calling God has placed on my own soul than to be continually glancing over my shoulder to monitor the blessings of others with a resentful eye.

9.  What if I’m not the center of the universe?

When I become caught up in the vortex of “I wonder what they’re thinking about me,” it’s helpful to be brought to the reality that it is unlikely that they are thinking about me  . . . at all.  This leaves me free to think about them, or to look around me, to notice the “people at my table” — to practice intentional self-forgetfulness in the interest of pursuing meaningful conversations that do not center around me.

10.  Would the universe crumble if I gave my friend the benefit of the doubt?

What would happen if I believed the best about her instead of holding to the assumption that is clouding my brain at this moment?  Lisa-Jo hazards a guess that (unless a relationship is so poisonous and bitter that we need to walk away) the outcome will be positive and surprising — although it may take time and patience.  The grace of hoping and believing may have redemptive outcomes that could not have come any other way.

Friendship is hard work, but the alternative is a small, safe, and deeply lonely world.  Furthermore, God uses the crucible of relationship to reveal to us the contents of our hearts, to refine us so that we know that we are “the real deal” all the way to the core.

You were friended, ultimately and irrevocably, by the God of universe, when He took on a body and joined us here in the neighborhood of humanity.  If the life of Christ pulses within your veins and you have heard his “go and do likewise” — the next move is yours.

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This book was provided by B&H Publishing Group in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If Never Unfriended sounds like content that your group needs for a deeper dive, you’ll be pleased to know that Lisa-Jo and (in)courage have released a Bible study curriculum to accompany the book.  Click here for more information about We Saved You a Seat.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

83 thoughts on “10 Questions that Foster Thriving Friendships”

  1. Wonderful insights from _Never Unfriended_ , Michele. Was such a good book, wasn’t it? Thanks for sharing your review–from a recovering “dusty soul.” 🙂 ((hug))

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  2. I am thoroughly enjoying this book and the idea that all of us feel like the new girl more often than not. I love Lisa Jo’s open honesty and acknowledgement of the nervous feelings all of us experience when we “go first.” I also love the concept that it’s never too late to recover broken friendships.

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    1. So true. And the patience that this requires is a hard journey, but so much more redemptive and Christ-like than the alternative approach which leaves the carcasses of former friendships scattered along our path.

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  3. I love your approach of sharing this book by asking us questions. It really made me delve into my own approach to friendships and see where I come up lacking! Thanks for sharing this book, Michele. It sounds like one that can really make a practical difference in people’s lives.

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    1. I shared questions because that is the effect that the book — and the FB live conversations that were part of the book club — had upon my thinking. Like you, I want to be clear in my approach to friendship.

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  4. Dear Michele,
    Thank you for sharing these great questions about friendship. I see them as almost a kind of “litmus test” for how I am approaching my relationships. Am I really asking Jesus to love through me? Then I should be willing to let those questions sink deep into my heart! And thank you for being willing to be an “online friend” to so many through these honest words that you share here! Blessings to you!

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  5. Thanks for the great review, Michele! I think it appears to be an excellent book on a topic all women need to take a look at. Before I retired, I so often heard in my therapist’s chair the woebegone stories of how someone had been hurt in a friendship and then never risked trusting or moving forward again and lived as a victim in loneliness and isolation. Not good at all!! This book sounds like it addresses much of what I often heard!

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    1. As I read Lisa-Jo’s words I was thinking that she was going to open up a whole new world for some women — and I can’t help but think that it will be life changing for many.

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  6. I love this post – as you wrote it as questions, I became so aware of how meaningful this book can be for so many of us struggle with friendships- Great reminders and lots of information to think on in there.

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  7. These are ten great points about fostering friendship Michele. As I read them I realized that I’ve slipped back into some old habits since moving to SC. Namely, protecting my heart based on lies of the past and wanting to be “fine” so as not to inconvenience others. My deep friendships are still those who live “back home.” It sounds like this book would be a good refresher for me. Thanks for another wonderful review.
    Patti

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  8. Michele,
    Having read “Never Unfriended”, I appreciate what you plucked out of the book to share….yet another reminder for me. Today, the one on giving friends the benefit of the doubt jumped out at me. I want others to do that for me….reminded, today, that I need to do that too!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  9. I am reading through this book right now and it has definitely given me the strength and courage to take that risk! These questions are so revealing and powerful. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Michelle, this book sounds so good! I have this book waiting in my “to read” pile. I can’t wait to read it now! love this: “Better to rejoice in the truth that “there’s enough work in the Kingdom for everyone,” and to lean into the calling God has placed on my own soul than to be continually glancing over my shoulder to monitor the blessings of others with a resentful eye.” We need to develop a kingdom mindset where the things we desire don’t just “run out” because God will always provide! I’m visiting your post today from Fresh Market Friday Linkup party and thanks for linking up with #TuneInThursday this week, see you next time!

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  11. I would say that I’m at the other end….I would like nothing better than to have some friends, but I’m having a hard time finding them in my current location! Moving from the South to Central Cali has really been a bit of a culture shock. I think I’m going to have to get creative…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was in your shoes – moving to central cali was a shock. Everyone you meet won’t become a lifelong friend but don’t let that discourage you. Keep being yourself, keep praying, keep trying because the alternative is worse. We all need good friends in our lives. I always liked this verse – He who has friends must show himself friendly.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I would read this just for this section: “Am I willing to be radically inconvenienced?” Yeesh. I’m such crotchedy lady when it comes to MY time and MY plans.

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  13. What a great list of questions, Michele! Love the wisdom found here! Blessings, Melanie💚

    On Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 4:02 AM, Living Our Days wrote:

    > Michele Morin posted: “In our virtual world, we can swipe away friends as > easily as we send leftover mashed potatoes into the kitchen trash. We can > polish our words and present ourselves as successful and popular, and even > produce photos to back up our claim, but the longing o” >

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It seems that most of these could be umbrellaed under “put others before yourself.” It’s a liberating way to live – thinking of others first. Great reminders here!

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  15. I’ve been working hard to feel and show genuine happiness for others in their success. It seems like it goes against our human sinful nature to do that. Now more than ever we need to be putting love into the world and get over the jealousy.

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    1. Cheering for the success of others cuts against our selfishness, but if you are finding grace to do that you are truly putting the love of God on display! Thanks for sharing this success, Joey! Blessings to you and thanks for reading.

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  16. Sounds like such a great book! I too have been asking myself how I can be a better friend when I find myself wishing others would be a friend to me. Such healthy questions!

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  17. What a great book review. I have not heard of this book but it is going on my list to read. I have experienced the toxic friendships and it definitely affects how I go about making friends and trusting other women. You brought out so many great thinking points in your review. Thank you!

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  18. Michelle that was an amazing review. Finding the right way to be friends and letting that friendship be godly is such a challenge but so worth it!

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  19. Such great thoughts on cultivating friendships and it truly sounds like an awesome book! I spent my 20s thinking I didn’t need friends but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have been blessed 10 times over by making the first move in my 30s to reach out and build such sweet friendships that I don’t know how I got along without them for so long. ♥

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  20. Great questions, Michelle. The topic of friendship keeps resurfacing in my life. It’s on my mind and on my heart. I’m trying to respond by looking at my attitudes, my friendships, and how I can guide my daughters to do friendship better. Thanks for giving some help.

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    1. Oh, me, too, Donna. And I’ve said before that I could get along just fine without friendships, but I know that this is just a symptom of my selfish tendency toward small-and-safe living. Like you, I need encouragement to open my doors and windows!

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  21. I am about two thirds through this book and I love it. I am learning in this season of life how important authentic relationships are. It is how I want to live my life and also want I want to foster in others. I have always valued friendships but know what a difference it makes to invest time and energy into it. Great book review!

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    1. I sure hope that you are going to share your thoughts on the book, Mary. Lisa-Jo’s book pointed out some real blindspots for me, and also encouraged me to be more bold in going first.

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  22. The whole idea of being fine is such a hard one to stop doing. We need to start being authentic in our friendships because we are there to support and help each other. Such a great post!

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  23. These are the types of things that I dearly hope I am teaching my girls! I wish there was a workbook on these topics for pre-teens and teens! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

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  24. Visiting from Coffee and Conversation. I just moved to a new town and making friends can be kinda difficult. Thanks for sharing

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  25. Goodness, this sounds like the perfect book for me! I’m in a stage of having to meet new friends, and frankly, it can be exhausting sometimes. Easier to just be my introvert self. #4 totally speaks to me. I may have to check this one out! Thanks for sharing about it at #LMMLinkup.

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    1. Absolutely! Making new friends takes us outside our safe zone, for sure. I do hope that you will find people that will convince you that it’s worth taking the risk. Blessings to you!

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