spaghettipie

R”ev”eal

Recently a friend of mine confessed a struggle she’s having about our friendship. Basically, she feels an imbalance in our friendship when it comes to sharing our struggles. I have listened a great deal to her frustrations, anxieties, stresses and difficulties. And granted, she’s had a lot going on lately. On the other hand, she doesn’t feel like I’ve shared the same kind of in-the-moment experiences. It’s not that I don’t share anything; it’s that what I do share is past tense. She commented that it’s not about being real. She doesn’t get the sense that I’m fake or that I only talk about surface things. She thinks I’m real and authentic, but I don’t share my raw, in-the-moment stuff with her.

I shared a variety of explanations. I don’t have many “big” issues going on in my life right now. I process many of my emotions in my head and not out loud. I’m not a phone person, so I don’t think to pick up the phone to talk through my feelings of frustration when I experience them. I’m more than happy to share when people ask me or when I see my experience fits in with a conversation, but I often don’t see the point in randomly volunteering the information. She even pointed out that having toddlers around us the majority of the time we’re together doesn’t lend itself to deep conversations.

We also approach relationships differently. She seeks out information by sharing information. By sharing first, she hopes I will just reciprocate. I seek out information by asking specific questions. You can expect me to ask how your marriage is going, how you’re adjusting to your kids all being in school, or how you’re dealing with a certain disappointment.

We left the conversation positively, but pretty much in the same place where we started. She understood the way I process things a little better, and I committed to try to share life with her more real-time.

I ate lunch with another friend yesterday, and after we left, I realized that I acted in a similar way toward her. I listened and asked questions and listened some more. I shared what was going on in my life, but not any specific struggles. With this particular friend, I have shared some deep issues with her before, but it was in the context of her going through a similar difficulty. Again, I think she would say that I’m real with her, maybe even that I’m a good friend, but I’m not sure she could tell you what my deep struggles are.

I don’t intentionally keep part of myself back in my friendships. It’s not a conscious effort to hide my faults or put up a facade. But as I’ve thought about these two conversations the last few days, I realized it boils down to the difference two little letters make: “ev” (or ve, if you want to look at it that way!). While I am “real” with people, I often don’t “reveal” myself fully.

Do I think that means everyone should walk around confessing all of their faults and shortcomings to anyone who will listen? No. We all know people who talk about their issues too much and too openly. I think the difference is sharing my life in order to connect, rather than to get attention (positive or negative). I don’t have to change the way I process my emotions or suddenly become a phone person, but I can look more intentionally for opportunities to open up to others about my faults, my struggles and my sins.

So if you’re reading this – and you care to reveal – how do you work on this in your relationships?

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9 comments

  1. Great post spaghetti.

    I think this is a very good lesson for your friend as well because this gives her the opportunity to understand that she may need to ask you direct questions in conversation.

    I am a verbal processor, so I will talk (or more often these days write) issues out with friends (or my personal journal). And, although I have many dear friends, I have only a few friends with whom I share deep struggles that are “in process”. AND depending on what the struggle is depends on who I go to. Does that make sense? If I have a “mother-of-boys” issue I go to someone different than a “I’m-struggling-with-sin” issue.

    All that to say, when I am ready to chat about something on my mind I intentionally seek out the person I think will speak truth to me or help me to see God in that situation. Not necessarily the friend who will see things my way (although i have one of those too!)

    It doesn’t take much for someone to hear what’s on my mind (hence this long reply!). However, I have a couple precious friends who are not verbal processors, and unless they are really being held over flames, they are not going to give up info without intentional, thoughtful questions. And it’s going to have to be more probing than “How are you?”, which takes a certain amount of energy, and risk.

    So I guess what I am saying is that, just like those “love language’s” we are always talking about, we have to communicate with our friends in ways that aren’t just easy for us verbal processors. I also have to take in consideration that my friends communicate in other ways and remember to shut up an listen every once in awhile, and let her get in a word edge-wise!

    As a side note, that may sound completely off topic but isn’t really: I think, especially in this stage of life (as mothers of young children), monotony (and constant interruption) CAN give way to lazy thinking (for me at least) and taking the time to engage in deep conversation can sometimes require energy that seems impossible to drudge up, even for long winded people like me! So, be sure to find ways in your friendships to keep sharp! And that is a reminder more to myself than to you!

  2. I feel that I often share too much with people and that I should be taking my “stuff” to God instead of people. There’s value in sharing with others after-the-fact if they are facing a similar situation, but the in-the-moment stuff is what I’m striving to take straight to God more often.

  3. Umm, hard question. Some just excel in good, active listening, i.e. asking questions to allow the other to reveal what is in their heart. An example of Prov 20:5 is what I’m thinking.

    On the other hand, I can be very self-deceptive as to my motive for either sharing or not sharing. I’m not a particularly private person. Lots of early childhood medical issues sort of took that away early anyway. However, one thing I’ve found is that by sharing something that appears to be “deep” or “troubling” for me, I can effectively skirt the real sin issue at the bottom of it all and still look very thoughtful for having been so self-revealing. Ahh, the deceitfulness of sin.

    How do I handle it? I do a lot of active listening with many people. I do some active talking with only a selected few – the ones who know and use scripture to cut me to the heart – to divide bone from marrow – and I love them all the more for it. They are not easily deceived, love me deeply and walk closely with the Spirit who sometimes whispers questions to ask in their ears.

  4. spaghettipie

    Kellie, Alyssa and Susan – I love all of your thoughts. It definitely is a balance, isn’t it, on how much we reveal and certainly boils down to intention. What (or who) are we promoting – God’s work in our lives or ourselves? Thanks for commenting!

  5. This is a great post, SP. And a really hard question.

    On one hand, I’m kind of an open book to anyone who knows me. I am an open person and I tend to bring that out in others too. As far as sharing the deep and personal stuff, I usually need a reason to share: the other person needs to hear my story.

    I used to tell my stories for my sake, to reassure myself that I’m really okay. I needed empathy and understanding from others. That was a season for me. Now, I have just a few close friends who I go to for those “am I okay?” conversations.

    For the rest, my rule of thumb is the listener. Is there a good reason to share?

    And as far as the less personal stuff, I really am an open book. I’ll tell the telemarketer who calls that I’m having a fairly miserable day, the baby is playing in the toilet, and my twins are outside whacking eachother with a stick.

    My philosophy? It is what it is. There is no pretense here. And, for the most part, I think that’s a good thing.

  6. This post caught my attention but for different reasons. A friend and I struggle in the same way you describe, but the confrontation hasn’t taken place yet. She does all the talking and sharing and I do the listening and advising, then the conversation ends. The only reason I can figure is that we are in completely different stages of life. She is single and working. I’m a stay-at-home mom who’s been married for almost 9 years. I’ve been where she is, but she can’t relate to where I am and so … I don’t know. Whenever I do share, she never says anything; no probing questions or words of encouragement. There is no response whatsoever. It seems my life utterly bores her.

    So what do I do with that? We’ve been friends since before I met my husband, but now it’s just awkward. I can’t force her to be interested. Besides, her globe-trotting, city life is definitely more exciting than my suburbia.

    It’s a problem with no simple solution.

  7. spaghettipie

    LM – Thanks for your thoughts! I like your rules of thumb and approach.

    T – That’s a tough question situation. Sounds like you just need to talk about it with your friend. Bridging the gap between married and single friends can be hard, but the best thing to do (I think) is communicate. Maybe she’s not bored, but has a difficult time talking about it. Maybe she thinks she has nothing to offer you since she’s not been in your stage of life. But you won’t really know until you ask. . . Let me know how it goes!

  8. Sars

    If your struggles are shared more in a past-tense format, it may be hard for your friends to know what questions to ask in order to be asking about what is relevant and present-tense in your life. Maybe even just little things could open the window for them to know what’s going on day-to-day or week-to-week and help them know what to ask/where to probe.

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