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?