“Wounds from a friend can be trusted…” Proverbs 27:6
I’m reading a book right now that is getting under my skin. You know that feeling, where it irritates you more than it should? And most of the time I’d just pitch it and move on to something less unsettling. Because who has time to read annoying books, right? But I can’t get out of this one, since I’m reading it with my Thursday morning book group. I’m committed to the long haul.
And each week I keep telling myself I’m going to hold back, keep my mouth shut, and just listen. And every week I fail. Because something about this book irritates me deeply. It is like a splinter under my skin that I can’t get out. And if I could just name what’s wrong, I think I could move on. But I can’t find the dang thing.
I try and try, but I can’t quite name it. And so I circle around and around it. I give example after example. And my friends push back. They disagree. They turn it back on me. They point out my lack of objectivity. How I’m too close to the issue or am projecting my point of view on the author.
Which only frustrates me further. Because I’m not being understood. Too much is getting lost in translation. They aren’t hearing me. And if they could just understand what I’m trying to say, they’d realize that I’m right. At least, I’m fairly sure I’m right. If I could only put what I feel into words!
And then I realize that I’m asking them for an answer they cannot give. Only I can truly answer the question at the heart of my issue. And the fact is, this is how you get there. You wrestle. You argue. You engage, sometimes over passionately. And good friends don’t withdraw. They don’t minimize. They don’t condescend. They fight back. This is one of the ultimate signs of respect.
And as I remain engaged, week after week, and get pulled emotionally into the ring that I’d prefer to safely avoid, I’m starting to figure that splinter out. And as I do, I start to discover more of who I am. I’m learning which are the hills that I’ll die on. I’m identifying the battles that I’m called to. And I’m learning to speak to the heart of those issues. I’m learning who I am.
And this is one of the greatest gifts of friendship. I’m not sure how many of these people we find in this lifetime. People that don’t simply get us but seek to understand us more and more fully. They do so in a way that sifts out all the small things about ourselves until we’re left with the core pieces of who we are. Our true identity. These friends show us our hearts.
As we leave the cafe, I do what I always seem to do. I apologize. For the emotion. The passion. I’ve shared too much. Someday I’ll learn not to do this.
But today my friend, Tom, just said, “are you kidding? We love it. You’re not allowed to miss a week of this book.”
And I can’t tell you how much that meant. We need these places of belonging. And often these aren’t the obvious places of comfort. Sometimes the very best thing for us is the friends that won’t let us off easy. The ones that keep giving it back to us until we find the truth. The ones that might not know what we’re trying to say, but believe it is worth getting to at any cost. These friends are such a gift. And we only get a few.