Thursday, September 30, 2010

All My Friends Have Issues

Some time last year, I was sitting in a workshop for people who struggle with anxiety and depression. The lecturer said something that -- for a moment -- actually caused me more anxiety. One of the best weapons that you have in your arsenal against crisis, he said, is a network of safe, sane friends.

Still in the workshop, I flashback to a recent coffee night with one of my best girlfriends. If a stranger at the next table had been listening, he would have thought that we were a couple of the biggest neurotic, naval-gazing narcissists he had ever encountered. It's not uncommon for coffee with friends to sound like this -- a therapy session with two patients and no doctor. In fact, among my nearest and dearest, we joke that mutual craziness is what brought us together.

So suddenly, I panic. I've got the goods on these friends of mine, and they aren't always sane. And neither am I. Between us, we share a little OCD, some codependence, a few compulsions, and a dash of irrational fears. So should we immediately call off the relationship and go out into the world in search of someone totally together who is willing to take us on as a charity case?

But then the lecturer began to define his terms: Safe and sane means: someone who is honest, willing to admit their own faults, able to both give and take from the relationship, and above all, interested in personal growth.

Whew. Sigh of relief. I was recently asked a question in a game called Girl Talk, "What one characteristic do all your best friends share?" My answer was "self-awareness." I am so blessed to have a tight circle of friends each of whom are deeply committed to growing in their friendships, marriages, motherhood and in their faith. It's fabulous to be around them because they are always experiencing some new self-revelation and I get to witness it, and, more often than not, learn from it as well.

I went home that night, thinking about my network and their issues, and asked my husband, "Honey, do I have issues." Hubby, who obviously adores me and thinks the sun rises and sets in my big brown eyes, laughed his head off. Later, he said that was one of the most ridiculous questions ever asked in the history of human interaction.


One doesn't like to generalize about so many people at once, but I believe the world is divided not into those who have issues and those who don't, but rather, those who know they do and those who don't.

In any relationship -- friendship, romance or otherwise -- there comes the point when some major weirdness is revealed. And I'm not talking just slumber-party kind of revelations like the person talks in their sleep or has to brush each of their teeth the same number of times. I mean like significant oddities and fears. One of mine might be, for example, that I have to do deep breathing exercises for quite some time before adding up my receipts and writing them into our monthly budget; this reveals a deep seeded money issue I've had since college.

Way back in the perfectionism of my 20s, I was more tempted to hit the eject button when I reached the "issues" stage in my friendships. But now, as I said before, I've got the goods on a few girlfriends of mine. And you know how I feel about that? Privileged. I'm very blessed to have the kind of friendships where I've been let into the inside of their lives, close enough that I'm privy to their fears and concerns, their doubts and anxieties, as well as their deepest joys and triumphs.

They know quite a bit about me, too. Recently I confessed what I felt was a major but somewhat concealed character flaw to two of my best friends, and they both said, separately, "You know, I already knew that about you." What grace abounds in that kind of relationship. I don't want to jump ship before we get to those deep waters!

At the same time, I'm a little more careful about who I let all the way in my own life. I come back to the safe and sane requirement: If you've got issues, but you don't know it, or know it but don't want to admit it, or don't want to change it a little, or can't even laugh about it -- well, good luck and God speed. But we shall never share deep soul connection. However, if you ever change your mind, and feel like coming clean, let me know. We'll save you a spot at our table.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. oh my goodness I LOVE your post! :) thanks for sharing with me!!! I just posted on friendship too!! it is not by chance that i read yours today when you sent it to me!!

    I am so excited for your dreams of being a speaker & writer!!! we'll come to cheer you on!!! :) love your honesty!

  3. Self-awareness wears me out...but I wouldn't trade it!

  4. I really loved the part about your friends already knowing a flaw you'd thought was concealed. What beautiful work! God is using you in wonderful ways.

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