As women, we thrive in the context of community, so no matter how busy we get, it’s essential that we make time for friendships that nourish our souls and help us refuel. Whether you’re single or married, kids or no kids, the need for friendship is a constant.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that there are three friendships every woman needs in her life: a mentor, a kindred spirit and someone she can help along the way. When these relationships thrive, so does the woman. When one or more of these is missing? We tend to fill the relational vacuum with food, shopping or whatever makes us feel temporarily satisfied.
3 Friendships Every Woman Needs:
1. Someone to learn from.
For centuries, women have passed down everything from cultural traditions to family recipes. It used to happen organically, a natural outflow of that whole “raising a village” thing. Somewhere along the way, though, as women have gotten more and more busy, mentoring relationships have taken a back seat to all of the other responsibilities and demands of life.
A mentor might be someone who is older than you or maybe even just further along in her professional experience. She has walked the path you’re walking now long enough to know the potential pitfalls and the challenges that you’re bound to face. She can look back and say, “I’ve been where you are, honey, and here’s how I got through it.”
I remember several years ago when I was on the cusp of ending a relationship that I thought would lead to marriage. I’ll never forget sitting on the sofa at my mentor’s house, a plate of chicken salad in hand, talking through the painful decision to let go and trust God for the next step. She patiently let me drone on and on, and then she took the time to share, pray and encourage. (A few years later, she and her husband attended my wedding to the Hubs – not the same guy, by the way- and I was so thankful she helped me find the courage to walk away when I didn’t have God’s peace.)
We desperately need women who are willing to be an example in loving our families, doing our jobs and living our faith.
Take a look around you and see if there’s a woman that you admire. Chances are good that there’s already someone you look up to at work, at church or in your community. Approach her and ask if you can connect over lunch or a cup of coffee! It doesn’t have to be stiff or formal. The point is to learn from her, and if possible, invite her influence and input in your life.
2. Someone to grow with.
As much as we need women we can learn from, we also need kindred spirits who can grow alongside us. I realize that for some of us, friendships with women can be a scary thing. I get it. Women can be mean, catty and overly dramatic. (If you have ever been in a mommy group on Facebook, then you know just how quickly grown women can revert to juvenile behavior. I. can’t. even.)
On the flip side, women have an unbelievable capacity to strengthen, support and encourage one another. When faced with a crisis, women rise to the challenge, showing up to take care of your kids, put dinner on your table, and lend you a shoulder to cry on.
I am fortunate to have a very small group of women in my life that I affectionately call my “inner circle” girls. They are my champions, secret-keepers and sisters of the heart. The Hubs actually wants me to spend time with them because I always come home in a better mood.
Over the years we’ve celebrated graduations, job promotions, marriages, and the birth of our children. We’ve also walked through the agony of miscarriage, infertility, pink slips and divorce. We’ve wept buckets of tears together and more than once, they’ve talked me off the proverbial ledge. We have history, and I cannot fathom life without them.
Do you have any “inner circle” girls in your own life? Most of us can count them on one hand, and that’s okay. (You’ve only got so much time and energy to pour into friendships, so it’s better to be content with one or two quality friendships vs. a whole bunch of superficial ones.)
Be intentional about staying connected. You may have to get creative but I promise, it’s possible. If you’re both working moms, try meeting up on your lunch break once a month. If you’re home with the kids, head to the park and let the kids play while you catch up. If you live in different cities, take advantage of the wonders of technology and chat via Skype, text or whatever. Whatever it takes, just make it happen!
3. Someone to invest in.
As much as we need someone to learn from and someone to grow with, we also need someone that we can help along the way! Proverbs 11:25 (NLT) says, “The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Doing something for someone else is one of the very best ways to nourish our soul because it shifts our focus from inward to outward.
Back when I lived in the Midwest, I worked for a non-profit outreach center that housed an internship program for young adults. At the time, I was a single young professional with no kids, so when I bought a house, it felt a little lonely with just me in it. One night I decided to invite some of the interns over to hang out and almost instantly my home became a hangout spot where they could unplug from the demands of ministry.
We ate good food, drank copious amounts of coffee, and made marvelous memories in that house. At the time, I thought I was doing it for them, but I see now how it helped to fill the lonely spaces in my own heart, too.
Investing in someone else doesn’t have to be complicated.
Go ahead and invite that single friend over to dinner, and don’t worry about whether or not the house is clean enough or if your kids will behave badly. If you’re an empty-nester, offer to babysit so a single mom can go to the grocery store in peace. Next time you sit behind that frazzled new mom with the crying baby at church? Whisper a few encouraging words in her ear and watch her eyes light up with relief that someone else gets it.
James Keller said, “A candles loses nothing by lighting another candle.” Giving freely and unselfishly doesn’t diminish us; we actually burn brighter together than we do alone.
What’s your current “friendship” status?
If you step back and really think about your friendships, which of these three do you see present in your life right now? Which one do you need to focus on right now? As you were reading, did someone come to your mind? Call, text or reach out to her and take the time to nourish that relationship. You just might discover that you’ve nourished your own soul in the process.