1 a: one attached to another by affection or esteem
I had two very different Facebook friend experiences last week. First I got a request from a high school acquaintance. Upon seeing the name on my phone screen, my first thought was, "What? Why would that person want to be my Facebook friend?" This was someone (whom I'll call T) I knew for the last few years of high school, but we were never close and I always felt there was a competitive tension underlying our friendship. I unintentionally hurt T at once point and tried to make amends a time or two. But my recollection of our final interaction was a sense that this "friend" wanted to get back at me - so I left it at that, hoping T felt I had been bested to their satisfaction. It's been nearly twenty years since I heard T's name.
When I first joined Facebook, I was unsure of the etiquette - should I say yes to every friend who asked me? Surely the term "friend" is used lightly. I don't have 400+ friends, at least not by my definition of the word. Even the use of the word friend to describe my FB network gave me some ambivalence. I'm not someone who uses the term friend quickly and easily. Frankly, I have to know and trust you to consider you my friend - I have to feel like I can be myself around you. There are lots of people I know and even enjoy, but wouldn't label as a friend (at least in my heart). But to de-friend or ignore a friend request requires a certain confidence. Will I hurt their feelings? Am I being inconsistent in saying Yes to one acquaintance and No to another? What should my standards for friendship be - on FB and in life?
A few days after this friend request from T came through, I had an exchange with a friend I've never met in person - but whom I love nevertheless. I can picture us passing books back and forth and chatting over tea, if only we lived in the same city. I know her only through her blog, but I love her words and her heart. She was running in a race last Saturday and I left her a comment saying I would pray for her. And I did pray for her. In fact, praying for her was a great delight - a more grace-filled experience than I can ever remember when praying for someone else. The first day when I prayed for her, it felt like sunshine on my face. And as I continued to pray, I realized that the "sunshine on my face" feeling was God's delight in her. This was so energizing, encouraging and revelatory that I prayed for her a great deal leading up to her race. I hope it blessed her because it certainly blessed me.
As a part of our interchanges about the race, this lovely woman asked about being my FB friend. And my reaction was totally different than seeing T's name appear on my screen. Instead of wondering why she might want to be my friend, my heart said, "Yes! That would be lovely!" So now we're friends - on Facebook and in cyberspace.
That friend request from T? I clicked on the little "ignore" button. I am slowly but surely learning to trust one way that my heart speaks to me. And I am learning that I do not have to be friends - Facebook or otherwise - with someone who makes me feel bad about myself. This may sound self-evident, but surely there's at least one person reading this who is a people-pleaser or recovering people-pleaser like me. (By the way, there's another way that I speak to myself that I'm learning to ignore or talk back to - it's the voice of shame and it usually starts sentences with the phrase, "I must be the only one who..." That voice is not worth listening to. It needs silencing.)
I've been comparing and contrasting these Facebook friend experiences for several days, but finally felt prompted to write about it after reading this post about having a team you can trust to speak into your life. I'm not in crisis and don't need an official team of people to help me navigate my current life circumstances. But don't we all need a team of some sort?
Don't we all need real, true friends who can listen to our hearts and not turn away from us?
Friends who can know you and still like you?
Friends who help you and allow themselves to be helped?
I want friends like this. And I want to be a friend like this. Because if being a true friend means getting to experience what I experienced as I prayed for my friend who ran on Saturday, I'm in. It was life-changing to realize how much God delighted in her. And to think that He feels the same way about me... We all need friends and I'm not talking about the Facebook kind.