Over the last 7 years or so I’ve done a lot of talking about freinds and being a friend. And I always felt I was falling short in some way. As if I couldn’t really say what I meant because I didn’t have words that described what I actually meant.
Most of this conversation was because of Ministering and how to go about ministering in a meaningful way. And over and over when people, especially sisters, would be worried or concerned or confused about how to minister to others I would say just be their friend.
There was one exchange that stands out to me from years ago. I was talking to another sister about ministering and the sister said she was having a hard time connecting with the sister she was responsible for and my response was just be her friend. The sister who I was talking to said that was hard because the sister in her care never asked her about her family or her issues or her anything and so how could she be friends with her. And my response was, “I asked you to be her friend, it doesn’t matter if she’s yours.”
In last week’s Inklings Institute the word that Emily chose as the focus word from the conference talk and scriptures we were studying was friend. The word for friend in Hebrew is rea’ and it means an associate, sister, companion, neighbor. When we think of serving our neighbor or an associate we generally aren’t expecting anything in return. We can be a freind without it being a friendship.
I was taught as a young girl that not everyone is your friend. That you really only have 1 or 2 good friends in your live and everyone else is an acquaintance. I think that sort of made things harder for me as a ministering sister, church member and even as an adult woman trying hard to live the Gospel. I think there are better ways to look at friends.
Friends are people we love. And aren’t we commanded to love one another as Jesus loves us? In that commandment there is no plan for reciprocity. He doesn’t say As I have loved you love one another unless that person never askes you about your life or your kids or never brings you pie or invites you to lunch.
What this whole thing takes is trust and trust takes time. Most people I meet I would not tell almost anything about myself. Will they judge me and think I’m weird or crazy or annoying? And honestly I want to see if somebody is going to stick around and be really interested in my kids or what I’m working on. I want to know that they will be back in a week or two just to hang out and listen to me. I want to know that they aren’t going to go to their other friends and pass my stuff along and make fun of what a dork I am. and honestly, there are some people I have known for 20 years that I wouldn’t trust with any of my baggage. So this whole thing takes time and dedication and prayer and real love. Not a checklist that your ministering was done for the month but real one side friendship.
We are also commanded to mourn with those that mourn. And that is hard, and heart wrenching and sometimes discouraging. But we are not asked to change anything for the other person. We are asked to be there for them. The church website says this:
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we covenant to “mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18:9). There will be moments when we see clear ways to help someone. However, many times mourning with those that mourn does not mean having the right answer to a question or giving a person the perfect resource. Many times, mourning with those that mourn involves listening, waiting, seeking to understand, and supporting the person through the journey.
Many challenges are ongoing and there are not quick solutions.https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/mental-health-general-principles/7-seek-to-mourn-with-those-who-mourn?lang=eng
I am hopeful that we can become better friends and maybe even change our view of what that means for us and for others. And I pray that as we become a better friend to others we will become the trusted companion, sister, neighbor or associate who can be trusted in that time of need. Those times when the alone feeling comes.
I do pray that I can be the first person who comes to mind when there really is a need and there is no one else to call. I pray that I can be the trusted one, the one they call friend.