There are seven people I will eternally be grateful for. They are my brothers and sisters and each one has taught me many valuable lessons about human relationships.
I am the third eldest in a family of eight kids and my first friend was my older sister. She was my first playmate, my first protector, and my first source of grief.
Grif? Oh, Yes.
Up’s and downs are a normal part of every relationship, including friendship and sisterhood. This is why the bonds we form in early childhood are so important. They teach us resistance, respect, and loyalty when grown in a healthy way. Of course, they can leave wounds so deep it takes a lifetime to heal as well. But if a child is sheltered too much and not taught friendship from an early age, true connection will always be difficult at best, or unattainable at worst.
What were some of your earliest friendships like? were they with family members? Or perhaps you were an only child and had to look outside the walls of your first home to find friends? Who were they? How did they impact you as you grew?
My earliest memories contain flashes of playing in our room with dolls and stuffed animals. My sister had this brown pug puppy with a wrinkled brow and I had Purple Monkey who was really a bear but looked like a monkey with a short tail to me. (He lives in my little ones’ room now and still looks like a Purple Monkey to me.) When we lived out in the woods while my father was a logger, we shared a bunk bed. We got chickenpox at the same time and learned alongside each other when our parents decided to homeschool their kids.
For many years my older sister was a constant in my everyday. I had to learn how to connect, react, and live beside her as our relationship evolved with age. We are three years apart and so for a long time, I was ‘the baby’ sister, both treasured but also reviled. After all, who wants the baby tagging along on adventures ALL THE TIME? Not my older brother and sister.
Still, my sister was often my guard as well. She told my older brother off when unnessasarry words were said, or his rough play became too much or dangerous. Boundaries were learned. “Don’t go there Mary, it’s not safe. I’ll tell Mom!” or “Look what you did to her? How could you? Run back to the house Mary, it’s going to be okay.” She helped me grow an awareness of others, and how I affected them at the same time they affected me.
Sisters, treasures, and there is really none quite like mine.
I am also an older sister, I have a handful of siblings I put threw the paces myself as we all searched for our spot in the family. I’ll tell you they didn’t all appreciate the ‘lessons’ I passed on to them. I could be just as mean as my older brother and as the string of little people following us grew it wasn’t just my older sister’s job to protect me, she was also protecting them FROM me. So, we all learned repentance and forgiveness together. The need for justice in the face of cruelty. The fact that no matter how deeply someone lives you, they will at times still say and do mean things, and whether you want to or not there are times when you just can’t cut people out of your life. Not when you’re all homeschooled and stuck living in the country together anyway. This forced deep bonds that for most of us still hold after decades of wear.
She has become a safe place for me. I don’t use that safe place as much as I probably should because I’m still prone to thinking I can just do things myself. But when the hurt runs deep she is instinctively the first place I run to, even above my mother.
Do you have a friend like that? I know not everyone does. It’s also hard to BE that friend at times, it shows great strength of character, being willing to welcome people and their burdens into your life over and over again.
If you find yourself without that kind of friendship or removed from it for some reason, I just want to encourage you to not give up cultivating new friendships. It’s never too late to plant the seeds that might grow into a bond that is stronger than time and distance. The key ingredient to growing something like that is TIME, the key to retaining friendship like that, is humility and forgiveness.
If you find personal investment, humility, or forgiveness hard, it’s okay. It’s never too late to start learning them. I believe the first step is simply to ask for help. Read a book on friendship, pray for an open heart, and then ask God for someone to help you put into practice what you have learned. But be prepared to forgive and ask for forgiveness.
Copyright ©2023 Mary Grace van der Kroef
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