On Friendship: Friend Doesn’t Mean Project

Have you ever been treated like someone else’s project, as if by spending time with them or taking their advice they can fix you and that is the biggest reason they are investing time in you? Have you ever realized you’ve done this to someone?

“Friends are not ‘projects’ and we shouldn’t treat people or be treated in that way. “

I’m a firm believer in the power of friendship as an encouragement, a way of lifting each other up, and even helping to aline our lives down a good path, but this should be a symptom of true friendship, not the reason for it to exist.

Friends are not ‘projects’ and we shouldn’t treat people or be treated that way. Why? Three reasons stand out to me.

  1. It detracts from individual responsibility
  2. It’s condescending
  3. It’s Damaging

Individual Responsibility

Unless you’re a medical doctor you can’t ‘fix people’. Encourage them? Give them a safe person to confide in? Uphold them in difficult life circumstances? Be a voice of truth? Absolutely. These are things we should all try to do for friends when they need it. But we need to recognize that the only person that can initiate true lasting change in someone’s life, is that person. The same goes for you. Now one can change you unless you want to be changed.

“Your worthiness of friendship also doesn’t depend on how put together your life is.”

Trying to change people or letting someone run our lives in this kind of way creates a toxic co-dependent relationship. As soon as one of you gets tired of the situation and there is a brake, everything crumbles. If the ‘help’ that was being offered was bad, this crumbling can be a good thing, bringing an individual back to a place where they can start to change themselves rather than conform to someone else’s ideas. But sometimes healing from ‘help’ takes years. If the help was good but offered in the wrong way it can crush confidence and motivation, leaving an individual feeling as if they can never change.

Your worthiness of friendship also doesn’t depend on how put together your life is. Your world might be burning, but you are still capable of giving life, love, and kindness. We all have things we need to grow in, and parts of us that may need to be discarded so that healthy growth can happen, no one is perfect.

It’s Condescending

Let me repeat myself, “No one is perfect.” This is something we say all the time but never listen to. It can be used as a crutch, an excuse to stay the way we are even though we know something might need to change, but it’s also an uncomfortable reminder that we are never better than another human being. That is really what’s at the core of feeling a need to change someone. It’s looking down our noses at people as if they are less than us because they may struggle with something we see as bad.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7 NIV Holly Bible

This bible verse gives me a powerful visual of two friends picking at each other’s faces, refusing to acknowledge they might actually not be able to see clearly enough to help the other remove the problem. Ouch… Can you imagine the pain those individuals would be inflicting on each other?

Let’s take a step back and realize that even if our desire is to help a friend, we might not have the right tools, knowledge, or capacity to actually help, and admitting that is completely okay. Locking the ability to fix someone also doesn’t make you less than others, it makes you pretty normal.

It’s Damaging

When we tinker in people’s lives and minds it can leave scars much like an unqualified surgeon leaves if he messes around in someone’s gut having no idea what he is cutting and throwing away. Can you imagine letting someone like that cut you open? It’s a horrifying thought.

If our intentions are truly for the betterment of the people we love we have a responsibility to tread carefully and be honest with our ability to help and not hurt. Also, be careful who you allow to become close enough to have access to those eyes that might have a speck of dust in them or a log. Any offers of advice or actionable help should be given with respect, not condescension.

Also, if we do not enter into friendship with honest intentions we run the risk of damaging someone’s ability to trust.

Some things to consider about our friendships:

Do we truly enjoy the person we are investing time and advice in, and do they enjoy us?

Are we confident in the friendship would last if the ‘help’ being offered is refused or doesn’t work?

Are we free to reject the advice being given?

I have said it before while writing this series on friendship, but relationships are hard, complex, and also worth the work. Unless it’s a doctor-to-patient/counsellor-to-client relationship, its purpose is not to ‘fix’ but to support.

Is there something you would like to add to this discussion? Please do so in the comment section. This write-up is by no means an extensive guild to friendship, but if it’s made you think, it’s done its job. Thank you for reading.

Mary Grace van der Kroef

Websites referenced in this article:

Bible Gateway

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Previous Post – On Friendship: Receiving and Giving Forgiveness

Previous Post – On Friendship: The Word Enemy

Previous Post – On Friendship: My First Friend

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On Friendship: Virtual Friendship

I can remember when virtual friendship was only something that happened in Sci-fi cartoons. It was while I was a young teen that it started to be a ‘real thing’, and I’m not ashamed to say that connecting with strangers online and forming friendships at every level of emotional intimacy has been a blessing to me.

As an introvert finding in-person friendships that go as deep as my soul desires and don’t settle on the surface of only ‘doing’ and ‘having fun’ is hard. Really hard. It always has been and I think it always will be, but one of the beauties of online communication is you can’t rely on the ‘doing’ you HAVE to talk. There are also only so many things to talk about before you run out of fun stuff and have to dip your tie into deep waters of thought, or, say goodbye and part ways. It really is the same pattern as in-person friendships follow, but you get to skip some of the very beginning stages, knowing that if you are in the same online space you definitely have a few things in common, and this can speed up the proses of connection.

In fact, online interactions can be a whirlwind of deep conversations. To a heart that is longing for friendship, it can be a different kind of addictive than the general scrolling through posts on social media. As a backlash broken friendships can happen in the blink of an eye and come with a deep and painful grief.

“In fact, online interactions can be a whirlwind of deep conversations.”

This can be surprising to many people who have not experienced online friendship yet or have chosen not to give it a chance. (The latter being a completely understandable choice.) But believe me when I say that online friendship can be just as real as in person, just as fulfilling, and just as painful. But it can also be dangerous.

Misunderstandings happen in abundance without the added context of voice inflections and body language which are a key part of human communication. Outright deception is also much easier to pull off. But these dangers are present in in-person relationships as well. It’s all about learning. Just like toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners, all learn the basics of in-person connections, when we start to enter online communication platforms there is a time of learning that happens. What is safe? What isn’t safe? What one individual might be comfortable with, another might not be. The need to show respect and remember that the text on the screen means there is a soul somewhere in the world taking in the words you say or say through video uploads that come in short clips and rarely show all sides of a conversation. Discernment is needed when interacting online, but at the same time, the lack of those communication cues makes it harder to use discernment. Emotions are heightened and judgment is sometimes absent.

“Discernment is needed when interacting online, but at the same time, the lack of those communication cues makes it harder to use discernment.”

Still, I think if we are willing to learn how to participate in healthy online interactions, virtual friendships can be a blessing. I know mine have been. In fact, I met my husband online as a teen.

Virtual friendships have the ability to drive the seed of connection deep and can grow into something that is truly beautiful. But I believe no friendship kept purely online ever reaches its full potential. Just like my relationship with my husband could only go so far while we date online, and needed to be brought to in-person interactions at one point, for some purely platonic friendship to grow to achieve full growth, then need to add in-person interactions as well. Not every virtual friendship is meant for this, and indeed for some that are strong online an in-person element will be too much and cause it to crumble. But the blending online and in person can forge unbreakable bonds. Again, discernment is needed to know what ones, as well as the willingness to maturity to let go when things don’t work like we hoped.

Lossing virtual friendships is scary, and leaves a hole just as painful as losing in-person friendships. If you have experienced this loss don’t discount the grief you might go through. These breaks often require time to heal and sort out just like losing a childhood friend. Give yourself grace during that time.

“Lossing virtual friendships is scary, and leaves a hole just a painful as losing in-person friendships.”

If you are one of those people that steer away from virtual friendship, I also want to say that is completely okay. It is also much more acceptable to cut virtual friendships from your life if it is becoming detrimental to your health in any way. Humans were made to first connect in person. No matter how many good online friendships you may have, it is very hard to be a whole and healthy mind without an in-person connection. Your family, your in-person friends, and your community should always come first until an online friendship turns into an in-person friendship and joins the circle of family, friends and community.

If you are someone who walks the virtual community roadway you may at times experience someone cutting you off in favour of family and in-person friendship. No matter how deep the connection you might have online with someone goes, being able to let go of that person, is extremely important. It’s okay to grieve if they need to leave you behind, but it’s also healthiest for you to not hold on to someone who needs that space.

Friendships and human relationships are complex at any level. This short opinion piece is by no means a guide to friendship and I am no expert. I’m just a woman who has been walking the path of virtual connection for twenty-two years and feel compelled to give some advice. My intent is to start a conversation and to help us all think deeply about the decisions we make in our human friendships. The world is going through fast changes right now. Wisdom, and hearts that are open to learning are required to keep us all healthy and happy while navigating new ways to form friendships. I’m praying for discernment for all of us.

Thank you for stopping in to read my heart,
Mary Grace van der Kroef

Copyright ©2023 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Previous Post – On Friendship: Receiving and Giving Forgiveness

Previous Post – On Friendship: The Word Enemy

Previous Post – On Friendship: My First Friend

Previous Post – On Friendship: What is it?

Previous Post – On Friendship: The Word Friend

Previous Post – On Friendship: Introduction

Forthcoming Post – On Friendship: In Person

Forthcoming Post – On Friendship: Friend Doesn’t Mean Project

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Only People

Only people
the flame of soul
is all you take
to heaven, you know.

All else crumbles
to dust and ash,
but flames of soul
are made to last.

All bodies
fall away, decay.
Wrappings mortal
times earthly prey.

But flames slip
through gaping fangs.
From eternity’s
edges to hang.

Emptied hands then
have a choice.
Hellish solitude,
or gems with voice.

Only people,
treasures that last,
are worthy to store
or to Jesus’s feet cast.

© 2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Cherishing People While Creating

It’s thrilling, letting yourself get swept away in the moment of creation… Then someone interrupts you. A child tugs on your sleeve, or the phone rings. A spouse calls from down the hall, “Are you done yet?”

Do you shake off that tug on your arm, mute the phone, and ignore the calling? Can you? Should you?

Creativity is precious, we should cultivate and protect it. Having a space for this is ideal, having a time when distractions and interruptions are at a minimum is important. But there are people in our lives that can’t, and shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a balancing act.

The people in our lives are important. They support our creativity in ways we often take for granted. We shouldn’t ignore them. Not only shouldn’t we ignore them, but they are a pivotal part of our creation process.

In many cases they are directly, or indirectly, our inspiration. We get many of our ideas from watching them, talking with them, living with them, and all the ups and downs that go with that.

As a mother and wife, I sacrifice my creative life to care for and nurture my family. I have obligations, expectations and jobs I can NOT ignore. Families need attention, children need nurturing. But is it ever okay to say, “No, not right now, I need this time?”

Yes. Sometimes it’s healthy, and even important, to set boundaries around our creative endeavors. They are a part of us. When humans walk in their creative abilities, positivity flows out into the world. Finding the right place and time for that pulling away is the hard part, and the key to a thriving creative life amid people.

When I first became a mother, my kids became my entire world. But I let go of something that I never should have lost. My creativity. I stopped drawing, except doodles for the kids to color. I stopped learning and pushing myself artistically. I even stop writing, only picking it up once or twice a year when a fleeting spark touched my life. Because I let this part of me go, my soul suffered.

I didn’t know how to balance my creativity around the people important to me. But now that I have found my creative spark again, it’s a learning process. Like learning to juggle. But it’s one of the most important lessons of my life.

Do not lessen your light in this world by letting God given trats or abilities die. Instead, seek to learn how to incorporate new people, places, and responsibilities into your creativity.

Who are the people in your daily life that inspire you? Who are the ones that test you? Who adds flavor to your hours?

Cherish them, friends, family, and prickly people alike. I look forward to seeing them represented in your creative works.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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