Andy Denen

Ideas on life, church, and culture.

MySpace, Metal, and Friendships (Part 3)

If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2, I’d encourage you to do so. This might make more sense with some backstory. Plus it’s just funny to read about people getting sent to the principal’s office in 4th grade, right?

Remember MySpace? That was a big deal. If you’re reading this and you DON’T remember it than I’ve officially hit “old man” status and will be looking at time shares down in Florida and buy more sandals to wear with my khaki pants like so many older people I see. I think they have a club or something and that’s the uniform.

Anyway, MySpace had this thing called the “Top 8” where you would sort your Top 8 friends. It was basically a status thing. Your best friend or boyfriend/girlfriend was number 1, and then down the line to your “8th best friend.” As you can imagine, it got abused. I remember hearing stories of people legitimately getting angry because their friend took them out of their top 4 spots. It was like a passive aggressive way of one friend telling another friend they were mad at them, “That’s it, you didn’t share your cheese dip at the Mexican restaurant AND you didn’t compliment my outfit. I’ll show her, you’re now friend NUMBER SIX!”

Friendship is a funny thing because it serves a number of different purposes. It gives a sense of companionship, community, trust, challenge, loyalty, commitment, among others…

That is… if it’s a healthy friendship.

My “box club” taught me that you can have the illusion of friendship until the crap hits the fan and then the truth comes out. They were only fair-weather friends that bolted when things got bad. We’ve all had them. Friendships that are great when things are great and basically nonexistent when things get hard or conflict comes up. Here’s a few things I’ve learned and applied in my own life that has given me an inner circle I can trust no matter what //

1. Don’t Focus Just On the Things You Have In Common
You should definitely have similar likes and dislikes, that just makes sense. But true friendship is built on something more than just having a bunch of things in common. Because likes and dislikes change as we grow. But PASSION, that sticks around. You don’t have to be passionate about the same things, but your closest friends should be as passionate about something as you are about something. Passion is universal. It creates a common bond. When I first met my wife, I knew I was going to fall in love with her. The biggest reason? The way her eyes lit up when she talked about dance and teaching her girls at the studio. I knew in that moment that I had found someone who was as passionate about her thing as I was about mine. I’ve been married to a dance teacher for almost 6 years and am surrounded by several dancers in my everyday life and it’s still sad how little I actually know about dance, but I can listen to them talk about it all day because of their passion. Common likes are important, but equal passion is far more sturdy of a foundation for building life-long friendships.

2. Your Friends Don’t Define You, Christ Defines You
One of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn in my entire life is that my friendships simply cannot determine whether or not I feel valued and validated. Friendship does bring a sense of validation, a sense of purpose and belonging, for sure. But that should be in addition to the validation, purpose, and belonging we get from Christ. It shouldn’t be a substitution for what we find in Christ, but an extension of it. When we begin to find our validation in our friendships it puts an unhealthy responsibility on the friend for which they did not sign up. However, if you’re friendships are built as an extension of your identity in Christ, you won’t have overly high expectations on what the friendship does for you but instead focus on what you can bring to the friendship as a result of your submission to Christ. Even more, your true friends value you WAY more than you could ever imagine. The issue is that we are craving validation that can only come from Christ. So find it there first and then allow that to flow down the pipeline into your friendships and they will be more rich and deep than you ever imagined they could be.

3. Protect the Hearts of Your Friends
It’s important to remember that your friends have needs too. They are not here for our consumption. They have goals and dreams that probably do not require us to be right by their side all the time. But they’ve selected us to be along for the journey and that’s an incredible privilege. With that comes a responsibility to serve our friends as much as we like them to support us. We have to understand the way they feel loved and accepted and communicate that to them in their language, not just our own. I’m a physical touch and words of affirmation guy. My wife and some of my closest friends are hilariously fluent in sarcasm. But they know me and I know them. So they soften the sarcasm a bit, and I understand when it’s there that it’s not literal. See how that works? It’s really a beautiful thing. I’m an extrovert… like, to the max. I am surrounded by a number of introverts. So I’ve gotten into the habit of regularly asking my friends, “You good? Do you need some down time?” Because I could talk for hours. I could have people over my house every weekend. But some people need to be by themselves. They thrive in their down time. My wife certainly is one of those people. So in order to protect her heart and that of my more introverted friends, I’ve learned to identify that sometimes the best gift I can give them, is down time.

4. Challenge Is OK… You’re Not Supposed to Always Agree
If you and your friends always agree, something isn’t quite right. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Have you ever seen iron being sharpened? It seems harmless enough, but it’s actually quite violent. Two metals scraping against each other, one forcing the other to become sharper through the constant friction of the sharpening process. A friendship absent of the occasional tension isn’t really a friendship at all. I have a thread throughout my life of people close to me constantly sharpening me, holding me accountable, challenging me and the way I think about things. Calling me out when I am showing some bad habits. I’ve given a few very close people ultimate permission to speak into my life no matter what, without hesitation and fear of my reaction. I want them to speak out to me if something about my character or habits is unhealthy or needs to be sharpened. Surround yourself with people who can speak into your life. But don’t automatically get defensive when they do. They are there because they care about you and you have to trust them to play that role.

There’s probably a hundred or more things we can sit down together and add to this list. But these are the ones that have become the most evident to me in the last several months. As a leader, I sometimes feel lonely. But I don’t find my identity in how successful I am at my job, or in how much time I have with my friends, I find it in Christ. And from that flows a daily renewed passion to serve my friends well, and to perform at my job with excellence. I love my family from the overflow of how I love Christ. Everything has to come from, and point back to, Christ. He’s the focus. Not me. Not you.

When you live in that completely, not only are you full, but you get to offer that full version of yourself to your friends and the relationships built last a lifetime regardless of where life takes you. Because they’re built on Christ who goes with us always, “even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

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