What to do with Frustrating Friends

Dear Frustrated Friend,

UUUUGGGHHHH! I can hear it in you already. Your friend just shared something with you and all the alarm bells are going off in your head. They have either told you about something you have already warned them not to do or they are making the same mistakes anew. It’s incredibly frustrating.

You are allowed to be frustrated.

I almost feel like creating a secret space for you to let it all out. A place where you don’t feel as though you are betraying your friend. Maybe you could call me up anonymously, vent to me and I’d nod my head and say “Yep, they are crazy” and then we’d hang up and you’ll feel better. 🙂

It’s so hard when you see friends making bad decisions, because you want to be there for them and let them know that they are making a huge mistake. What is a friend to do in those moments? Let’s look at the options.

Two options: Say something or say nothing.

Both of these options have positives and negatives and your preference will mostly depend on how you view your role and responsibility in friendships. Some of you will always say something, while others will always keep silent; whatever you chose is fine with me.

I find for my own personal sanity, my preference is to lead people through questions which challenge their thinking or motivations rather than pointing out obvious blunders. I’ve always felt that if people find the answers themselves, they are more likely to take it onboard. Honestly, no-one really likes to be told what to do. I’m probably more gentle than I should be at times, but that’s how I function best. I have tried it other ways and it usually didn’t turn out how I wanted it to.

No matter the style we adopt, we should always remember that whatever our friends go through, their decision to listen to us is not about us. We can’t control and never should control others – even if it would be easier at times. 🙂 I’m joking… I am not responsible for other people’s choices and I refuse to be. I have carried the imagined burden of responsibility and I ended up with heart palpitations, so I stay far away from that one now.

Regardless of what happens, remember that now is the time when you will demonstrate exactly what love looks like. You can love someone and disagree with their choices. You can also love someone and place a boundary around what you are willing to discuss with them. So how do you love them well and keep your own sanity?

Two Options: Stay close or love from afar

Let’s pretend you (or others) have spoken to your friend and they didn’t listen and it’s so very frustrating. Why do they keep you around if they don’t value what you say? It might actually hurt too much to see them blindly or willingly walk into a bad decision.

You can choose to keep the door open, keep the communication flowing so that if and when they fall, they know you are a safe place. This will take time, patience and a loose grip. You won’t be the one to say “I told you so”. If you get the urge, just call that frustrated friend line I mentioned before and tell it to me 😉 I’d nod and say “Yep, you were right”. I will then encourage you to hold onto you empathy and know your limitations.

As upbeat as the song above is, there can be certain friendships which push you beyond your limits. May I suggest, if you can no longer stand it anymore, that you can actually love someone from afar. You don’t have to stay up-close to witness the mess of their life. It doesn’t mean you have stopped loving them, it’s ok to step back… it really is. You may need to start the slow pull back because it’s too hard to watch as they blindly walk into more seemingly obvious pain. It is totally fine to step back and it can be very wise.

Sometimes to love a friend and look after yourself you need to stay, and sometimes you need to leave.

At the end of the day I know that your heart is good and you want the best for your friend (seriously, you are reading about friendship). Hold onto your love no matter what you do. Hit me up for an imaginary phone call and I’ll validate all your frustrations while you navigate the best way forward in your friendships. Trust your instincts on how to move forward. You’ve got this.

Love Jess xxoo

Dear Lonely Soul

Dear Lonely Soul,

I thought I would write to you and let you know that I’ve been thinking of you this week. You see I know what it’s like to feel the way you do; I have been there. Of course our stories won’t be the same, but our hearts will have known the same sense of exclusion. That feeling you get of being alone in a room (or chat-room) full of people, I have felt this many times over too. I understand the sinking feeling of isolation and wondering if there is anyone who truly understands you. It is intimacy in friendship that you long for, not just surface conversation, but to have someone really ‘get you’ and be in your corner.

My own story stretches over the first three years of being a Pastor’s Wife and Youth leader, surrounded by people yet dying on the inside. I doubt many people outside of Tim and maybe my Mum would have known about it at the time. On the outside, I was connected and extroverted, on the inside it was a whole other story.

Take it from me, leadership can be very, very lonely; those people you see on the stage, they want authentic friendship too. The irony was that Tim and I were cultivating community on a weekly basis, trying to create a place where every teen could be known and belong. I loved connecting with the teens who most would consider on the ‘outer’, because I understood them; I never quite fit either.

Lonely heart, I know you are in your story right now. I know the crushing feeling, the ache in the heart that won’t go away; the desire to know and to be known is strong. To have people love you for your thoughts, not just your edited actions is so releasing.

I know what it’s like to have these heartfelt desires. Oh, how I know it. Ironically, you are not alone in your loneliness. It’s something that many people, regardless of their age, stage or location experience. It is surprisingly more common than we think.

I cannot walk your journey for you and the truth is that for many of you, I won’t even be able to walk it with you. I can’t not give you those relationships that you desire, but I will give you three thoughts from my ‘lonely years’ which might be helpful:

Persevere Lonely Soul

I had two people tell me this during my own three years of loneliness. Any time I felt the desperation overwhelming my soul, I would remind myself to persevere. I have a love/hate relationship with the word, because perseverance is not enjoyable or ‘sexy’, it is necessary. May it be your source of strength as it was mine.

Ask for a friend

The second thing I learnt was to ask for and keep looking for friends. I asked God over and over for friends whom I could be my true self with. It took a while for them to come, two years in fact from when I first asked, but eventually He brought me a Liz, and a Jess and a Bec. The perfect friends for that season. They become my life-line and I am still grateful for them to this day. Bizarrely I had already known these ladies for years, but it just seemed to be the right time for our friendship to change and become closer. I didn’t even realise they were there until God opened my eyes and I opened my heart. So if you currently believe in God or not I would encourage you ask Him, ask Him for friends today and I will ask for you as well.

You are not forgotten

One of the big lies is that you are invisible – both humankind and God have forgotten about you. Well that is not true, you are still seen even in this season. This post may be the very sign you need right now.

Lonely heart, God won’t stop talking to me about you, prompting me to pray for you, asking me to reach you through the screen and through your tears and say that YOU ARE SEEN. He wants you to know that He hasn’t forgotten about you and that he cares so much about your soul. There is nothing wrong with you, it’s ok to be different. Your ‘people’ are coming. Persevere.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

It is a difficult place you find yourself in and I can’t bring myself to offer empty platitudes as they won’t fill your heart. However, as someone who has been there I can offer you hope instead. In your loneliness today, you happened to read these words and I trust you realised that you are not alone. God (the universe or whatever) is reaching for you right now to lift your heart. I am praying for you and believing that God will bring people your way or open your eyes to undeveloped friendships. Persevere Lonely Soul as I did, this moment in time is not the sum of your whole life.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – This song (although old now) was one I used to sob to on repeat – it was God’s promise to me.

Breaking up with Ideal Jess

This is a break-up story.

One of my biggest personal struggles is against perfectionism, or perhaps more accurately, comparison to my Ideal self. Ideal Jess is wonderful on paper, so I do understand why I have held onto her for so long. She is gorgeous, very funny, never says the wrong thing, is highly intelligent and articulate but is also still very relatable. Ideal Jess makes everyone else feel at ease as she is at ease within herself. She can also sing, paint and write effortlessly, in fact she is naturally talented at everything. You name it and Ideal Jess can do it, be it, face it and overcome it.

I desperately want to be her at times. Other times I know I wouldn’t like her at all, she would intimidate the hell out of me.

I have this perfect version of who I should my head and I often punish myself for not being her.

I was holding myself hostage to the impossible. I was trying to be someone I was not—but even worse, someone I could never be.
– J. S. Park

I was recently given the opportunity to review a book before its release and the timing couldn’t have been better. Have you ever had those? It was the right book, with the right words, at the right time. In his book The Voices We Carry, author J.S. Park unpacks eight types of voices that we hear in our heads and one of them was self-condemnation. By giving examples from his own life, I recognised myself in his words and I’ve gotta say, I really was seriously impacted and changed. I realised I was still (after all this time) in a toxic relationship with my Ideal Self, continually comparing myself to her. I was in love with the idea of her far too much.

All those demands and expectations and absurd parameters needed to be laid down. I needed to mourn my “best self.”
– J. S. Park

Yes, improvement and growth are important to me, but I was measuring my own progress against Ideal Jess, not against who I really am. I was Eve in the book of Genesis holding the forbidden fruit, desperately reaching for equality with God and trying to be perfect like He is. The main problem was that my reality was far away from Ideal Jess and realising that constantly left me feeling like an ashamed failure.

… If I could lay down my idealized self and embrace my limitations, I could learn to like the person I really was and figure out where I needed help. Maybe then I could fail without it crushing me. Maybe then I’d feel like less of an impostor, because I wasn’t trying to be everybody’s idea of what I should be. Maybe then I could quit running myself ragged up the side of a cliff called perfection. I could even enjoy my own success once in a while.
– J. S. Park

I love how growth comes when you least expect it. Reading J. S. Park’s book was a catalyst for me to experience a deeper level of understanding and breakthrough in perfectionism. I love how God in his kindness and gentleness, uncovers things when I’m ready. I felt free when I worked through this stuff with Him, not condemned (which I would have in the past). I was ready to breakup with Ideal Jess.

And so, we broke up.

Perhaps sometimes I will be tempted to reach out and compare myself to her, but now I’m aware that it’s a toxic relationship that I definitely don’t want to let back in.

Since ‘the break-up’ I have experienced subtle but beautiful changes in my thoughts and actions. I have allowed my mind to be at ease when I ponder things like purpose and legacy. Instead of feeling disappointed, I feel inspired. Instead of feeling like a failure, I feel secure in where I am on my journey. I am settled in my skin.

I share all this with you dear reader because it can be encouraging and enlightening to see someone else’s journey. The decision and willingness to challenge long-held ideas can be uncomfortable, but absolutely worth it. Feel free to be inspired by my imperfections. 🙂

Plus let’s be honest, everyone loves a dramatic break-up story, as long as it’s someone else’s. 😉

Love Jess xxoo

PS – I originally stumbled across J.S Park through the WordPress Reader and man, I thank God that I did.

Today your name is Courage

Courage (noun):

Oxford defintion

  1. The ability to do something that frightens one; bravery.
    “she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”
  1. strength in the face of pain or grief.
    “he fought his illness with great courage”

Cambridge definition
The ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation:

I have been thinking about courage recently. How do we encourage people when they most need it and what words, thoughts and actions rouse that fighting response within us? What words could I say that would lift your spirit and cause you to realise that you can face what you are facing? As you look at big changes or a difficult situation, is there some arrangement of words that will cause you to believe that you can do this? I really feel like there is someone who needs an injection of courage today – don’t we all.

Today dear reader, if you will allow me… I’m going to change your name to Courage. Today, your very identity (the name that you will be known by), is the very word you so need in this session. Today, you ARE “the ability to control fear in the face of difficult situations”. It is who you will be today and I will join you and also be called Courage. Together we will remind ourselves that courage is in our very human nature and is fused into our DNA. If you don’t feel it right now let me call out of you, it’s a part of you and it is there. If you need to, visualise wrapping it around you like a blanket or donning it like a cape.

Dear reader-in-need, you can do this. Whatever you are facing, there is courage in you yet and with gritted teeth you will get there, one step at a time. Courage is the big breath in and the realisation that you can and will take the next step. You are courage today. I know I have written about bravery and similar topics before, but I know you need to see these words today. Heck, sometimes I need to see them hourly! So, I am on your side right now in this moment; the little cheer squad in your corner 🙂 I treasure you. I see you. Today, your name is Courage.

Love Jess Courage xxoo

PS – Yessssa