Being Real in a Shadowbox World – Friendships

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It was a hectic day in the ICU as I hurried to the medicine closet. The order for STAT potassium chloride (KCL) was urgent, and I grabbed the vial of KCL, withdrawing the correct amount.   Squirting the medication in the buretrol, I added IV fluid and started the infusion.  Hurriedly, I threw the vial into the waste basket.

As the vial left my hand, I realized something was wrong.  The container didn’t feel the same.  The neck of the bottle was fatter and shorter than I remembered from other KCL bottles.

Just to be sure, I picked it out of the wastebasket and read the label.  It wasn’t KCL.  I had just administered Pavulon.

Pavulon is used to cause paralysis.  Now I grant you, Pavulon is a wonderful drug when needed.  While on this medication, a ventilator breathes for the paralyzed patient. This patient wasn’t on a ventilator!

I stopped the pump, clamped the tubing, and dashed to the medicine room to discover how I had made this mistake.  There, next to the vials of KCL was a new shipment of Pavulon.  The vials were the same height, and both caps were yellow.   The only difference was the label and the size of the neck of the vials.

My supervisor was amazed that I had noticed the difference just by the size the bottle’s neck.

“If you handled as many bottles of KCL as I have in the last year, you would have noticed the difference also,” I assured her.

I was able to recognize the wrong vial because my hands had handled hundreds of the correct vials.  Bank tellers are taught to recognize counterfeit money, not by seeing or touching counterfeit money, but by handling the real thing.

In our relationships, we often fail to experience true friendships because we’ve never experienced genuine relationships.  We have no clue what we’re missing or where we are failing. We simply think this is the way friendships are.

Dictionaries tell us that being real is being genuine, authentic, factual, and bonafide.

There are some negative and positive examples in Scripture.  I find that’s a good place to go when I need wisdom or understanding about life, including relationships.

Leah and Rachel were sisters who rivaled for the affection of Jacob, their husband.  When Rachel wanted mandrakes that Leah’s son had picked, Leah bartered with Rachel: Jacob would spend the night in Leah’s tent.  Rachel and Leah’s relationship (or lack thereof) centered around one thing: Jacob. [Genesis 30:14-16]

Leah was plainer. Rachel was pretty and preferred by Jacob.  He didn’t attempt to help them work out their differences, and neither did they.

An authentic relationship would have affected not only them, but their offspring.  It’s obvious that Leah’s attitude toward Rachel affected her sons; why else did those brothers consider selling Joseph into slavery?!

(I’m not advocating polygamy. Allowing another woman to have sex with one’s husband didn’t seem to be an issue in their culture, or these sisters wouldn’t have given their maids to Jacob to bear more children.)

Rachel and Leah shared a culture and a common heritage, but they weren’t comrades. Their relationship missed all the ingredients of true friendship.  It wasn’t genuine, factual, authentic or bonafide. They spent their lives shadow-boxing and second guessing each other.  Isn’t it sad that Leah never knew the Messiah would come through her son instead of Rachel’s? They never understood the big picture.

If we only knew of Rachel and Leah, we could think their behavior is authentic friendship, but it isn’t.

Ruth and Naomi were connected because of their husbands, and both were widows.  Ruth was from a pagan background, yet she embraced her mother-in-law’s God.  Ruth refused Naomi’s encouragement to return to her own people and her own gods.  She wanted to belong to the people who belonged to Naomi’s God.

Ruth chose Truth over blood ties. She chose Truth over familiarity and comfort. She chose Truth because she wanted to belong to God. Because Ruth chose Truth, she chose Naomi, thus providing for her in a new, strange land. Even though Naomi was a bitter woman, Ruth kept giving. Jehovah made that difference in Ruth. When a person chooses Jehovah and Truth over family and friends, she is authentic and real. Ruth’s faith in Jehovah was the catalyst for authentic friendship.  Our Messiah came through the bloodline of this pagan girl!

Going from Fake to “Real”

 So how do we get from fake to “really real”? Skin Horse can tell you.

In the story The Velveteen Rabbit, the rabbit wants to know how to become real. After all, who doesn’t want to be real?

He asks Skin Horse, who has been in the nursery for a very long time. Skin Horse knows, because he is real.  One can tell that he’s real because his hair has been brushed off until there is only skin. He’s been used and abused and, at this point in his life, there’s nothing fake about him.

All the polish and shine is gone.  He’s down to the bare basics – and that’s what makes him real.

“The Rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real  happened to him. He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it [Real] without these uncomfortable things happening to him.”

Now, we know this story is pretend, and that stuffed animals don’t come to life. Yet there’s a lot of truth in this story about authenticity in relationships.

We can’t become real or authentic without uncomfortable things happening to us. We can’t learn how to do friendship without doing it – and that involves losing our facade.

Life is not a relationship playground of merry-go-round adventures, exotic slides with fun twists and turns, and swings that allow you to touch whichever tree you’d like with your toes. Life is a playground where we sometimes hop off the see-saw, leaving a friend high and dry. Life is a playground where we are sometimes pushed off the slide or shoved from a swing. We fail at being friends, and our friends fail us.  Because of that, we play shadowbox games with each other.

Our friends will betray us.  They will share confidences that we never intended to be shared.  They might talk about us or not understand us.  And because these things happen, we find ourselves distrusting and not being authentic.  In the pyramid of relationships, we sometimes betray our friends and protect our enemies.

David and Jonathan chose truth over loyalty.  Even though Jonathan knew that David would take his father’s throne, he was his friend. Jonathan had every “right” to be angry and jealous of David, except then he would have been angry with God. Rather than resenting God’s plan, he embraced it and became a friend to David in spite his father’s anger. He chose truth (God) over loyalty (his father).

When we can do what Jonathan did, we will become true friends. We’ll become authentic and real. We will be honest with ourselves and each other, and thereby be able to enjoy the best friendships. Sure, our fur might diminish and our skin will show, but we will be bonafide.

As women, we need to recognize that we are relationship-oriented people who need friends.  However, we need to find the right friends and become the right kind of friend.

Friendships need cultivation.  Don’t expect friendships from the past to continue today unless you stay connected and invest time in each other.  A friendship thrives when it’s kept current.  If you’re basing your friendship(s) only from years past and aren’t investing in the relationship now, then how can it be a genuine relationship?

Friendships need mutuality.  We can’t expect others to share their hearts and activities with us if we are secretive and evasive about ours.  We can’t expect our friends to help us when we’re in need if we’re not available to help others and take an interest in their lives. It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends with acquaintances, but a true friendship will be mutual.

Friendships need honesty.  Don’t use the adage, “I didn’t want to hurt her” as a reason for not speaking truth.  True friendship doesn’t shadowbox.  When distance comes between friends, we need to be honest about the root cause and bring that wall down before it becomes set in concrete.  We need each other and we need to speak into each other’s lives. [As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another Ps. 27:17]

Friendships need Truth. Choose Truth over loyalty.  Never defend someone or support them if what they are saying or doing is not in line with scripture.  Whether it’s your mom, your spouse, or a friend, don’t defend what you know is wrong.  We can choose Truth without tearing others down. Defending and supporting maintains our agreement.  Rather, choose Truth and share it honestly.  It’s the best way to be loyal to your friend.  Proverbs tells us, “Be righteous by not letting loyalty uproot truth.” (Proverbs 12:3 NIV)

Friendships need trust.If you can’t trust a friend to keep confidences, then perhaps you should change the level of friend you consider that person to be.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be her friend; but it might mean you’ll need to find someone else with whom to share your secrets; or it might mean that you need to speak to your friend about your lack of trust.  How else can your friend grow?   If you have friends who never share with you, consider whether or not you are guilty of betraying confidences.

Friendships take energy and variety.  As women, we can have many friends, but we can only handle a few best friends.  We should have an assortment of friends.  Some friends are fun to share a merry-go-round; others push us to do more and encourage the highest stretch on the swing.  Some friends will sit alongside us in the sandbox, helping us rebuild the broken castles in our lives.  Make sure you have an assortment of friends.

Authentic friendships don’t just happen. They take work and effort. Once we’ve experienced what is real, we won’t want to go back to shadowboxing.  Rather than pretending to be something we’re not, perhaps we should consider the type of friend we would like to have, and then work at becoming that kind of friend.

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