A new friend of mine asked me recently if I had picked them as a “project friend.” I knew immediately what that meant, I’ve just never been asked that question before, point blank.
The “project friend”: a person one takes on for an undisclosed amount of time to guide them through, convict them of, and teach them things that they genuinely couldn’t receive anywhere else. (*sarcasm)
The “project-friender”: a person who frequently chooses to surround themselves with people who they perceive to need their help, and proceed to give their help throughout the relationship.
Everyone loves a good project friend.
Rephrase, us first-born, type-A personalities love a good project friend. We get to boss them, pinch them, squeeze them, and watch them grow. And sometimes, just SOMETIMES, we stay friends.
I’m a fixer. It’s what I do for a living. Think Olivia Pope of ABC’s “Scandal”, with a slightly less-fabulous tan. People pay me to boss them around, essentially. To tell them what’s wrong with the situation, and tell them what needs to be done to fix it. I give advice, compel people to action, and challenge them to find what’s buried deep down within them. How on earth does one keep that from permeating other areas of life?
Wrong question, lady. OF COURSE it’s going to seep through the cracks of one’s professional upstairs floor and end up all over the living room couch, but you can certainly control who sits on the couch, can’t you?
The right question is, how do you view your friends as peers? Equals? With each of you bringing to the table strengths and weaknesses that build, sharpen, and encourage each other? The right question is how do you do this for at least PART of the time.
Well, to start off with, ask the Father to SHOW you their worth. He gave His son to be murdered in their place, (and, need I remind you, your place as well) so I’m fairly certain that they mean a great deal to Him. What, that isn’t good enough for you?
There will be times when advice is needed of course, and God will put you in front of them, with the experience to give the advice, at that moment. Everyone is messed up, each in our own ways, and to varying degrees. You might need the advice next.
Another right question: WHEN DO YOU SHUT UP? Just because you have great advice to give (whose advice doesn’t sound perfect in their own heads, right?) might not necessarily mean that you need to deliver it yet, or ever.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV
It’s God who gives our words fruit, meaning, and a responsibility. Our advice is useless, unless God, in His infinite power, makes it effective. And so often, I myself become gravely convicted, taught, or encouraged myself through the giving of advice, whether it goes on to “help” the other person or not.
When my friend asked me this question, my reaction was so strong, I had to take a break from the conversation. WHY?
Hellooooo conviction. I do have a tendency to fix my friends. And what else is that skill than using your friends to make yourself seem or feel more relevant/powerful/important?
It’s PRIDE. At its simplest, and yet its deepest. As if I couldn’t possibly learn anything from this clearly inferior person.
Think back, to “that person” or “those people” in your life, who have been the most influential. Was this person or these people trying to fix you, change you, judge you? Not usually.
It was the person who was THERE FOR YOU. Just… there. Listening, giving advice when asked, and being open to what God was showing THEM through the experience.
That’s the kind of friend I want to be. That’s the kind of friend I’ve asked God to turn me into. That’s the kind of friend that I, just a few days ago, realized I am nothing like. Yet.