Friday, May 20, 2011

Love in a Time of Friendship Challenges

by Lynne M. Baab

It’s 3 a.m. I’ve just rolled over for the fourth time. My busy mind won’t let me get back to sleep. I finally give up trying to find a comfortable position and, instead, try to figure out what’s going on inside.

A friend is on my mind. I cuddle into the warm blankets and review our recent interactions, trying to tease out the problem that’s keeping me awake. After a while, I resort to a tried and true method of analysis. I recite 1 Corinthians 13 in my mind and try to figure out where and how I can show love more effectively to my friend.

I memorized 1 Corinthians 13 when I was a young woman. What a gift it has been to have that passage tucked away in my brain, available for reflection during long waits at stop lights and sleepless nights like this. Paul’s words have shaped me, helping me to grasp deep inside that obsessing about the ways I am not being honored, respected or shown love in various relationships will not bear good fruit. The model of Jesus and the nudge of the Holy Spirit urge me to grow in acting like a friend, which means acting in love.

Gary Chapman’s five love languages have been helpful in learning to show love to friends. My primary love language is quality time, but some of my friends feel loved most profoundly when they receive gifts, compliments, hugs or acts of service. I need to take opportunities to show love in the ways that they prefer.

Whatever their love language, everyone likes to be heard. In today’s myriad of communication options, it takes a conscious effort to learn how best to listen to friends. Some of my friends don’t return my email messages, but they are active on Facebook. In order to “listen” to them, I need to look at what they are posting on Facebook and comment with affirmation and affection, or perhaps phone them in response to what they have posted there. Other friends are dedicated bloggers, and “listening” to them includes reading their blogs and responding to the thoughts and concerns they post.

In today’s ever-changing world, people of all ages use a variety of means of communication to go deeper with friends. Often depth comes when we show love. The love passages of the New Testament, (such as 1 Cor. 13) encourage us to keep our focus on our commitment to show love, rather than stewing about the ways people do (or don’t) show love to us. When friendships get stuck, sometimes the pattern can be shifted by the choice each of us make to show love in meaningful ways.

Lynne M. Baab’s most recent book, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World has received strong endorsements and reviews. Lynne is the author of numerous books, including Sabbath Keeping and Reaching Out in a Networked World. Visit her website ( for reviews and other information about her books. She is a Presbyterian minister with a PhD in communication from the University of Washington, currently a lecturer in pastoral theology in Dunedin, New Zealand.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that you pointed out that reading a blog or keeping up with someone on facebook shows love to that some particular friend. I have been blogging for years and I still have friends (close friends) who always say, "Oh I don't read those. I don't have time." I've never said anything, but now I realize it's as if they have said to me, "Oh, I really don't care about what you think or write about because I'm too busy to see what's going on in your world."

    Relationships in a virtual world are sure different than the relationships I had with friends growing up in the 70's and 80's.

    Thanks for the insightful post.