The gift of a friend who tells you the truth (& when your boots need polishing…)

Last Sunday, a man in our church took me by the side after our communion meal and said:

“I’m going to tell you something that my dad always told me.”

“Oh really?” I asked, curious as to what he’d say.

“Always keep your boots polished,” he smiled.

I looked down at my brown cowgirl boots that I’ve had now for four years and haven’t polished even once.

“Oh yeah, they do need polishing, huh?” I said.

I looked at his black boots and they were in great shape.

That was all the conversation entailed. The funny thing is that I could’ve taken offense to his comment or been embarrassed but I knew better than that. He was telling me the truth as my elder and someone I admire and respect.

That encounter reminded me of the precious gift of truth-tellers in our lives. The book of Proverbs talks a lot about being cautious of the friend that only speaks flattery to you with their lips. That only tells you what you want to hear- not what you need to hear, sugarcoating reality.

A true friend will openly correct you from a genuine, caring heart (Proverbs 27:5-6). You can trust this kind of friend because ultimately, she cares for you and has your best interest at heart. She’s looking out for you and wants success and blessing in your life.

But, ouch, correction isn’t fun! It really stings initially. Our pride wants to protect the places we’d prefer to not let anyone know about. The places we’d rather not have a friend check in on. How we’re:

  • respecting and loving our husbands?
  • treating our children with kindness?
  • practicing self-control in eating, drinking, social media, Netflix, Instagram and more?
  • using our time, talents, and treasure for God’s kingdom and not the kingdom of self?
  • sharing the gospel and love of Christ with those God has put in our path?
  • controlling our tongue from gossip and listening to gossip?
  • using our words to build others up, and not tear down?
  • stewarding all the resources and gifts God has given?

I’m grateful for how God has used friends in my life over the years to sharpen and encourage me in my faith when I was teetering and open my eyes to behaviors and habits I didn’t see. I thank God for friends who’ve shown me scriptures about why I can’t put my hope in the things of this world, but I can in Christ alone. He’s used friends to help strengthen my marriage and my relationship with my kids and to remind me of his goodness when I was falling short on grace. He’s used friends to show me love and not condemnation (after already beating myself up a thousand times).

A friend that corrects you is one of the greatest gifts you could ever have in your life. Thank the Lord for her. Be that kind of friend in return – one who doesn’t simply hide what needs to be said but will tell the truth in love from a genuine and caring heart.

And by all means, if your boots need polishing too, go spoil yourself!

Blessings,

Samantha

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. She is the author of  Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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The Social Media Comparison Struggle

Comparison-is-the-thief-of-joy

Last week I met with my friend Katie for evening coffee at our local Starbucks. We’ve known each other for almost seven years. She’s one of the most gifted people I know. She started her own Etsy shop that’s grown to be very successful, her entire home looks like a Pinterest explosion, she takes breathtaking photos, she’s a talented blogger, gifted thrifter, DIY crafter, creates amazing design work, and has two strikingly adorable kids and a hard working husband.

Basically anything Katie puts her heart to, she gets it done very well. What I love most about her is her love for Jesus and ministry. I also love that she makes me gut laugh.

While she sipped on her hot chocolate and I nursed my tea latte, we got on the topic of comparing ourselves to our friends on Facebook and Instagram.

“Yeah, I look at all the activities my friends are doing with their kids each day and then I think about what I’m not doing and feel like being at home is not enough,” she said.

I didn’t know she struggled with comparisons too. I mentioned how I’ve been working on a writing project that has kept me more distant from social media and how the break has been nice. I’ve felt more content.

“But, you know, I’ve compared myself to you too,” I told Katie. “I look at my house and wish I was as talented as you to decorate mine like yours… I’m nowhere near as gifted as you are!”

We laughed and talked about how there are two sides to every story and agreed how hard it is not to compare yourself to your friends. Facebook news feeds and Instagram photos are usually filled with the highlights of life – rarely the struggle. And these are your friends, not just random people. These are friends you love and care for.

In news feeds you don’t typically read, My amazing husband surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and a night at a hotel and then we got into a knock-down, drag-out fight the next week. 

You don’t see videos of your friends’ kids being defiant, disobedient, and calling names. You don’t see deep-seeded thoughts about loneliness or depression. You don’t see sweat pants, unbrushed hair, and no make-up. You don’t see tears, anger, and exhaustion. You don’t see spiritual warfare or a crisis of faith. Or real battles with this or that struggle. There are just some issues that need to be kept private but that’s another blog post.

We have to be really careful about what we assume. Numerous times, I’ve been tempted to think a friend’s life is better or perfect, free of struggles. Many times I’ve grown discontent with my own life or felt insecure. This can all happen in person too so it’s more a matter of the heart:

Am I satisfied with all the blessings God has given me and where He has me? Am I truly thankful? Can I celebrate others rather than compare? Am I running to God to meet all my needs?

We’re still going to use social media outlets but since they aren’t the full picture of reality, I think we can have a better perspective on the affect it it has on our relationships. Here are 5 practices I’ve found helpful:

1.) Invite others into your story- the beautiful and broken. Most of us value connecting with friends in an honest way. Don’t be afraid to post photos of your mountain of laundry, trials, ways you’ve failed or lessons learned. Your friends will relate and most people like to know they aren’t the only ones who struggle.

2.) Praise the gifts and talents you see in your friends. We’re called to encourage and edify one another. If you see a gift active and alive in your friend, praise it and celebrate it. Help her draw out her gifts so she can serve others better and help make a difference in this world. She may never know she has the gift until you recognize it. A little praise can go a long way.

3.) Invest in relationships right where you are. Be intentional about getting together with the friends you have close by in real life. Chances are you’ll see the full story and will be less likely to compare so much. You’ll realize that no one has it all together and you’ll be thankful for the strengths you do have. You may have the opportunity to encourage a hurting friend and be encouraged yourself.

4.) If it’s a stumbling block, cut it off. It’s great to keep up with friends online, but as mentioned above, if you notice heart or sin issues arising like covetousness, ungratefulness, unhealthy comparisons, extreme lows, or starting to get too attached or addicted, cutting it off and taking a break will serve you well and help set you free from the struggle.

5.) Confess your comparison struggles. It’s hard to be honest but it was good to tell Katie I had been comparing myself to her and other friends. She was the first to be open and that encouraged me to be more vulnerable. We also learned that we’re not alone. When we confess we acknowledge it’s not right to be consumed with comparisons because it steals the abundant life that God desires for us to have.

Our relationship with Christ and each other is much more valuable than being caught up in comparison struggles so it’s definitely worth fighting against them in order to maintain love, joy, and oneness in our relationships.

Why You Need Others to Speak Truth Into Your Life

Recently, I tried on some black pants to go with my new black glittery TOMS that I got for my birthday. I looked in the mirror and felt pretty good about the pants.

I opened the dressing room door and took a good look in the big mirror. I asked the college-aged girl a few feet in front of me if she would give me her honest opinion about my pants. She stared at them for a while and said:

“I don’t LOVE them. You know, you and me, we kind of have short legs, and I don’t know. I don’t LOVE them.”

I was a little surprised by her response but took in what she was saying.

“Okay, yeah, thanks for being honest. I really appreciate it.”

She nodded her head and went back into her dressing room. My pride was a little crushed but I loved her honesty.

The black pants I had on were skinny jeans and I happened to have several pairs in my closet that I wear regularly. I went back into my dressing room and took a harder look in the mirror. I discovered that the black pants really weren’t flattering on me. And none of the skinny jeans I’d owned fit that t.i.g.h.t.!

The college girl was right after all.

The more I live my life, the more grateful I am to have others who will tell me not just what I want to hear, but who will tell me the truth in love. Even if it stings a little. Okay, a lot.

Because when we know the Truth, it guides us closer to healing.

Let me share a story.

One of my closest friends, Julia, and her husband Jay, were over for dinner at our place one night several years ago. We were laughing and having a good time. But in the course of our time together, at one point, my actions and tone of voice were very disrespectful to my husband Jeremiah.

The evening carried on and before Jay and Julia were about to leave, Julia approached me one on one and said she noticed my behavior and how it made Jeremiah look bad. In a loving, caring way, she helped open my eyes to my sin.

It hurt deeply to hear her words. I felt exposed and it was humbling. But I was able to tell her flat out that I struggled with disrespect and not knowing how to communicate my frustrations with my husband.

Julia encouraged me to talk to Jeremiah and really work on that area in my life. I asked her to hold me accountable. I knew how serious it was to find healing from this sin in my marriage.

Her willingness to speak truth into my life brought me closer to grappling with my sin and fighting it.

Over the years, I often remember that life-changing evening and as a wonderful friend, Julia has consistently held me accountable and I appreciate how open our relationship is. While I’m still imperfect at times, I’ve been able to see my sin clearer and make the necessary changes to build up our marriage, instead of tearing it down.

Indeed, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is our ultimate healer, but by His grace He chooses to use other people in our life to help fashion us more into his image.

Are you speaking the truth to those you love? Are you allowing them to tell you the truth? Maybe you have a story of your own…

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Prov. 27:17


Community for the Soul

walk_with_flowersYesterday our best friends, Jay and Julia came over for a surprise visit. They brought John a Valentine’s gift- two really cute t-shirts for his little body. Julia and I catched up on life and the guys talked about finances and you know, guy stuff. Our relationship with them is so wonderful because we both get along so well as a couple and separately: me and Julia and Jeremiah and Jay. Through them and our community group at Watermark, we’ve learned so much about authentic community.

Being in real community where struggles are revealed, sin issues, hurts, habits, hang-ups and the like is a real rarity in our culture today and especially in the church. We’ve become more isolated. I think the Baptist church I went to as a teen meant well, but there were some issues when it came to being honest. I don’t remember feeling the freedom as a teen to share my problems for fear of rejection. That kind of fear is a tragedy in the church because real healing comes from being real and not pretending to have it all together.

What I also love about authentic community is that friendships are taken to a deeper level and accountability becomes a must. The meaning of unconditional love really becomes reality as well. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, you’re loved regardless and you’re spurred on by someone else who really cares.

When Jay and Julia left, Julia texted me and said “So good to see you. Those visits are SO good for the soul.” I couldn’t agree more.

So how has being in community been good for your soul?

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