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Maintaining relationships

Maintaining relationships

I spent my morning having breakfast with a friend. It was long overdue. While we have been friends since second grade, we often go months without getting together. But what makes our friendship special to me is that we can pick up where we left off.

We have celebrated each other’s joys and cried together during our darkest days.

Just recently I was reading an article that talked about the basic need for belonging and connection in our lives. Apparently, connection is just as important to our emotional health as it is to our physical health.

I feel like I should know the consequences of neglecting friendships, given my work in community. But yet, in my busy life, time with my friends is one of the first things that I give up. Repeatedly.

Brene’ Brown, Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and author of several books on social connection says “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

We need friends that will walk beside us when life is hard. Anne is one of those friends for me. So is Jane, Becky and Susan.

In fact, I love the idea of friends lifting us up in prayer so much that a few months ago, I asked four of my closest friends to be my prayer shield.

“A prayer shield is a prayer covering provided by intercessors who are gifted in prayer as prayer warriors.” (mediaassets.imb.org) They commit to pray consistently for me.

These are my friends listen to my deepest needs and without judgment stand with me in every season. In exchange I pledge to pray them.

I can’t even begin to explain what a difference this has made in my relationships. In the season of Thanksgiving, my prayer shield is at the top of my list.

However, I’m learning every healthy relationship needs boundaries and in the spirit of “No-November”, I’m beginning to set some limits to keep me from becoming a resentful, negative person. I’ve also learned from my healthy friends that it is easier to be uncomfortable for thirty seconds than to become bitter.

In preparation for the holidays here is a list that might help you say “no."

1. I’m sorry I’m busy.

2. Thank you for thinking of me. I really wish I could.

3. I’d love to, but I’m already overcommitted.

4. Unfortunately, that’s not something I can do at this time.

5. No thanks.

6. I’m already booked.

7. Maybe next time.

8. I wish I could, but I just can’t.

9. Sorry, I can’t help you at this time.

10. I don’t think I’m the right person to help with that.

11. Sounds fun, but I’m not available.

12. That’s not going to work for me.

(Believe me when I say that this is more for me. I plan to tattoo it on my arm. Just kidding.)

My personal favorite is something a friend shared. “If I say “yes” to you, I have to say “no” to something else. Most likely my family and I’m not willing to do that.”

What are you saying “yes” to in your life? I hope it’s friends and family, with rich connections, but if it’s not, what are you planning to say “no” to in the future.

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