Open your heart, with God’s help.
Don’t close your heart off to people God wants you love. If you’re having trouble acting loving toward a difficult person, ask God – the source of all love – to help you by giving you the love you need for her. Be aware of how people press your fear buttons through their words and actions. Once you identify how they trigger fear in you, talk with them honestly about it, with the goal of sharing a loving conversation that will enlighten you both and draw you closer together. Constantly keep your heart open to receive God’s love so you can love your friends as He intends.
Set and respect healthy boundaries.
Pursue healing from any past wounds that are affecting your ability to build current relationships in healthy ways. Reflect on your emotions and what words and actions trigger them so you can understand how to express them at appropriate times and in ways that are most helpful to you and your friends. Make sure that your physical expressions of affection honor God and bless your friends rather than making them uncomfortable. Recognize that God has created you to be unique. Don’t try to become like your friends; embrace your own identity with confidence.
Embrace differences between yourself and your friends.
Accept the fact that you and your friends have different personalities and approaches to life. Realize that, instead of causing you to grow apart, your differences can actually improve your friendship if you respond to them wisely. Let go of attempts to change your friends and address frustrations and unmet expectations as they occur. View the differences between you as gifts rather than annoyances. Bring out the best in each other by inviting God to use the differences between you to teach you to love in deeper ways. Ask God what He is trying to accomplish by pulling you and your friends together, and keep His purposes in mind as you work through your differences.
Avoid behaviors that erode the trust that must be the foundation of a safe friendship, such as: gossip, criticism, competitiveness, blaming, manipulation, an unwillingness to confront about issues, jealousy, too much emotional intensity, jockeying for position within a group of friends, and talking instead of listening. Create safety in your friendships by allowing each other to open up with each other and share your true thoughts and feelings. Honor each other by recognizing each other’s value. Realize when your fear buttons have been pushed, and learn how to manage your emotions so they don’t control you. Be willing to seek forgiveness when you’ve hurt your friends. Speak encouraging words to your friends.
Avoid screaming, yelling, threats, and other unhealthy behaviors during disagreements.
Create ground rules for your friendships that make it clear what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Be willing to confront your friends whenever you believe they have wronged you.
Learn how to listen well (be empathetic, summarize what was said to make sure you heard it correctly, ask open-ended questions that lead to deeper sharing, and validate your friend’s feelings even if you don’t agree with them). Rather than harboring negative beliefs about your friends, acknowledge that your perceptions might be wrong and give your friends the benefit of the doubt until you can visit with them to discuss your concerns. Don’t make negative comments about other people in front of your friends when those people aren’t present to defend themselves; know that if you refrain from doing so, your friends will trust you not to speak critically about them when they’re not present.
Take responsibility for what you choose to believe about your friends and how you choose to communicate with them; don’t blame your friends for your own choices.