I once had a friend accuse me of only maintaining our friendship because I needed her to help me move in a few months. That accusation hurt. Upon reflection, I could see how she had perhaps come to this conclusion. The truth was that I was in a profoundly needy season of life. And the other truth is that we as people generally don’t have a super high tolerance for people who are needy.
Even those who thrive on helping people (looking at you, Enneagram 2s), don’t really love people who are very needy, especially for a long period of time. Many have a pretty good threshold for a needy sister. As Christian women we recognize Jesus’ call to help others and Paul’s echo of that when he says to “carry each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). But even the most patient and selfless among us eventually tire of giving without receiving. It’s not a healthy relationship dichotomy, and prolonged neediness on one side of the friendship can often lead to resentment, bitterness, and a broken relationship.
Last week I kicked off a series for the month of April about how we can be intentional about loving our sisters well this summer. I encouraged you to invite a younger sister, a sister on the fringe, and a sister who needs Jesus into your summer plans. But what happens when the sisters we know God has put on our hearts to love aren’t easy to love? How do we love well those sisters who are flaky or prickly or, as I mentioned above, so so needy?
Have you been there – in the position of trying to be a good friend to someone who is needy? I had been on the side of the giver before. I had experienced needy friends in the past and grown tired of them faster than I care to admit. So when my friend grew frustrated with me, although I was hurt, I did get it. No one likes being in the position of feeling used.
What I hadn’t really experienced before, however, was being the needy one. No, rather, I secretly prided myself on being very, very capable. See, in our culture, neediness is usually perceived as an extremely negative quality or situation. I propose that this is because of two things. First, American culture is profoundly individualistic, with one of the highest character attributes being an “I got this” attitude. America was built on a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality that remains ingrained in our psyche centuries later. Obviously, this grates against the gospel’s invitation to community and connectedness, making this a struggle for many American Christians.
The second reason I think we perceive neediness as a negative quality is because we have seen this abused. We can probably all think of a person in our lives who is always needing something, but really just needs to get it together themselves. Maybe it’s a sibling who always needs money, a friend who always needs something because she refuses to steward her resources wisely, or someone who always comes to you with their problems, expecting you to figure out the solution. This kind of neediness paints a bad picture of the idea and can definitely test our healthy boundaries, putting strain on relationships.
But I propose that there is a sister, perhaps she is in your life too, who is in a season of neediness. This is not the habitual inability to take care of oneself. This is the current situation of a sister who desperately needs your support, care, and help. She needs friends who give, not because they need equilibrium at every moment in a relationship, but because they love her as a sister made in the image of the God who gave everything for them when they were at their most needy. I know what this sister needs because, for the last year of my life, I have been this sister.
I have experienced the gamut of responses to my neediness during this past year of pregnancy, moving, birth, and the newborn stage. I have experienced the response I mentioned at the beginning of this post, and I have experienced profound, selfless, unassuming kindness and generosity from others. I have asked for advice from sisters I haven’t talked to in months. I have been fed countless times by friends without repaying the favor. I have had sisters do such unpleasant tasks for me, such as holding my screaming baby when I couldn’t, cleaning toilets, or scooping my dog’s poop. When all I had to give was a thank you, for many of my sisters, it miraculously seemed that was enough. And I am forever grateful, because I wouldn’t have made it without them.
The thing we must remember here, sisters, is that our friends who are in a season of neediness 1) don’t want to be there and 2) won’t be there forever. Trust that it is extremely difficult for them to ask for help when they know they have nothing to give in return. I think this is a quality that many of us would recognize in ourselves, but we expect the opposite from our sisters. Very few women, when asked “how can I help?” are ready with a response. If they are, they will probably only voice it if they are extremely secure in your friendship, and even then, it probably won’t be anything too troublesome. We know this would be true if we were the one being asked, so why do we pose that question to our sisters in a season of neediness?
Please, friends, dispose of such unhelpful pleasantries. Instead, I invite you to try some of these on next time you see a sister who is in need:
- “I’m getting coffee and want to drop one off for you. What’s your order?” (Bonus points if you already know her order, you sister boss!)
- “I’d love to make your family dinner for either Tuesday or Thursday night. Which works best for you guys?” Simple choices are best when a sister has much bigger problems on her plate. Don’t give her the option of whether she wants you to make dinner or not. She will certainly say, “Oh, thanks for offering, but we’re ok,” if you give her the chance. But if you don’t, she will still say no thank you if she really doesn’t want it. Giving a simple choice between which night of the week honors her schedule but also makes it easier for her to say a simple, “Thank you, Tuesday would be amazing.”
- “I’m running to Walgreens today and would love to swing by later to say hi. Is there anything I can grab for you while I’m there? You could just venmo me and save yourself a trip!” Making it not about her accepting free stuff, but about you taking an errand off her plate can be a huge blessing.
The second thing to remember as you’re trying to love your needy sister well is that she won’t be in this season forever. Love her extravagantly and without expecting anything in return, and I know it will bless her heart beyond measure. I know this because that is how I have felt this past year. I have been so blessed by so many sisters, some of whom I haven’t even known for that long, who have given and given and given to meet my needs. I keep trying to come up with a list of some examples, but then I think of something else someone else did, and I am just overwhelmed with gratitude. The list would be too long, and I would certainly forget something that, though I can’t remember it at this time, in the moment meant everything.
Friends, this is the heart of your sister who is in a season of neediness. I know it can be hard to love someone who is needy, and I absolutely advocate for boundaries when that is a character quality. However, for your sister who is just in a hard season, try your best to love her well. Love her even when it feels annoying. Love her in practical, tangible ways that make her load a bit lighter right now. Love her even when it feels like she should be doing better by now. Love her like Jesus loved you when you were most needy for him.
Love ya, friends.
Your Sister, Kimber
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