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Holistic Friendship

Have you been taking your Vitamin D?

The simplest questions are sometimes the most profound. A friend asked me this in passing as I described the “funk” I’d been feeling a few months ago as Alaska’s brief autumn turned icy.

What struck me about her simple question was, why hadn’t I thought of that? I know the importance of supplementing Vitamin D, especially during Alaska’s long, dark winter, and yet, what was quick to come to her mind as a health-care worker hadn’t even occurred to me.

This is why we are so much better together.

Friends, this is why we are so much better together. We each have unique gifts given by God, particular personalities, and special skills afforded us by life experience, careers, and hobbies. At our best, we can use these unique bents toward various aspects of our friendships to love our people well and in ways for which other friends aren’t equipped.

Leaning into these tendencies in how we care for our friends can be so powerful. This might look like being the “nurse friend” who fields your paranoid midnight medical questions. I’m sure that can get old, but as someone who is NOT that friend, I am so thankful for the friends who are willing to care for and love me by answering my silly and serious medical questions to the best of their ability.

Or maybe this looks like being the friend who is great at getting outside and staying active. For friends who struggle with this, your motivation and inspiration to get outside is vital inertia for which they are so thankful!

For the hostess friend who is always up to be the gathering place, the planner friend who doesn’t mind figuring out the logistics, or the thoughtful friend who starts the meal trains or brings surprise coffee…we need you and your unique gifts!

And yet, as fun and fulfilling as it feels to love our friends from our sweet spot, I think there’s room for growth here too. When we recognize our natural gifts when it comes to how we love our people, we can both lean into those giftings and at the same time be aware of the biases they create.

If you’ve ever done any study on frameworks such as the “Five Love Languages” or the Enneagram, you know your friends are diverse people who give and receive love differently than you do. And while there’s nothing wrong with loving someone the way you most naturally demonstrate that you care, I see such potential for growth in our friendships when we start to lean into how our friends most need to be loved over how we most naturally show it.

Your friends are diverse people who give and receive love differently than you do.

An easy way to start recognizing these biases is through the perspective of people as three-fold: mind, body, and soul. In caring for our friends, we each lean most naturally toward one of these areas: mental, physical, or spiritual health.

This might be because of your job or passions, your story or traumas, or even your personality or upbringing. For example, if a mental health journey is a big part of your story, it wouldn’t surprise me if you are quick to want to give attention to the mental health of your friends. How cool! Or as a health-care worker, the first lens you consider during your day job is physical factors, so it’s hard to take that off when it comes to caring for your people too. Seriously, thank you. Perhaps you grew up immersed in church culture, so when troubles arise for your friends, you are quickest to offer help through avenues like prayer and faith conversations. So needed.

These natural leanings are gifts to be embraced, but it’s also healthy to be aware of the biases they can bring to the table. If I tend to only think about praying for my friend (obviously, so important!), I might neglect the opportunity to meet a pressing practical need too. If I only think of the physical stuff, I miss out on the opportunity to ask how my friend’s heart is doing.

We see Jesus practice this diversified perspective on loving others throughout his ministry, too. With some he was initially stern (Matthew 15:26), some so tender (Matt. 9:22). Some he immediately offered healing (Matt. 8:7), and to some he emphasized the state of their heart over the state of their body (Matt. 9:2). Jesus saw people and seemed to recognize their needs – the true needs of their heart – as priority over his own preferences, to the point where it feels impossible to paint Jesus into a corner regarding these categories. He seemed to access them all in how he loved.

And as we’re becoming more like Jesus and growing in our stickiness, so can we. I’ve got a little three-part quiz for you today to help you grow in loving your friends more holistically.

1. Which side of health do you most naturally think about?

Mental health, physical health, or spiritual health?

Think of it like this: If a friend tells you they’re struggling, what symptoms do you ask about first?

All are great aspects of health to consider, but whichever feels most like your go-to is probably where your heart’s at in regard to how you most naturally care for your friends. If you aren’t already viewing this tendency as a gift, start considering it as such! Your people need you to uniquely emphasize this particular area in your friendships.

2. Which side of health do you tend to think about least, both for yourself and with your friends?

Mental, physical, or spiritual? Of the example questions I asked above, which would you probably not think to consider?

This is not cause for shame, but it can serve to make us aware of our natural biases and areas in which we might be able to grow. Because here’s the thing: sometimes our friend doesn’t truly need what we first think to give, and that’s okay! But when we’re aware of our tendencies and actively seeking to really consider what our friend needs in this moment from us, not just what is easiest for us to offer, a whole new mindset toward loving people opens up to us.

Because at the end of the day, friendship isn’t about us. It’s about honoring God in how we serve and love others. I hope this framework of considering the three angles from which we all approach friendship might help you begin to diversify based on your friend’s need, not just what feels comfiest for you.

So let’s put this into practice…

3. What is one way you can love a friend in your weaker area this week?

For mental health, maybe this means you start a gratitude challenge with a friend and text each other each morning.

For physical, maybe you plan a walk, hike, or gym date with a friend you know needs this accountability.

For spiritual, maybe you commit to both reading Psalm 23 each day this week and texting each other a short prayer after reading each day.

Maybe it’s another incredible idea that only your unique combo of personality, past, and passion could dream up. Whatever it is, I know it’s going to matter to the friend whom it makes feel seen and loved this week.

Love ya, friend.

Your Sister, Kimber

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