Overcoming the Anxiety of Authentic Friendship

I have found navigating sisterhood within the church comes with its own form of anxiety. I know for me, like many, I wasn’t sure the women of the church would really accept me …ALL of me! The old, the new, and the God ain’t done with me yet versions of myself. With everything I had been exposed to in my life, I was in fear of unmasking. When graced with casual conversation in the church, I was always blessed and highly favored. I neglected sharing everything that didn’t appear to fit the ordained role of a believing woman.

For a long time, I had one foot in and one foot out based on the anxiety and fear that bound me from being authentic. So, I am one foot in the church cultivating change but one foot outside the church with my girl gang still completely out of control. I played the role for a long time until the role could not be played anymore. The things that I was finding myself involved in had to be exposed.

As my husband and I looped into church leadership and started on a journey to holistic healing God’s way, I knew my circle had to change. I praise God for the small groups I participated in and the courageous women in them that opened up and shared their not so together lives. It was in that setting I started to share authentically.

The first time I opened up I shared just a little to see if there would be that look of judgment flashing across anyone’s face. But as I continued to speak, I saw how my small trial of honesty was being rewarded as others broke their silence on an even deeper level! I also began to notice the signs of those yearning for true connection. “Alright, okay, maybe this could be the beginning of a beautiful sisterhood” I thought. Over the course of time, as I opened up more, I continued to allow myself to go deeper and deeper. What I found is when one woman let down her walls, it created a chain reaction. Throughout group, we passed our stories around, knowing that they were safe to reveal and understood by everyone involved.

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 NLT

Suddenly, you’re in this space where in sharing your story, you find healing. In sharing your story, you find those with similarities to you. In finding those with commonalities, you form a bond that matures outside of the group setting. Not only did they discover who they really were, where they really came from, and how they got to where they are, but I did too!

The depth of my story I save for people who are aching for connection as much as I am –the ones whose eyes show gentleness, who show no judgment, and who speak with genuine interest. To those people, the answer I give isn’t the polite watered-down version, but a raw unfolding of my history. The beauty of this dialog is it starts an exchange where I show my scars and others show me theirs. I am learning there is no such thing as too much information in this sort of interaction because they’re seeking true connection as much as I am, not a filtered or prettied up version.

The key to any type of relationship is genuine communication. Our stories aren’t as simple as our occupations or our birthplaces. They aren’t neat, they are linear progressions from one choice to the next. Oftentimes we are catapulted from one circumstance to the next, driven by changes we couldn’t have foreseen or somehow overlooked. Our greatest fear as humans is that of being rejected, so we can feel very vulnerable when we put ourselves out there.

Here are some truths. Nearly everyone I meet wishes they had more meaningful connections in their lives. Nearly everyone hates the beginning stages of building those relationships with near strangers as they often are filled with small talk, awkward moments, uncertain feelings, and lots of nervous energy. But there is no other way to get to those deep and meaningful places with people without going through these stages.

Yes, there can be a time of anxiousness while you are building these connections. You are not alone! Even the most outgoing, beautiful, confident, and successful women among us deal with the initial anxiety of showing their vulnerability, leading to unknown places in new relationships. Trust isn’t built in a day. Every relationship starts with its own insecurities but finding the right balance where both persons are secure in sharing life together is so worth it. Give your best effort at the possibility of discovering real sisterhood!

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 NLT

In the end, the people who mean the most to us get the real stories –the deep, gritty stories of our journeys. But we’ll never make those connections if we don’t get out and get involved. Join a small group within your church, TLM’s Community-wide Bible Study, or go out to various social events. The end goal is valuable enough to put up with some uncomfortable moments in order to get there.

It’s impossible to have close bonds if we don’t invest in them. I leave you with a beautiful quote by Brené Brown:

Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness.

Written by Stacha Ashburn

Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


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