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Friendship skills: Giving, asking, noticing and thanking

Lynne Baab • Thursday June 28 2018

Friendship skills: Giving, asking, noticing and thanking

Giving in friendship can involve providing help in a variety of ways. Giving includes presents. In the broadest sense, all acts of kindness in friendship are gifts: listening carefully, sending a card or message expressing sympathy, or accepting that a friend is experiencing extraordinary challenges at work and won’t be able to spend time together for a while. Acts of initiative can also be viewed as gifts of friendship: reaching out to someone who is new in town or new on the job, or sharing a vulnerable feeling with a friend to indicate they can do the same with you. Offering forgiveness after being hurt may be one of the biggest gifts a friend can give.

Misunderstandings in friendship can arise when two people give gifts to each other in different ways. One of them buys presents and the other one tries to give the gift of practical help or a listening ear. A discussion of languages of love can be illuminating.

I have observed that people who have a rich circle of friends have learned the friendship skills of asking for help and giving a variety of gifts. They have also learned the significance of thanking the people who help them or give to them in any way. My understanding of the significance of asking for help in friendship has been influenced by my own growth in thankfulness.

For more than 15 years I have been giving special focus to thankfulness in my prayers. That focus has forced me to pay more attention to the good gifts God has given me in daily life. Noticing what God is giving me has spilled over to noticing what people are giving me. Noticing, and then expressing thanks, are great intimacy builders, both with God and with friends.

David Stendl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, wrote a book on thankfulness in prayer that lays out the way that giving and thanking build intimacy. In Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer, he writes:

Why is it so difficult to acknowledge a gift as a gift? Here is the reason. When I admit that something is a gift, I admit my dependence on the giver. This may not sound that difficult, but there is something within us that bristles at the idea of dependence. . . . When I acknowledge a gift received, I acknowledge a bond that binds me to the giver. [1]

When we ask for help in any form, we are asking for someone to give us something. We’re asking for a gift. Asking for a gift implies that we are depending on the giver, that we are dependent people. Thanking the person for the gift reinforces that dependence. When we thank the giver for that gift, we acknowledge the bond between us. Bonds between people are a form of dependence, and acknowledging our need for those kinds of bonds requires that we relinquish some of our pride in our own self-sufficiency.

I mentioned Daniel’s mother last week, who didn’t tell her family about a serious illness. She couldn’t face the idea that she might be dependent on another person, therefore she couldn’t ask for help. She missed out on the bond that forms between people when they give gifts to each other and express gratitude to each other.

Stendl-Rast believes that this bond that develops between giver and thanksgiver helps us understand the significance of gratitude in prayer. I have discovered his word to be true as I have grown in willingness to engage in prayers of thankfulness. Prayers of thankfulness acknowledge our dependence on God. Taking the time to notice all the ways God has blessed us and cared for us nurtures our relationship with God, because with each prayer of thankfulness we acknowledge that we need God.

(Next week: We belong together. Illustration by Dave Baab. If you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog, sign up under “subscribe” in the right hand column.)

This post is excerpted from my book, Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World. To learn about what the book covers, look here. I have several boxes of the book and I am hoping to sell them at low cost to people to use in groups. Every chapter ends with discussion questions, and numerous groups have used the book and told me it generated great discussion.

Here are prices for the United States, including postage:
     5 copies - $25
     10 copies - $40
     15 copies - $55
     20 copies - $70
Contact me at my email LMBaab[at] if you’d like to order books, or if you’d like to get prices for New Zealand, which are sadly much higher because overseas postage is so much.

[1] David Stendl-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer (New York: Paulist Press, 1984), 15-16.

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