An Amazing Kind of Friendship that’s Worth the Risk

By Dr. Kathy Harkema & Dr. Linda Travelute


Ready, set, jump! That’s what was going through my mind as I was preparing myself mentally to jump off a 50-foot cliff and plunge into the bottom of a waterfall. My friend Kathy and I were in a remote part of Honduras on a missions trip, and there I was staring down into the cold turbulent water. I knew I had to jump far enough out to clear the rocks that were protruding from the mountain. As I was sizing up the risk and the possible pain that could be involved, I looked down below and could see my friend watching me with a look of confidence. I could hear her saying, “Yes, she will do it, she has no fear!” And guess what I was thinking of her… “She would never get up here and try this…what a wimp!” Of course I jumped, and it was worth the risk and pain because it was an exhilarating rush.

This is a great snapshot of what friendships sometimes look like. Awesome moments sprinkled here and there with some risk and pain…a part of most relationships. As you are about to see there are great rewards that unfold for those who are willing to plunge into the refreshing waters of closely connected friendships that last a lifetime. Sounds like something everyone would want, right? Not so fast. Would you be willing to risk jumping into a friendship that might involve commitment? Or, are you like most people who shy away from any type of friendship that would require something from you and may even be associated with some hurt and pain along the way? That was my friend Kathy’s story.

I couldn’t believe she jumped, or maybe I knew she would. That’s Linda for ya. She is courageous and loves to live life on the edge, like the edge of a cliff. She is so different from me. I like to play it safe and keep my feet on solid ground where things aren’t shaky.

However, there is something exciting about trying new things that seem hard to do. She did it, so maybe I could do it too. She inspired me with courage to give it a try. I couldn’t believe I was actually climbing up those wet mossy rocks. That in itself was nuts. I remember wanting to turn back, but she said, “Are you kidding, look how far you’ve come.”

Linda stood by my side – encouraging me “come on you can do this.” I realized she was only trying to help, but it was irritating me. I felt caught. I lost my freedom. I was a little ticked off at her about the whole thing. What was I thinking? It seemed like there was no turning back, yet there was a part of me that wanted to make the jump. I did. 

I actually jumped off the cliff into a pool of rushing water. It was exhilarating, awesome, and a great memory of a very special moment in my life. My friend Linda helped me make the jump, come out of the safe zone and enter risky living. I’m so glad for that. It was scary climbing the rocks, standing on the cliff and even jumping off, but with my friend by my side I took the plunge and realized an exciting life experience that I lived to write about.

Jumping off that cliff felt a bit scary, silly, and risky, and that’s how I felt when getting into a closely connected friendship with Linda. You see, all my life, I struggled with friendships, so why would I want to jump into something that has been so tough for me?

Years ago, I was reading the Bible story about Jonathan and David and the deeply connected friendship they had. It was so inspiring because their friendship was definitely out of the ordinary. They were extremely close and promised to stay connected for life. These guys had something between them that I wanted.

Taking a risk, I offered my friend Kathy something similar to what Jonathan and David shared. I invited her into a friendship that would be founded on a promise. I told her that I would stick with her for life, which meant she would always have a friend in me and that I would love her unconditionally and stay by her side through the highs and lows of life.

I saw tremendous benefits that would come from such a friendship. Imagining it would be a win-win relationship, I figured it would be a great blessing to her while providing me something I always wanted:

• The kind of friend that I could call in the middle of the night.

• Someone with whom I could share my deepest secrets.
• Another outside my family with whom I could be vulnerable.

• Someone I could trust to know me inside and out and still love me after they saw all the junk!
• And so much more.

That’s what I wanted – sign me up! I thought she’d be ready to sign up too, but the very idea that sounded so good to me scared Kathy.

Kathy’s dilemma:
Growing up, I always wanted to have a close friend. I’d look around and watch friends hanging out, doing fun stuff and laughing together. It looked so fun. Oh yeah, I had some friends, in fact, people always thought I was popular since I was so friendly and seemed to know every one’s name. If they only knew how lonely I really was. I would have loved having a special friend in my life – someone who would really know me, understand me, and think that I was the most awesome person in the world (even when I didn’t act so nice), someone who wanted to hang out with me and be there for me through all of life’s ups and downs.

Why was I so afraid? Maybe I was scared that if she really got to know me as the layers came off, she would see the real me and not like me any more. Or maybe I would get to know her as her layers came off and I wouldn’t like her any more either. I had just come to the place where I liked myself –wow, that’s a huge place. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to risk inviting Linda into the safe relationship that I had with myself.

To my amazement, I went ahead and did take the plunge and jumped into one of the most exciting adventures of my life – an amazing kind of friendship that has been worth the risk!!!

We have and still are enjoying great times together, but this has not been easy, for with great times have come great challenges.

I really didn’t know how to be a close friend, so I had a lot to learn about coming out from isolation into friendship. Sadly, I found myself to be selfish, strong willed, and independent at times. Bigger than that, I discovered I had bonding issues. How’s that for starters?

How do two completely different people get along with one another anyway? I am so different from Linda. I tend to be impulsive, changeable, and “fly by the seat of my pants”. She on the other hand is calculating, appreciates schedules and planning, and loves the word “commitment”. I remember earlier in our friendship when I would need to change plans at the last moment it would cause her stress, anxiety, and disappointment. Then out of her hurt she would let me have it! Then I would feel hurt that she didn’t understand me and I would not want to be around her. Her way of handling the struggle was to deal with it head on. However, I needed time to work through my feelings until I felt safe enough to come out and work through the issues we were facing. Dealing with the problem brought healing and restoration.

Problems like this would surface from time to time in our friendship. Looking back, I had a lot of expectations of Kathy that were unrealistic. I expected her to navigate through life the same way I did. I was so wrong. There were even times she considered bailing out of our friendship because she felt like she couldn’t be a good enough friend to me.

Laying expectations aside, we came to realize we didn’t need the same things out of our friendship. We also had to work through our own personal issues due to hurts from our past. We had to discover the key to staying sweet even if we were treated ugly. We had to learn how to handle friendship conflicts and how to think the best of one another when it may have been easier to see the bad. That didn’t come easy. In a nut shell, we learned how to stay in a friendship that at times caused us both some discomfort, but it has all been worth it all in the end.

Gratefully, we have stuck by one another, for out of this friendship we have experienced great personal growth, enjoyed lots of fun together and have gained a greater understanding of ourselves and one another. There’s a great song titled, “I AM A Friend Of God,” that has become popular to sing. Singing it is one thing – learning how to be a friend like God is another. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, the very example we have been striving to follow.

We hope that sharing our friendship story with you will inspire you to venture into the waters of closely connected friendship. With a lot of mercy, grace and forgiveness, we have survived and even flourished. Bruising sometimes occurs, but in the end we have found it to be worth the process of working through every moment of pain in order to experience the delight of an awesome friendship.

Get ready to jump into the friendship of a lifetime!


~ by thefriendshipdoctors on September 2, 2009.

3 Responses to “An Amazing Kind of Friendship that’s Worth the Risk”

  1. Love it!! Gimme more!

  2. Sounds like something I'm interested in.

  3. This is a great blog! Thank you!"Do you want to have a best friend like this?" That's not necessarily a "no-brainer," as they say; you must count the costs. Hmmm….

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