Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Girlfriend's Guide Book, by Marian Jordan

I'm plowing through my review titles these days and one in the stack was The Girlfriends Guidebook: Navigating Female Friendships. At first when I saw it, I snickered. Even when I read it I had to snicker at it. The front cover makes it look like it's marketed to teens. It wasn't written to young ladies (although they could benefit from the read) but to women in general, in all stages of life.

I liked the premise for the same reason that my female readership likely would like the premise. It's the "how to" book for how to navigate friendships, and we've all had our struggles in this department. Females are hard to get along with and this we readily admit while being female ourselves. We don't make sense sometimes. We can be overly emotional. We can be mean, spiteful, bitter, jealous and we love, love, love to play comparison games to our extreme detriment. But the point is that we learn to stop doing that by the age of 10 and not 50.

Before I go further, I just wanted to say that I shall speak in broad, general terms throughout the remainder of this post. I may make statements which reach a bit further than you are comfortable with or that you think are reasonable. This review, after all, is supposed to be about my opinion of the book. Please bear with me.

Friendship is something of a lost art, I suppose. We're so busy with things that don't matter that we don't take time out to build meaningful relationships. We have long To Do lists which prevent us from spending much time with one another face-to-face. Our culture almost forces us to "go! go! go!" and in order to build relationships that last and that we care about, we have to force ourselves to stop running, slow down, and clear days off of the calendar in order to communicate effectively with each other.

Marian Jordan writes:

"Young women today are left with the impression that a friend is expendable, that relationships are based on "what you can get" instead of on sacrificial love for another, and that lying, backstabbing, gossiping and drama are just normal girl behavior." (Chapter 1, The Girlfriend's Guidebook, page 11)

This quote above is what made me ultimately decide to review this book despite the fact that the author's "voice" got on my nerves and I think the cover art is cheesy and unappealing. Anyone who is willing to address the issues of backstabbing, gossiping and unwarranted drama (some drama is warranted) deserves a hearing in my opinion.

The fact is, young girls learn from older girls that gossiping and backbiting is ok. Again, bad attitudes and sinful behaviors towards others that should be dealt with in the early elementary years are dragged out and given an unbelievable lifespans for a myriad of reasons. Gossiping is just something we do. Oh. Tsk, tsk!! If we're Christians we don't gossip. We share prayer requests. We "enlighten" those around us to the affairs of others so that they can "pray more effectively" but ultimately all we're doing is just spreading a.) false information to begin with, or b.) we "share" in a biased manner which is c.) gossip which is d.) sin. (See Exodus 20:16; Leviticus 19:16; Psalm 34:13; Psalm 101:5 . . . just to get you going.)

Women are particularly bad at failing to think through the words coming out of their mouths, how those words are pieced together, and are generally unable to hold their tongue. (This is a situation that should be repented off and, frankly, just needs to be changed. See some further thoughts in my reviews (linked) of The Power of a Woman's Words and A Way With Words.)

Most problems in relationships and friendships arise out of a result of an improper use of words. We can be petty. We can act and react to one another in sinful ways. We should also absolutely pay attention to actions and motives as well -- but a lot of problems arise simply because we fail to think through the words that are coming out of our mouths. We fail to acknowledge that we have a sin problem in this area and we also fail to properly repent and apologize. If we did, not only might we make friends, we also have a greater chance of maintaining and deepening them.

Jordan defines friendship the following way and uses this definition as the basis for all of her arguments in The Girlfriends Guidebook:

". . . a trustworthy peer with whom we choose to lovingly live in a relationship with unique access and service." (Chapter 2, The Destination: God's Purpose for Friendship, page 30)

She didn't go on to define peer so I'm not sure that I totally agree with that definition but for the purposes of this book (and this post) this is what you get. I do agree that any type of friendship or solid relationship must involve the ability to trust the other. My closest friends certainly have access to me that not a lot of other people do. With their assurances of trust, safety and love I am the most open, honest and caring. (But my friends are all different ages and stages of life so I'm not sure I could classify them as "peers.")

Jordan does make me feel a bit testy in some of her arguments (e.g., referring only to peers as friends and stretching scriptures to suit her purposes.) To further the example, she uses Genesis 2:18, in which God says, "It is not good for the man to be alone" as a broad starting place to explain why it is important to have companions in life. (It is important and I think there are better scriptures that can be accurately used to explain why this is so.)

She points out that God created friendships for specific reasons and these are the ones she lists:

  1. Companionship;
  2. Sanctification; and
  3. So that we would serve one another.

I definitely agree that:

  1. We were not made to be alone, in general, and that God has made us to be a relational people. We need others and it's downright silly to think we can "go it alone." We are exposed to too much spiritual danger when we try to walk life's path all by our lonesome.
  2. Close friends definitely sanctify you. When a person is very close to you, they see you at your best and worst. They make you see your flaws whether you want to see them or not. (They also help you learn more about yourself, who God wants you to be, and heal when healing is necessary.)
  3. I also agree that we learn best how to serve one another when we have close relationships. When the chips are down who among us doesn't want to call on our friends to come alongside of us to help us walk down painful paths and encourage us? We like to be served. But we also need to serve and when you are close to someone you know better how to do that in a very effective manner.

Close relationships and friendships are important. Yes. Absolutely. I think Jordan explains that well. She then spends the rest of the book explaining the garden variety of sins that can ruin said friendships and how we can prevent sins from destroying one of the best gifts that God has given us. She lists such things as idolizing friendships, allowing jealousy to come between friends, silent competitions, pride, and a few other specific painful things to consider. In short, sin works its way into even the tightest friendship and when it does danger is afoot. The sooner we recognize it, realize it, and truly repent of it, the better off we'll be (and the stronger relationships/friendships we will have.)

Towards the end of the book she makes an argument that I think is worth sharing here because it is the best piece of advice I can think of as to how to treat a friend. She talks of Paul and Barnabas.

"We are all meant to be a Barnabas to our friends - to see them as God sees them and to encourage that vision, to champion the cause of Christ in our friends and come alongside and cheer them on in their pursuit of His purposes. Friends, let us encourage one another! Build up your friends with God's truth and promises. Ask God to help you see your friends as He sees them and to speak His hope and strength into their lives." (Chapter 6, The Top 10 Characteristics of A Christ-like Friend, page 127)

Marian Jordan makes this one glorious statement which I just really love and think it summarizes our goal and mission of having and being good friends:

"A good friend extends grace and forgiveness -- She meets her friend at the foot of the cross!" (Chapter 6, The Top Ten Characteristics of a Christ-Like Friend, page 146)

We all have much to learn because we all have weaknesses in the way that we relate to others that need work. The danger enters into the relationship when one party or the other thinks that they've got it all together and it's the other person's fault why things are or have gone south for a very long winter. Finger pointing never saved a relationship. Being humble and gracious, loving and supportive, caring, trustworthy and loyal will take you oh so much further.

I don't know where you are in your "real life" friendships but I'm going to go ahead and put this book out there for your consideration because I think it does serve a purpose in pointing out personal flaws while encouraging you to be a better friend. In fact, I'm particularly happy that in the Introduction Jordan tells her readers to read this book with their own self in mind. The Girlfriends Guidebook is not meant to be used as a finger pointing tool, but rather as a tool to examine your own heart and ways to see how you might improve your relationships.

So, there you go! Let the self-examination begin!

Thanks to PR by the Book for sending a copy of this book my way.


Sky said...

This sounds like a good book for a mother and daughter to read through. From your review it sounds like it addresses some issues correctly and some incorrectly but it will start the topics well and be worth getting into.
I have always thought "peer" to be a vastly vague concept...

The tongue as weapon is a very serious issue that needs addressed. Friendship is not something that often comes my way but the friends I do have are the kind of people I can talk to about anything, listen to about everything and count on to have my back in prayer and when I say I will pray for them, I WILL.
TRUTH is the main factor of friendship. But its a give and take truth of love, not the critical, degrading false-truth of breaking a person down with words so one feels better about ones own lack of self confidence.
I've always loved the statement that" Friends are people that know your flaws and love you anyway." Friend is a dear sweet word to me, for the people God has brought into my life that have blessed me beyond measure and seen me through the darkest times.
And here i am reading and typing again when I have a list as long as my arm today! But I do enjoy the stimulation in my brain that your book reviews inspire!

BerlinerinPoet said...

Aha! Great! Another book I need to read. I need all the help I can get.

I just told someone the other day that guys are just a lot easier to get along with. Maybe I'M the problem...hahaha!

Shonya said...

Hmmmm, have you read Dee Brestin's "The Friendships of Women"? I really liked that book--it was a true eye-opener for me and had some insightful Biblical commentary. And then a book I read recently (which one?? I can't remember, lol, but the point remains with me) alluded to a person sabotaging a friendship with too high of expectation--phew! That one hit home! So. . .the topic doesn't appeal to me right now, but maybe later! :) Thanks for a thought-provoking review. This topic really can be a struggle!!!

Stephanie Kay said...

I had a conversation on Friday with a friend about how there are some women I just connect with. We have a lot in common, conversation between us flows, and I come away from our times together feeling refreshed and joyful. But there are also women who, no matter how hard I try, I just can't connect with. It's not that there's anything wrong we just don't, well... connect.

I guess that's ok. You can't be BFF with the whole world, right?

Elisabeth said...

I need to pick up this book. I struggle with friendships sometimes because I'm a demanding person (of myself as much as others, but it's still a problem.) and worry about asking too much of my friends. The logic that I would do the same for them isn't always useful as I probably put too much energy into people sometimes. I don't know.

Basically I'll read the book!

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