If we are called to share our lives (be authentic) so we can help ourselves and our sisters,

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

and we are also instructed to also guard our hearts,

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. – Proverbs 4:23

how do we find the balance?

God knows that there are people in our lives that will take advantage of our less desirable stories, begin spreading rumors and come to some conclusion regarding how the stories came to be in the first place.  How do we live authentically, without being hurt, then?

1.Test your friend.

When you gain friends, gain them through testing, and do not be quick to trust them.  For they are friends when it suits them, but they will not be around in time of trouble. – Sirach 6:7-8

It sounds harsh to “test a friend,” I know.  Yet, it is vitally important.  It’s not as though that you create little obstacles to see if your friend can stand a chance, but more like you feed them bits and pieces of your life and see how they respond.

About 15 years ago I was in a “time of trouble.”  I reached out to some friends with my predicament.  While they didn’t take my statements in confidence and go behind my back (as far as I know), they didn’t exactly help me at all either.  There was no checking back in.  There was nothing.  I was saddened not only that they had no words of advice but worse off because they left me to my troubles.

So, when starting up new friendships there’s usually a give and take of background stories.  One of my friends guards her stories like a mama bear does with a cub.  Her past comes out like a slow drip coffee pot…  rich and warm but in good time.  The more she trusts, the more she gives – slowly.

2.  Seek out the right friends.

There are so many statements in the bible about this and I wish I would have been mature enough to follow along when I was younger.  I wasted a lot of effort on people who my gut told me were not good for me.

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. – Proverbs 22:24-25

One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. – Proverbs 12:26

A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. – Proverbs 16:28

When I was in my late 20’s I finally realized that someone who talks poorly behind someone else’s back will do the same to me.  I had observed this happening around me and to me.  Actions that I had hoped people had outgrown in high school were common place.  And, really, if I had just sought out a laundry list of good qualities to seek in a friend it would have saved me a tremendous amount of heartache.

3.  Guard your heart.

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. – Matthew 7:6

If you have shared something private with someone whom you are testing, or whom you thought was a trusted friend, only to have it thrown back in your face then you need to lock down.

There’s another saying in the bible that I like for this kind of thing:

Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. – Proverbs 26:11

If we have found out that things said in confidence have been spread or if things said in confidence were used against us later, then we need to take heed.  If someone has proven that they are not capable of being a vault or if they will bring up your past and rub your nose in it at a later date, they have not passed the testing.  Don’t keep confiding in them, you’ll only keep being disappointed.

4.  Be authentic with your enemies.

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles. – Proverbs 24:17

I hate the use of the word “enemy” in the bible, and it is there a lot.  Yet, there is a lot of guidance about how to treat those people who have proven themselves not to be trusted.  One thing that a lot of people like to do with enemies is pretend that everything is fine.  I don’t think that’s being authentic.  I personally believe it is possible to guard our hearts while also being authentic.  We don’t have to inflate how great our life is when really there’s a whole lot not right with it.  We can simply answer, “fine,” instead of exaggerating the small things of happiness to compensate for the big crapbag in front of our face.

People see through us.  Your “enemies” can see through you too, and while you think they don’t care about you they are still affected by you.  You still need to shine your light, even to them.

5.  Give it its proper attention and move on.

I see a lot of memes on social media and worry that we give too much power to our “enemies.”  If we learned our lesson then we need to move on.  We don’t need to vague post about someone who’s angered us, trying to indirectly let them know that we are still mad.

Here’s the joke:  If you are posting a meme about how you are moving on from someone, then you aren’t moving on. You’re giving that person your energy.  You’re giving that person your precious thought and effort.  For someone who has wronged you, they do not deserve anything additional from you.  Try your best to forgive, offer the situation up to God and move along my dear… and you can’t move along if you keep vague posting about it on social media.

Which leads us to…

6. Realize that things outside of your circle are, well, outside.

There is nothing that you can do to the noise in your life except turn it off.  Also realize that there are many things outside of your control.  You cannot control rumors, thoughts, judgments, opinions and actions of others.

7. Apologize when you need to.

This one is big.  This one is bigger than big, in my opinion.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. – James 5:16

Years ago I found myself in a smack talk with a work colleague and we were both saying outrageous things.  Something fell out of my mouth and right as it did, in slow motion, I wish I could have taken it back in.  It was a generalization of a group of people… a group of people who one of my TRUSTED friends belong to.  I was mortified.

I apologized to her.  She played off like she didn’t hear anything but my apology led into a long discussion about this particular event in her life and it was a good venting for her, I think.  It also gave me a chance to talk about the topic candidly with her for the first time.

I don’t get how apologizing is so hard for people.  I seriously don’t.  I have a more anxious feeling in my stomach if I let something sit, being worried that the other person will be upset with me, rather than if I apologize.  If I’ve messed up, then I owe an apology.  After the apology, the forgiveness sits in the hands of the other person.  I am not in control of that.

I suppose the reluctance to apologies is that an apology makes some people feel like there is a winner and a loser.  Christ-abiding people shouldn’t see it as such.  There are no winners and losers in people chasing after God.  We are ALL winners.

8. It’s quality, not quantity

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

As a child, and even in high school, I had a great many friends.  I guess I likely still do only now I am wise enough to understand that not all of the friends will address points 1 and 2 above.  I mean, sure, there are some close acquaintances in my life that I wish I was closer with but life stages, home proximities, etc all come into effect in order to keep up a trusted friend.

All relationships require effort.  If you are not putting forth effort into the friendship then you will not get much out of it.  In order to keep a friendship strong there requires time to put into it.  I could, yes, have ten trusted and close friends but that would require me to carve out my schedule to those ten people plus my family and my children.  In working full-time, I don’t have time for that.

I heard in a sermon once that there is an inner circle of one or two people, another circle of a handful more and everyone else will be close acquaintances.  I find that the pastor was right on, at least in my own life.  I no longer look at the socialites and worry that I don’t have enough friends.  The few I have make me the richest girl in the world.  I am blessed indeed.

This is not to suggest, however, that only those in our inner circles can only see the authentic us. We are fully capable of being authentic in our church affiliations, work circles and extended family circles. We should have no shame in the unfortunate stories of our lives… 

So go on and shine your light, God is using you and your story well beyond your comprehension. Guard your heart but keep being authentic.