Fact of Life: Friendships Take Effort

Review by Cheryl Valliquette

As a teenager, actress Lisa Whelchel had a leading role in the 1970s television sitcom “The Facts of Life.” She grew up on the television set, where all her character’s problems of friendship were solved in a 30-minute program (including commercial breaks!). So it comes as little surprise that when she became an adult, she struggled with real friendships. She learned to put up a front of perfection as a way to have and keep friends, but what was lacking was a real friend who knew the real Lisa.

In Friendship for Grown-ups: What I Missed & Learned Along the Way, Whelchel shares principles she learned later in life but are well applied to friendship among the young and old alike. One of these lessons is about choosing a friend who won’t betray confidence. Whelchel thought she had a friend like this, but when she finally let down her guard to this person with a seemingly sympathetic and caring ear, the friend shared her secrets with others. She admits that her first clue should have been that this “friend” often shared others’ secrets with her, and warns her readers to look for this same red flag in their own “friendships.” Whelchel is quick to point out, however, that it’s alright to need someone to listen to you. Friendship is a two-way street and neither person should always have to be the strong one. It’s just as important to be needy with safe and loyal people.

Whelchel describes a friend as someone who will listen, pray and be a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. Friends help each other research a biblical solution. A friend rejoices when we rejoice and weeps when we weep. A friend loves unconditionally, even when we share the “good, the bad and the ugly.” Sounds like Jesus Christ, doesn’t it? So a good friend will be Christ-like. And finally, a good friend will help keep us accountable to be that Christ-like friend to her (or him)!

While Whelchel’s message about basic friendship is good – if not deep – I found myself thinking that I would probably fall short of being able to fulfill the role of friend to someone with Whelchel’s level of neediness. Not shockingly, others have failed her. Whelchel admits to having bared her soul to someone she believed to be a BFF, only to learn later that that person wasn’t as heavily invested in the relationship as she was.

Whelchel turned to a professional counselor, who in time helped her to deal with some of this underlying neediness that was undermining real friendships. She learned from psychologist Henry Cloud: “You can move toward others, get socially involved, and have relationships, but still be isolated.” Whelchel was able to heal and find friends when she stopped obsessing over the problem of not having any friends, and rather, started trusting the Lord. God answered her prayer right where she was in her daily walk and work.

For those who sense they may also be somewhat emotionally high maintenance in the friendship category, this book may help you identify with deep hurts like Whelchel has felt, and address your own “neediness.”

Friendship for Grown-ups: What I Missed and Learned Along the Way by Lisa Whelchel, $21.99 ($14.80 on Amazon) Hardcover: 240 pp., ISBN 978-1400202775

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