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Inspecting—Accountable Friendships

Read Romans 12:9-19 (The Message).

Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle (verses 9-10).

Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality (verses 11-13).

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody (verses 14-16).

Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it" (verses 17-19).

Women typically describe their friendships in terms of closeness and emotional attachment. What characterizes friendships between women is the willingness to share important feelings, thoughts, experiences and support without fear of judgment and ridicule.

As women leaders, it’s exceptionally important to encourage women to cultivate and nurture friendship. 

 

A Top-Ten List for Healthy, Accountable Friendships for Every Woman

When planning events for women: Bible Studies, Coffee Connections, Book Clubs, Block Parties, etc., keep in mind the following Top-Ten list and creatively incorporate it in these settings for women, based on Romans 12:9-19.

1.  Avoid duplicity—Be genuine (verse 9).

Accountable friendships require transparency. It removes the gulf between reputation and character. Women in our churches and communities are looking for a safe place to be themselves.

2.  Love deeply—Treat others as friends (verse 10).

Helen Keller once wrote, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Jeffrey Zaslow says, “A host of studies shows that having a group of friendship accountability partners helps women sleep better, improve their immune systems, stave off dementia, and actually live longer.”

3.  Give preference to others—Practice playing second fiddle (verse 10).

A realistic approach in giving preference is to let others talk. We must take genuine interest in the life of another person. We should listen intently during conversation. Later we can reconnect with our new friend and ask them about something that was brought up in conversation, i.e. “The last time we talked you mentioned that you were struggling with balancing family and work. How’s that going for you?” They will be amazed that we remembered, and it will validate them as a person!

4.  Connect creatively—Be inventive in hospitality (verse 13).

      Take a moment and consider a simple idea you could implement this week that would display creative hospitality.

5.  Bless your enemies—Do not curse under your breath (verse 14).

Displaying love to those who hurt us and blessing those who are difficult takes the grace of God working in our lives. Gossip is a huge deflator in female friendships. Author John Maxwell suggests people should THINK before they speak:

T: is it True?

H: is it helpful?

I: is it Inspiring?

N: is it Necessary?

K: is it Kind?

6.  Identify with others—Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down (verse 15).

A study at the University of California in Los Angeles revealed women have a larger behavioral repertoire than men when faced with stress. The hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress response in a woman, which in turn buffers the “fight or flight” response and encourages her to tend to her children or gather with other women instead. When a woman is engaging in the care of her children—or befriending—the study suggests that more oxytocin is released, which counters the stress and actually produces a calming effect. This calming effect is only seen in women and not men, because men have a hormone called testosterone which is produced in high levels when men are stressed. The testosterone will reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen seems to enhance it instead. When we become overly busy or overworked, the first thing we do is let go of friendships with other women. This is a mistake because the bonding and friendship with other women will actually enhance and strengthen us in stressful times and situations. Next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed with work or family, reach out to your girlfriend—a simple phone call will help to calm you and make your day a better one. [1]

 

7.  Be open-minded toward others—Discover beauty in everyone (verse 16).

What one act of kindness could I share in the next month with a woman in our community who may have few, if any, friends?

 

8.  Treat everyone with respect—Don’t insist on getting even (verse 17).

Everyone is “broken” in some way. Jesus chose dysfunctional disciples because there was no pool of perfect people from which to choose. When we respect others, we show honor to God! It’s important to cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance in your local ministry to women—every woman matters.

9.  Do everything possible to keep peace—Get along with everybody (verse  18). When considering accountable.
     friendships in a local church setting, it is essential to encourage peace and harmony. A favorite motto could be “Let’s
     respectfully agree to disagree.”

10. Remove revenge from your life—"I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it" (v.19).        When people violate
     us with words and actions, it can be difficult to remove ourselves from judging them and plotting revenge. We must
     purposefully stop entertaining mental plots and ask the question, “Who has been chiefly offended by their sin?” The
     answer is God!  He reserves the vengeance option! He can dispense vengeance and remain holy—we cannot.

 

Reflection Questions

Remember the story of Esther? The bad guy was Haman. It was the influence of his wife and his friends that encouraged him to seek a place of honor for himself and eventually convinced him to build the gallows. How might the story have ended if there had been positive accountability?

Accountability in friendship requires permission to honestly confront each other on this journey of pursuing Christ and spiritual maturity.

Author Dave Guiles, executive director of Encompass World Partners, developed the following accountability questions. Perhaps you can use these with women in a local church setting.

1. How have you sensed God’s presence in your life during this past week?

2. Have you received a specific answer to your prayers? What was it?

3. Have you spoken with a non-believer about your faith in Jesus Christ? With whom?

4. To whom have you shown God’s love during this past week?

5. What have you learned about God in your personal Bible reading this past week?

6. As a result of your Bible reading this past week, how have you determined to better obey God?

7. Specifically, what area of your life do you feel that God most wants to change? Have you taken specific steps to make those changes?

8. What good habit do you feel God wants to form in your life? Have you taken specific steps to develop that habit?[2]

 

Note: If you are using this unit to train others consider using the following idea to demonstrate the importance of a friendly atmosphere.
Announce to the group:

We are going to take a few moments to do the following.

Take 30 seconds for this:

  1. As difficult as it may be, greet each other as though you are really not interested in seeing them because you are looking for someone else much more important.

After 30-60 seconds, offer the second directive:

2.    Now greet each other as though you are seeing your very best friend.

Following the exercise ask:

Did you notice how the energy in the room shifted?

Remind the group: Friendships are cultivated in that type of atmosphere—it’s contagious and it’s desirable!

 


 

NOTES

[2] Life Transformation Group. Originally accessed at http://www.takethejourney.org/ltg/questions.htm (no longer active).


 

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society®.
“One on One Connections” is published by the National Women’s Ministries at women.ag.org, ©2009 and ©2020. Permission to reproduce is limited to personal use or within a teaching setting. All other forms of use are prohibited.
 

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society®.

“One on One Connections” is published by the National Women’s Ministries at women.ag.org, ©2009 and ©2020. Permission to reproduce is limited to personal use or within a teaching setting. All other forms of use are prohibited.