Weed Whackers, Some Blood, and Many Good MemoriesAdd Comment
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He tried to cut off my arm—” Add Comment
“And now we’re best friends!” Euwayne interrupted the start of Jeremy’s story. They laughed at the sentence they created together. It was complete, grammatically and experientially. It summed up their 10-year history as friends.
How it started
Jeremy and Euwayne met during their sophomore year of academy. It was the first week of school, and both Jeremy and Euwayne worked in the maintenance department. After they were introduced, their boss handed them the keys of the old faded-green golf cart. They were assigned to weed-whack around the school’s entrance sign.
Behind the sign, Jeremy and Euwayne worked on opposite sides of a ditch. Finishing his side, Euwayne crossed the ditch to cut the grass on Jeremy’s side. With his weed whacker extended, whirling at full speed, he leaped over the ditch. Euwayne landed without noticing that he accidentally hit Jeremy’s arm with the weed whacker. Jeremy froze with shock. Soon Euwayne noticed gashes and blood on Jeremy’s arm. They turned off the machines and dashed to the golf cart.
“I’m sorry, man! I’m sorry!” confessed Euwayne as the golf cart sputtered up the hill. Jeremy applied pressure to his wounds as they made their way back to the school building. Busting into the nurse’s office, they were surprised to find their boss with an equally anxious “What happened?” look on his face. While the nurse bandaged Jeremy’s arm, Euwayne talked. He took responsibility, explaining that he hadn’t turned off the weed whacker before jumping across the ditch, and that he hadn’t compared the distance between him and Jeremy to the four-foot neck of the weed whacker.
Two weeks later Jeremy’s arm had healed nicely. However, Euwayne’s guilty conscience took a bit more time; cutting-off-arm jokes were used the rest of the school year.
High school marched on, and so did their friendship. Jeremy and Euwayne played practical jokes on each other. Together they schemed against other friends. Jeremy joined all things athletic, and Euwayne joined all things musical. Despite their different activities, Jeremy and Euwayne took time to hang out and talk about life’s challenges.
What cemented their friendship was not just living in the dorm for three years or the laughs and the scars they shared. They attribute the strength of their friendship to honesty, sincerity, and spirituality. Looking back, Jeremy and Euwayne have identified five main tactics that guided them into a fun, healthy, and long-lasting friendship.
The first tactic is being honest and open. This doesn’t mean that Euwayne divulged his life story immediately after hitting Jeremy with a weed whacker. Rather, Euwayne was open and honest by saying, “I’m sorry. I take responsibility for hurting you.”
Second, if you want to create a firm friendship, then listen, be accepting, and provide positive support for your friend. Such phrases as “I understand that you . . .” and “It seems to me that . . .” or “So what you’re saying is . . .” let your friend know that you are listening. Explaining how their experience relates to one of your own is a way of showing acceptance. And encouraging your friend is the fastest way to be a positive influence.
Third is accountability. Merriam-Webster defines it as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.”¹ Accountability can be as simple as saying “Hey, remember how we talked about not wanting to spend too much time on Facebook? How are you doing with that?” while hanging out. Or scheduling a time and place to talk each week.
Disagreements and conflicts come with relationship. But what they produce can vary. Managing conflict is Jeremy and Euwayne’s fourth tactic. It is key to confront a trivial problem before it explodes into a crucial issue. To confront an issue, objectively (without bias) identify the problem(s), calmly present how you feel, ask the other person to explain themselves, and try to understand their point of view. Then discuss possible solutions.
Finally, the best glue for a friendship (or any relationship) is God. Like reinforcing a boot with steel, friendships reinforced with God will be able to handle stepped-on toes. Through praying together, worshipping together, and studying the Bible together, Jeremy and Euwayne included God in their friendship. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says: “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (NLT).² The friendship that Jeremy and Euwayne have formed with God is a testament to this verse.
God is the one who shows us the true meaning of friendship, so why not look to Him as an example? “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12, 13, NLT; see also verses 8-18).
Today Jeremy and Euwayne look back at their 10-year friendship as a blessing. Euwayne lives in Tennessee, owns a used-car dealership, and directs a worship choir. Jeremy lives in Nebraska and is working while he completes his master’s degree in outdoor leadership. Neither of them knows what the future holds. But whether they are in the same room or separated by an ocean, they trust in God, knowing that He is their “friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
¹Taken from www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/accountability.
²Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Renée Baumgartner attended academy with Jeremy and Euwayne. She is blessed to call these men of God her friends. Renée is currently working on her master’s degree in school counseling at Andrews University.
Toward, Away, or Against
Every day you have hundreds of opportunities to strengthen, ignore, or destroy your relationships with friends, parents, significant others, and actually, everybody you come in contact with. Think about the following situation. You see a friend at lunch; what will you do? 1. Sit down with them and talk about football practice. 2. Pretend you didn’t see them. 3. Scream curse words at them across the lunch room.
OK, OK. There are more ways to react to your friend sitting in the lunch room than just those three. However, all possible reactions can fit into one of three categories: (1) turning toward, (2) turning away, or (3) turning against.*
1. Turn toward can be physically turning toward someone and acknowledging them with your body language. You can also turn toward someone verbally. The key to turning toward is positivity. Turning toward a person strengthens your relationship with them.
2. Turn away is simply ignoring the other person. Continually turning away from a friend or loved one will deteriorate your relationship.
3. Turn against will bring a quick end to your relationship if you are not turning toward at all. Turning against someone sounds like rejecting an invitation or spreading rumors. It looks like punching someone (not in a fun, playful way) or laughing at them (not with them).
All interactions can (1) reinforce, (2) weaken, or (3) wreck your relationships. It boils down to your spirit. Are you acting positively, neutrally, or negatively? “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). What kind of friendships do you want to harvest?
*The turn toward, turn away, and turn against theory was described by John Gottman, Ph.D., in his book The Relationship Cure (2002). John Gottman is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington. He has authored many books, received several awards, and founded a relationship research institute based on 35-plus years of research.
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