if you have love for one another

At Lee University we take this inventory, which pulls in answers to seemingly irrelevant questions and spits out your Top Five Strengths. It’s all positive psychology, a you’re-a-great-you kind of thing, and so it stresses this idea that all 35 strengths are equal, you shouldn’t be jealous of anyone else’s strengths, and you are special and important, etc., etc.

I didn’t buy it. I don’t like one of my strengths. It is named “Relator”, and the description of it boils down to this: “You are especially dependent on your friends.”

This is embarrassing. I am supposed to be self-sufficient. My friends are there to have fun with, not to be needed. We all do our own thing with work and school and service and romance, and if there’s time after that we might hang out. It’s just how things are done. When you start wanting to be friends with your coworkers or expecting to get to know your friends’ significant others, “Relator”might just as well be named “Clingy”, as in, “Your #1 strength is ‘Clingy'”.

However, in classic StrengthsFinder there-can’t-be-anything-wrong-with-me fashion, I must be allowed to state my case against this state of affairs.

The members of the improv team that shaped me more than anything else in college; the roommates who graciously understood I wouldn’t speak in the morning before coffee was done; the five beautiful young women at home who always restore me with their laughter and the peace they bring into a room; their mothers who have helped me understand the woman I want to be; the professors who have borne with my questions and wonderings; my brother who knows my secrets and the other leaders who know what I mean when I speak of Havenplace – it is hard to imagine I could overvalue them. They are Christ to me, speaking the truth when I have forgotten it, reminding me what love is here and now when I’m too tired to remember the cross myself. They are all my brothers and sisters by an adoption stronger and more real than any legal procedure. They inspire awe in me with the simple beauty of themselves. They make me better.

And so I must protest a culture which puts friendship at the bottom of the priority list, where it is first to drop off when work, church, exercise, and romantic responsibilities take precedence. Amidst all the talk of marriage, where was the chapel sermon condemning the romantic comedy for saying it’s ok to drop all your friends when you find a boyfriend? Amidst recession and talk of trusting God, where is the sermon reminding us that we may be simplifying to make room for each other?

I fear that favorite church words like “sacrifical love” and “building community” are too often inspiring in a theoretical sort of way, in reality taking a backseat to cultural assumptions -we need to have our houses clean and our stuff together before we can invite someone over,  our kids need to play another sport more than the family needs time to spend with other families, we deserve our TV time rather than the exhausting trial of dealing with other people.

In short, I don’t know that we always look much different from anyone else. Sometimes I can’t tell what is supposed to make our family so irresistible from the outside looking in; I think of the loving giving friends I’ve had outside the church and wonder what taking them to church could have possibly helped them understand.

I hope I don’t sound condemning, and getting and keeping friends is a complicated process. But this is something I’m passionate about, and I need others’ ideas – what do you think? what are practical ways Christians can foster friendships? where have I missed this modeled in the Bible? Am I totally wrong? Do you have a crappy strength?

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