As community manager for the popular women’s website, (in)courage, Lisa-Jo Baker knows women. She studies and observes the nuances that make their relationships both complex and rewarding. In her latest book, Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships, Baker takes all of this wisdom, combines it with her own personal friendship highs and lows, and presents a textbook of sorts for female friendships.
Any woman will confirm, friendship can be hard. Mothers of daughters will also add that the drama starts early in life. Starting with playground relationships, girls choose sides and play favorites. They sulk when they don’t get their way and pretend everything is fine when it isn’t. These patterns continue into adulthood, only with more sophisticated dysfunction.
The one thing that remains constant throughout our lives is the desire and need for intimacy and acceptance. Baker wants to speak to that teenager inside us to tell us:
All the ways she’s wanted. All the ways she belongs. If she’s willing. If she’s willing to stop keeping score and making lists of who’s in and who’s out, and if she will begin to do the terrifying work of letting people see her naked insides. And scarier yet, if she’s willing to make the first move or, even worse, the hundredth move of starting over and over and over again at being the friend she wants. (Lisa-Jo Baker, Never Unfriended)
Never Unfriended covers four aspects of friendship. First, Baker explores the fears associated with friendship. She deals with past hurts, insecurities, and the fear of starting new relationships.
Next, Baker dives into how friendships go wrong. I found this section particularly helpful to identify unhealthy aspects of friendships both past and present. I often wonder why a friendship is difficult or doesn’t survive. Baker points out the ways we often confuse manipulation and control with friendship. “We like manipulation because it looks a lot like love, and it comes with the guarantee that we get what we want out of a relationship” (Lisa-Jo Baker, Never Unfriended).
After a look at what doesn’t work in friendships, Baker walks the reader through the powerful ways to be a friend.
The secret to finding and keeping lasting friendships: become women who want to see the women around them flourish. (Lisa-Jo Baker, Never Unfriended)
This section dives much deeper than a friendship to-do list. There are no recipes for supper club or a list of things to do on girls’ night out. Instead, Baker encourages intimacy between friends with hard things like vulnerability, celebrating instead of coveting, and giving the benefit of the doubt. I found this section equally challenging and encouraging. Baker doesn’t shame for failing to be a good friend. Instead, she shares her own starts and stops along the way. She makes it ok to be a struggling, try-again friend.
In the final section, “Where Do We Start?”, Baker gives the reader a friendship pep talk. It’s a quick “you can do it,” followed by “The Never Unfriended Promise,” an oath to actually be all of the things laid out in this friendship manual.
Baker includes research and quotes from both notable authors and real-life women. She backs each point of her thesis with Scripture. What makes Never Unfriended so powerful is her willingness to be vulnerable with her audience. She doesn’t limit her anecdotes to the things she does well. If anything, she shares more from the painful lessons she learned along the way. I identified with both her hurts and successes, creating a strong association for me with the message in the book.
Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships is an excellent addition to any woman’s bookshelf. This book is ideal for small groups and sharing with your pre-teen and teenage daughters. Whether you read it with a friend or alone, read it straight through or use it as a reference for future friendships, Never Unfriended will help you navigate the beautiful waters of female friendships.
Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding and Keeping Lasting Friendships is available at your favorite online and in-person book retailer. For more information, including sample chapters, visit NeverUnfriended.com.
Images courtesy of the Never Unfriended Launch Team.