Friendship Means Apologizing Well: Andy Allan
About the Guest
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Most people probably think they’re a good friend. But what do solid friends look like, exactly? On Real Life Loading… Shelby Abbott hosts Andy Allan where he shows us what it takes to have lasting relationships.
Friendship Means Apologizing Well: Andy Allan
Shelby: What would you want chiseled on your gravestone?
Andy: How about the word, “Welp”?
Shelby: That's it. [Laughter]
Andy: That’s it! [Laughter] That's going to get some traffic. [Laughter]
Shelby: That's going to go viral like pretty quickly [sounding like a surfer dude]: “Did you guys see that gravestone? It just says ‘Welp.’” “What does that mean?!”
Andy: I think a serious answer to this would go the Harry Potter route and say: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” I really like that. I think that was written on Harry's parents' tombstone. So maybe, on one side I could put “Welp”; and then, on the other side, I could put that.
Shelby: Or you could put at the top: “The last enemy that should be destroyed is death; whelp!” [Laughter]
Somewhat anxious—always authentic—this is Real Life Loading... I’m your host, Shelby Abbott. Our desire with this podcast is to help guide you toward the life-changing power of Jesus for relationships in a constantly-shifting culture. I love interacting with young people, because I know the potential you have to change the world for the glory of God; and that’s what this podcast is all about.
Well, it's almost Christmas, so I have a special Christmas treat for you. Today, I'm talking with my best friend, Andy Allan. Andy and I have known each other for a very long time. We met on a missions trip when he was a student at Penn State, and I was a very young Cru® staff member. We hit it off almost immediately because of our shared love for Jesus; movies; candy; and of course, Taco Bell®.
A few years after he came on staff with Cru, we ended up starting a comedy duo called Something on the Wing. We traveled for about two years to different college campuses, doing standup comedy as a means to share the gospel. Needless to say, that battle galvanized our friendship. Even though we currently live far away from each other, we regularly keep up and are involved in each other's lives.
And since I'm talking to my best friend, I thought, “Why not talk about friendship?” So first, I'm going to ask him a few silly questions, which you'll love his answers. And then, we'll talk about the qualities of deep friendships and why those deep friendships are worth the risk of being vulnerable. Andy's hilarious, and you're going to love him; so let's go.
Shelby: Alright, Andy, I want to ask some rapid-fire questions that could be fun things. Fill in the blank for me: “Life would be boring without blank.”
Andy: —swing sets.
Shelby: Swing sets; are you being honest?
Andy: Yes, I'm really honest. One of the things that's true about my life—I think I'll probably be the only person who says that—and I don't know if you know this about me—
Shelby: I don't, actually; this is very surprising to me.
Andy: I swing on swings on a weekly basis, as an adult. [Laughter] If you/I mean, there/sometimes, it's winter months—it's harder—I still do it. I love swinging on swings. You know, I know the places in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I live, where they have the best swing sets. The best swing sets are ones where you could really get some height without the whole swing set like tilting and messing up.
I just need/it's like my—
Shelby: —because you're an adult—
Andy: —introvert time; yes. In fact, I remember one time I walked out to swing. I saw some people I knew, who were at the park, doing like normal park things, like a picnic or something. I just walked up, and I started swinging the swings; and they looked at me. This was January—so I was like winter hat, winter gloves, snow boots—I started swinging on the swings; and they're like, “Who/who is this guy?—crazy.”
Shelby: “What?! There must be something really wrong in his life right now.”
Andy: I just always loved it as a kid. It's just a refreshing time for me. I'll go swing for like 30 minutes—is like my swing time—listen to music and chill.
Shelby: I didn’t know that about you. We've known each other for a very long time; I did not know that you are on a quest to find swings once a week. That's shocking to me. [Laughter] I think you can rest comfortably, knowing that, literally, nobody else will answer that question that way. [Laughter]
And for the six other people, who listen to this—they go, “Me too!”—you've just made a valuable connection, my friend. Very good.
Shelby: Alright; favorite songs from the last five years; so we're going back: 2017.
Andy: Oh, man; okay. Wow!—2017 was the release of The Greatest Showman—I remember my wife saying, “Hey, we should go see this. It's getting a lot of hype.” This was a few weeks after it came out; and halfway through, I was like, “What is this movie? This is not what I expected.” When I left, I was humming those songs; I put them on my playlist, and I still love it.
I will just add that I believe, also, that 2017 was when Feel Good by Daya came out. That song is straight banging. I think that's a song that propelled me into like Dance Pop. I love Dance Pop; I listen to it all the time—ILLENNIUM, Gryffin—anything like that. I think Feel Good is the song that did that for me.
And how crazy is it?—I can't remember a lot of Scripture verses—but I haven't listened to that song in a while, but I could tell you the lyrics to it: “Take my hand in the middle of a crisis. Hold me close. Show me baby, where the light is,”—it's like: “How does that sink into my skull so quickly when I could not tell you exactly like what John, Chapter 2, says?” I think I need to start setting the Bible to music: Dance Pop Bible.
Shelby: —Dance Pop Bible. [Laughter]
Fill in the blank: “If blank was an Olympic event, I’d totally have a gold medal.”
Andy: —sleeping in. Oh! I am a champion sleeper- inner; in fact, I always have to give myself up. I could sleep in: 2:00, 3:00, 5:00 p.m. If I would just let myself go, I think I could sleep infinitely. So let's make it happen, Olympic committee.
Shelby: That's called being lazy, basically; do you know that?
Andy: Well, no; because I get myself up. That's called being disciplined.
Shelby: —disciplined; well, touché. [Laughter]
What's one thing you say or do that makes people go: “Classic, Andy”?
Andy: I think it's when somebody says, “Where do you want to eat?” And I say, “How about Taco Bell?” [Laughter] Is there a wrong time to go to Taco Bell?—there's not! Now, that they have breakfast, it's like: “Any time is Taco Bell time.” [Laughter]
Shelby: That's right.
I live in Pennsylvania; you're in Nebraska. We are 1200/over 1200 miles apart, in two different time zones; and yet, we've still been able to make our friendship work in a very significant way. I want to talk about friendship, in general. You have been such a good friend to me, but I know you're a good friend to many others as well.
“What are some aspects of friendship that you value?”—not necessarily just with me—but others as well. “What do you think are important qualities in a friendship?”
Andy: I think, with deep friendships that I've experienced, there's both a set of common things that you find fun or enjoyable—maybe, it's a sport, or an activity, movies—bonds you together: something you can do; something you can enjoy. I think that's really what we often think of as friendship in our culture.
But there's the deeper things—and it has to do with adversity—I think that really bonds people together and creates friendships that have the potential to last a lifetime and have the potential to really draw you closer to God. Those are the things that matter the most: is how your friends help you in hard times; and then, how you, as a friend, deal with hard times with each other.
I'm realizing that, a lot of my life, I want to avoid conflict; I want to avoid hard things. If I could go throughout my day, with nobody being upset with me, that would be like a perfect day for me. But I'm realizing: “That way doesn't progress friendships. There needs to be some kind of growth in friendships; and in order to do that, we rub against each other.” I think the Bible says: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I think those are the things.
Shelby: So the beauty is—you're not just talking about adversity between the two people, who are friends—we're talking about shared adversity in life situations—not like finding the common enemy—but in general, dealing with life in a fallen world, whether that's bumping up against situations, or even health issues, or life's difficult circumstances. Linking arms and dealing with adversity, alongside one another, in the context of community; is that right?
Andy: Yes; exactly. I mean, you think about Lord of the Rings: who would want to listen or read a book about Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee, just hanging out and talking in their hobbit hole for hundreds of pages? Like their friendship—and what we love about their friendship—it has adversity against each other as they disagree; but more than that, they're on a worthy quest to save the world.
If someone's looking for a deep friendship, you want to start at the places where you are doing things that are worthy. Because the other people, who are doing worthy things alongside you, they have the potential to be your best friends. It's like: “What are you doing that's worthy?” “What are you doing that's exciting?” and “Who else is doing that?”—because even if you have nothing in common, that will bond you together.
Sam Gamgee started out as Frodo’s gardener—you never know that—now, after the whole Lord of the Rings ends—and spoiler alert: it ends out good; they do succeed—they're bonded in this way by the significant adventures. Friendship, I think, at is deepest core involves adventuring significantly with people you enjoy.
I think there's a risk that comes with friendship:
- There's a risk of entering into conflict when we want to run away.
- There's a risk of putting our hearts out there to honestly say something, like, “Hey, I appreciate you. Would you be my friend?”
When I moved from Indiana, the state, to Pennsylvania in third grade, I remember my first day of a new class. I came in the middle of the year, so it was like in January. After I stood up in front of the class, and introduced myself in that awkward way, where the teacher's like: “This is Andy. Andy, tell us about yourself.” Third-grade me: “What do I know about myself?”—nothing!—you know, I have eyes; I have a nose; I'm wearing whatever my mom dressed me in today.
But I went and sat down in my seat, and this boy tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and he said, Hey, my name's Ian. Do you want to be friends?” I still remember it! It was such a monumental time in my life. There's a safety there; it was like: “Somebody wants to be my friend.”
And so for him—I don't even know the reasons why he decided: “I want to be Andy's friend,”—we ended up bonding over Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles® and climbing trees in his front yard. But at the time, he didn't know me at all; but he decided, “Hey, I'm going to risk this.” What if I had said, “No, I don't want to be your friend”?
Shelby: —which is interesting to hear you say that, too, because I'm a military kid. I, on average, moved like every two years. Risk was not often something that I wanted to lean into, in terms of going deep with friends; because every year that I moved, it was risky just by trying to make a few friends. Sometimes, I'd only be there for a year, knowing that I was going to have to leave again. So going deep wasn't often what I wanted to do with people, because I knew I was just going to be ripped from it anyway.
It's beautiful to hear you say that, and talk about that, because I've learned, as I've gotten older, of course, that it's really important that risk be a part of a genuine friendship in order to peel back the layers, and go beyond the jokes of the common interests that we share, because those are the true friends whom you really think about as: “I want to do life with these people.” It's the people who have wounded you; you have wounded them; and then, you've restored the relationship.
I have a tendency to think that people—especially, now, in our culture, it's like, “Well, if there's friction there, just abandon it and move on”; or if they've injured you, in some form or fashion, just ghost them and move on—but that's not what you're saying though, right?
Andy: Certainly not. I really resonate with that idea of: “Is it worth the risk?” That must have been really hard, moving so much.
I remember I had one move, really, from Indiana to Pennsylvania; but I remember it a lot. I remember the friends I left behind, and I would think about them a lot. I wondered where they were—you know, as I grew up/grew older into middle school, high school—sometimes, I would think about them: “I wonder what they're doing. I wonder if they remember me.”
And something that I've noticed as a, I think, a result of that, is that I often feel insecure in my friendships. I don't know if you have ever felt this way; but I often feel like—if I haven't talked to a friend in a long time—“We're not close”; or I often, will assume that somebody's upset with me, even when they're not. So if like—usually, we say, “No news is good news,”—for me, in friendships, it's often: “No news is bad news.” What I've learned to do is I have to check in with my friends. We did it the other day—you and I had been hanging out—and I want to check, in and say/I just asked, “How did you experience me during that time? Are we okay?” And there was no reason at all; you hadn't treated me differently, but it was my insecurity at play.
And so there is risk, but the reward is so great. And I often think about it like: at the end of your life, the sadness of having to lose friends is a positive sadness: it’s the sadness that's from being fulfilled. And then of course, the hope of the gospel is that there need not be an ending to this. We were made for eternity; that's why those losses fill us with sadness, but there's hope there too. And so the reward of a friendship that could last even into eternity, I mean, that's amazing.
That's one of those things that makes me look at what Jesus did for us and think, “This is incredible. It's mind-blowing.” And then, that we could even be friends—that Jesus would call us a friend—that's something that I'm just starting to unpack. When Jesus looks at me, because I've placed my faith in Him, He sees me as a friend. It's like, “What is that like?” Like if He was with us in this conversation, He would be engaging in just the same ways: He would be talking about Taco Bell.
Shelby: Would He?
Andy: I think he would!
Shelby: Well, maybe; maybe.
Andy: Well, would Jesus eat at Taco Bell? See, this is a burning heart question.
Shelby: Yes, He might take a bite of a Crunchwrap Supreme® and go, “The dear sweet high schooler, who made this, tried hard; and even though they failed, I love them anyway.”
Shelby: We'll get back to my time with Andy in just a minute; but now, it's time for what I call a Shelby Sidebar. This will be a short story, illustration, or a thought that simply helps you process gospel truth.
For any of you who wrestle with anxiety out there—and I know there's a lot of us who do—I want you to try something unique that might be helpful. Grab a brown lunch bag—remember those things that you, maybe, used when you were in elementary school?—grab one of those. And then, I want you to grab a Sharpie® and write the word, “God,” on that bag. Open it up; set it on your desk, or someplace where you're going to see it on a pretty frequent basis.
And then, whenever you have a specific anxiety—something that you're worried about—anything from, like:
- “I've got a test on Friday, and I don't feel prepared,”
- “My sister's not doing well back at home,”
- “When I left from Christmas vacation to come back to school, the word, ‘divorce,’ came up with my parents; and I'm terrified,”
—anything; it could be anything at all—little stuff or big stuff. Write them on a little piece of paper, or like a note card, or a sticky note—you can write on there: “I'm nervous about my test on Friday,”—and then, drop that specific anxiety/that specific worry into the God-bag and give it over to Him.
Seems cute, right? But here's the catch: “If you give it to God, and put it in the God-bag, you're not allowed to worry about it anymore; because it's with God.” If you choose to still worry about it, or fret over it, here's what you have to do: you have to reach into the God-bag, fish out that specific anxiety you have, and then audibly say, “God, You are not big enough to handle this. I'll take it from here.” Good luck with saying something like that: it's got to be in the bag or with you.
This is just a small exercise to help you understand that we can give our anxieties over to God tangibly—completely in reality—not just theoretically. So create a God-bag, and give your anxieties over to Him. Try it! This won't completely fix your struggles with anxiety, of course; but I found it to be a helpful way to refocus my life on God in the midst of my anxieties instead of the tough circumstances that always seem to plague me.
This has been a Shelby Sidebar on Real Life Loading... Now, back to my time with my best friend, Andy Allan. We're going to talk about the value of having authentic Christ-following friends, along with the importance of apologizing and asking for forgiveness. Yikes! Here we go.
Shelby: What has been your favorite thing about Christian friends that you could look at and go: “That's just different than anything I've ever experienced in the past.”
Andy: Yes, I think it is the knitting of hearts together at the very deepest levels; because, for me, a relationship with Jesus is the deepest core of who I am as a person.
It wasn't always that way. I grew up in church; I understood the stories—I knew what Jesus did—that he was born miraculously; He was the son of God, the Savior; He died for me; He rose from the dead. I understood those things on an intellectual level, but I did not invite Him to rule over my life and have an impact in my life.
Once I started doing that in college, and that became the center of my life, I realized that Jesus wanted to have an intimate relationship with me. That became the core of who I was. And so to find other people, who have that same core—again, we have a bond that I would argue is deeper even than the blood of family—because this is an eternal bond; we share a Savior.
So you can have a friendship that goes to the very deepest, deepest core of who you are; and then, someone who's able to understand that and then speak into it. Because the Bible talks about Christians as the body of Christ, meaning we all work together and we're designed to function together: hands, and arms, and feet, and noses, and ears, and hair. We were designed to fit together and to help and encourage each other. Really, this is how God designed us to interact; so we are people who are doing exactly what God designed for us.
I think the joy of being known so well; and then, also, what I found in Christian brothers and friends like you is the acceptance to get to a place, where it's like I could say anything to you—I could mess up; I could do terrible things—you will be there for me. That safety/that acceptance really reflects the way Jesus thinks of me. And so it is so joyful. And then, because of that, I get to celebrate the things that I love, that are good, with just reckless abandon. And we could have fun—and we have fun—while taking ourselves seriously, and doing something significant, which I think is the greatest part of friendship.
And you know, I think you can be honest with friends—especially, friends who walk with Jesus—we value authenticity and vulnerability. I don't think we are good at this. I'm speaking for me—my experience of the majority culture—I would say I'm majority culture, here in the US, and we're not good at saying the thing we really mean. What I mean is, if we're worried that somebody will reject us, or if we're worried that somebody will be angry with us, we might try to do surreptitious things to make sure we're okay; or we might try to mitigate the circumstances. If somebody upsets me, they might send me flowers—[Laughter]—that doesn't make any sense: “Why would somebody send me flowers?”—just send me a burrito!
Shelby: I’ve never sent you flowers, ever; just want to be clear.
Andy: That's right. Send me a burrito.
Shelby: I could do that, yes. I haven't, but I will.
Andy: But if you're upset with somebody, or you think they're upset with you, how hard is it, in our culture, to go up to them and say, “Hey, I'm really nervous to talk to you.
I value our friendship. I was hurt by you, and I'd like to work this out; and I care about you. I want our friendship to proceed”? We just don't; that's not the way we speak. We don't say those things; we're afraid to say them. And so it's the risk, again, of just saying the thing out loud and saying it right out there.
But that's what you can do with great Christian friends—that I think that's the pathway to do it—is to risk saying what you really mean. And if you're not saying what you really mean, say what you really mean. I use emotions:
- “I'm afraid”: "I'm afraid to bring this up to you, because I don't know how you're going to react,”
- [Anger]: “I'm angry with you, but I care about you; so can we talk about this?”
I think, if you're wanting to go deeper in your friendships, when you find those moments—lean in—don't see them as problems; I would say, “See them as—
Andy: —“pathways; yes, pathways to deeper friendship.”
Shelby: —"for growth.”
Andy: And you'll find not everybody is ready for it; not everybody can handle it. But either they are, and you can move, together, forward; or they're not, and then you'll know.
Shelby: You and I have talked about this a lot, and you've actually written on this. It's the subject of apologizing: apologizing well and communicating a genuine apology to someone today can reflect, in many ways, the beauty of the gospel. Unpack that for me for a minute.
Andy: Usually, in our culture, we fight against each other and conflict escalates. We don't understand what to do; and a lot of times, our heart rate increases. You know, we're not in the best place to make calm statements and thoughts, and we escalate; and we think about winning: “I have to win an argument,”—that's language we use.
But really, “What does it look like to win in a discussion like that?” If we really step back: “What does winning look like?”—winning looks like a restored relationship. We don't do that through dominance. I can't intellectually dominate you; and then, you will like me better as a result; and yet, sometimes, that's what we think.
I was a really competitive person in college when I played basketball or board games. I, for some reason, in both of those arenas, I felt like, if I could dominate the other person, that they would like me better. I would never be able to articulate it, but that's really what's going on. It's like, “Oh, if I'm a better basketball player…” or “I'm a great Monopoly® player, then people will like me better.” But that's not reality; that's not true.
In fact, when I was a jerk on the basketball court, people would like me less.
I remember yelling at a friend of mine for making a mistake on the basketball court, because I wanted to win. I remember his face—crestfallen—would be his face next to that word in the dictionary, as he was sad. He just wanted to be friends with me. I realized that I needed to take a step back, and think, “If I want to win, what does winning look like in the context of conflict?”
When you and I are in conflict, winning means we're able to connect and have a restored friendship. It doesn't mean you believe everything that I believe—that would be nonsense—then I would just start to be friends with myself. I would be a narcissist, just looking at myself in a mirror.
In order to do that, we have to abandon our defensiveness, and be willing to be wrong, to say, “I don't care about being right. Let's restore this relationship.” I do that by communicating care. I think the best way we communicate care is by apologizing, by saying, “I'm sorry; will you forgive me?” The question: “Will you forgive me?”—with a question mark; and then, space for the other person to answer, is incredibly risky; because you're allowing them to answer, but it's so valuable. It is hard to do, but getting into the practice of it has been so helpful.
I've found that, in situations when I'm out in the world, it is using language that is winsome and surprising. I'll do it—I think I was at a Best Buy® a few years back—and the sale that they were having wasn't working out. Something wasn't in stock—or it was a sale on a phone, but it wasn't the right model—I was getting angrier and angrier, and snarkier and snarkier at some guy, who's just there; it’s his job. All of a sudden, I realized this, and I have to say, “Hey, I'm so sorry. This is not kind. Will you forgive me?” I've done that a couple times; and always, it's like a shock, and kind of like, “Whoa! Of course, of course.”
But there's nothing like it—if you find yourself in this argument, where things are escalating—if you can/I imagine myself lowering my defenses/sometimes, lowering my fists, and say, “Hey, this is not what I want; I don't want to fight with you.” If we're able to learn those things, and put them into practice, what we're going to find is that it's different than you see in the world. It reminds people, “Hey, there is forgiveness and grace.” We need it, and we can extend it. And this is what Jesus does for us: Jesus extends grace and mercy to us, who need it.
I can either extend grace and mercy, or I can show myself to be needing forgiveness. That's something that our culture is scared to say: we are scared to just open up, and say, “I need forgiveness.” We want to cover it over and paper it over, but we can't do it. So when we model that, then, people can see: “Oh, it's okay,” and “There's a solution for this.”
Because often, I think our Christian majority culture can say, “We're supposed to live such good lives in front of people, that they take note, and they think, ‘I want to learn more,’”—we, often, think of that in some kind of moral perfectionism that I have to be good enough/amazing enough that people are like: “You're amazing.” But I think it's actually the opposite: that we have to be more humble, more vulnerable, more open to being okay when we do something wrong and to apologize for it.
If we do it the other way—moral perfectionism will never let people in—because we can't keep that up: the gospel says we are broken, and we'll always be broken; we're never going to be able to fix ourselves. That's the whole point—Jesus helps us; the Holy Spirit helps us to grow—but we're always going to be a work in progress. If we think that we can't make mistakes in front of people—we won't let people in; we will push them away—and then, when something happens, we will exit; we will get out of there.
But instead, if we learn how to apologize, then what we do is we mend things back stronger than before. It's like working your muscles to failure. When you exercise, and you do more bench presses that you can handle, and your muscles tear, they build back stronger; and that's what happens with our relationships. The more that we do that, the more we can grow together.
And then, those are the platforms that we need in order to tell people about our Savior is we need them to know us and trust us, as real people, who think, “Oh, this person is different.” The apology is a huge part of that.
Shelby: Yes, and not only do you talk about that, you've written about it—like I said—you model that well. So thank you for helping me to see that more and being just a great example for me of modeling: “How to take a posture of humility: apologize, while ask for forgiveness.” I've implemented those things in my relationships with other people around—my relationship with my wife, my relationship with my kiddos—and you have been, in many ways, the spark that has done that for me in my life. So thanks for that, bro.
Andy is this fascinating mix of deep seriousness and remarkable hilariousness. I hope our conversation today was, for you, like maple syrup in that it's sweetened your day and brought joy to your heart.
If this episode with Andy Allan was helpful for you, I'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend. And wherever you get your podcasts, it could really advance what we're doing with Real Life Loading... if you'd rate and review us. It's shockingly easy to find us on our social channels; just search for Real Life Loading..., or look for our links in the show notes.
I want to thank my producers, Josh Batson, who loves Swiss Miss hot chocolate with marshmallows; and Bruce Goff, who loves just plain hot chocolate by the fire. I’m Shelby Abbott, and I love chai tea latte with 2% milk.
Merry Christmas! I’ll see you back next time on Real Life Loading…
Real Life Loading… is a production of FamilyLife®, a Cru®ministry.
Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
And did I say, “Merry Christmas”? Merry Christmas!
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