The older I get, the more authenticity in my relationships matters to me. Most of us have a few hundred friends on Facebook [not to mention the people we wish we were friends with in the Twitterverse]. But who are your real friends? For me, I would say less than 10. Maybe even less than 5. I feel like that's normal, especially for someone as socially awkward as me. I know a lot of people, and I do consider them 'friends', but there are a handful that I hope will be with me throughout my life, no matter what.
As life carries us about, we inevitably end some of our relationships [albeit unintentionally]. I have moved a lot in my lifetime, and based on my "research" I believe it takes approximately 2 years to feel settled into a new place and cultivate a comfortable friendship. When I was a kid, I moved several times and I always felt like it was the worst time possible because I was just getting to know the kids at my school.
I can think of one friend that I was just getting to know [during the last 6 months] when we lived in Fort Worth, but then we moved. We keep in touch on facebook sporadically, but I think we would have been very close if I had stayed in Texas. Another girl that I met right away when I moved to Fort Worth is one of my best friends to this day, and I can attribute a lot of that to the fact that we had the better part of 2 years to grow our friendship.
When I moved to Atlanta, it took a really long time for me to feel like I fit in any kind of social circle. When I moved from North Carolina to Texas, I was single and it was easier to jump into being social. In our move to Atlanta, it was "us" and if you're married, you know that you tend to be, if even just a little, less sociable when you have a spouse. Two years into our time there, we finally felt like we had made some really great "couple friends". Then we moved again. We still keep in touch with our Atlanta friends but it's hard to feel connected due to distance. It's just a fact of life. We've lived in Kentucky for almost a year, and while I don't really feel like I've made any new friends, it has given me the opportunity to reconnect with old friends I have in the area.
Some of my single friends say that they find it harder to have relationships with married people. I've said for awhile now that it's hard to be friends with people who have children. Do you think that's true?
Have you ever been hurt by someone you considered a close friend? Boy, have I ever. And more than once, too. I don't have any answers as to why it happens or what to do about it. All I know is that at least in this instance, time does heal the wounds. Lots, and lots of time. As much as I've been on the receiving end of that hurt, I've also been on the giving end. I swallowed my pride and made ammends and fortunately, still have one of my best friends to show for it. Maybe this happens more with girls than with boys. When girls are born, we have all of the eggs we will ever need. Unfortunately, this is no barometer for drama.
I've been thinking a lot lately about those people I know who are socially outcast. You know the type: awkward, shy, don't really have a close-knit group of friends. I see this especially with the college students we work with, but it spans all age ranges. How does the Lord want us to minister to these people? Sometimes we work hard to make sure they don't feel alone, but we fail to really include them. People often say that loneliness is the worst feeling in the world, but I don't agree. I think exclusion is far worse. A lot of the time loneliness can be a choice or the result of a situation [i.e. moving], but exclusion is something someone else does to you.
Let me give you a personal example. I was once in a situation where I was surrounded by several people I knew, one of which was a long time friend. My friend had coordinated this event and I relied on her to include me, and assumed that I would have been important to the situation. I was wrong. Not only was I excluded, I even felt like my friend looked past me to people who were "more important". I felt on the outside of the situation. It really hurt my feelings, and sent me down an emotional path that caused me to question the foundation of this relationship. It got me to thinking, how often have I done/do I do this to others?
I want to be the type of Christ follower, person, and friend who makes other people feel important. I want other people to know the value I see in them and help them discover where they can best use their gifts. I don't want my friends to ever feel "on the outside" of our relationship. There really is nothing worse than that, in my opinion. It's also important to carry this into marriage as well. It's easy to take for granted that the person you married has to be your friend. My husband is my most important friendship. He was a close friend before we started to date and I want to make sure we always have that. I definitely don't want him to feel excluded.
Let me encourage you to look for those people you have in your world who are on the outside, and genuinely reach out to them. People know when you aren't being authentic, so pray for God to keep you honest in that endeavor. Take a chance on an unlikely friendship, and you might be surprised at how much you end up needing that person in your life.
"Two are better than one...for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." Ecclesiastes 4:9