the friendships we invest in
This may or may not be a ground-breaking confession. But friendships have always been really difficult for me. I haven't been able to specifically point to a reason -- but in the past I have just generally had a difficult time making close friendships.
I really liked (like) to be liked. Honestly, I needed to be liked. By everyone. And if I wasn't liked by someone, it would crush me and I would try so hard to work back into their favor. This is something I didn't even know that I did until late high school.
My life was cycle after cycle of people-pleasing and a complete loss of my identity. Losing grip of who you are doesn't help you make friends either.
In the effort of trying to make lasting friendships by trying to be enough for people, I ended up surrounded by really friendly acquaintances and a blurry reflection in the mirror. I had so long projected the image that I wanted others to see onto myself, that in the end, it was almost impossible to retrace it back to normal.
One time in high school, (I'll never forget it), I woke up from a crazy nightmare at 2:30 am. The nightmare placed me at my own funeral, (I know, I'm sorry, It's kind of dark), and everyone that knew me was there. They all stood in circles talking about memories they had with me.
It didn't take long for one of the people to speak up and say,
"wait, are we talking about the same person?"
I shot up awake and cried until I could fall back asleep again.
Because I lost who I was in an effort to be liked, I refused to be known.
"To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us." Timothy Keller
It took me a really long time to break out of the habit and chisel who I was out of the labels that I had thrown on myself -- for what I thought was for the benefit of others. What I thought was helping myself in the search for deep friendships, was hurting me deeply.
It took me until the later years of college to have close friends that knew me for who I was, and not for the face that I put up. More than half of my bridesmaids I met in the later years of college, if that tells you anything. And these friendships are worth finding and investing in. These friendships are life-giving.
We all have a longing to be known (yes, all of us) and as sweet as that desire is, the enemy can use this desire to just gosh darn waste our time.
In the past year, I've invested in some friendships that I really wanted to work. Soon, I found myself in the same people-pleasing cycle as high school. I found myself trying to wear the things these friends would wear or buy the things they were buying (I know, so stupid, am I an adult?). Pushing myself into conversations became exhausting. I felt dismissed and that made me only want to be friends with them more. The need to be approved came back like it was hungry. The rejection made me wonder if I was doing something wrong. It made me second guess myself, my personality, if I was too annoying or too this or too that. The questioning of myself, my life, my status, (etc.) spun around in the dizziest cycle I had ever been in.
In the end, it was all empty effort. I had invested so much time and energy into a friendship and they probably did not even notice. The effort I had put in all year to be liked wasn't serving them. It definitely wasn't serving God, and it was disqualifying me for any other thing that God may have had for me this year.
It is almost interesting how we can become distracted with something we feel like we need, when we are searching for it in the total wrong direction.
So I leave you with this:
The purpose of our life is in the Great Commission:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
First, we are called to know and love and point people to Christ, and in order to do so we have an intimate relationship with Christ. He is with us always, to know us. This is our mission, this is our mindset. To love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and strength. We cannot love the Lord and not love the people around us -- we cannot know our Creator and not want to know others. So first and foremost, this is our calling.
Yes, love those around you unconditionally.
Yes, love those, even the ones that push you out and do not love you back.
But that does not mean you have to let them into your life.
You can love people and not let them into your daily life.
Just because you feel called to love someone, doesn't mean they have to be your best friend.
Just because you feel called to love someone as Christ loves them, doesn't mean you have to date them.
Yes, seek out deep friendships.
Yes, have this desire to be known and loved.
But, if you are going to invest energy into a friendship you will hold close, use discernment in who you will let in.
You may have heard the Proverb 4:23: "Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it."
Proverbs 12 says that the "righteous chooses their friends carefully."
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
You have a distinct purpose on your life to be a light to those around you. Be purposeful on where you put your light.
When we invest in deep friendships that will not be reciprocated, we can find ourselves digging into something that will ultimately put our light under a bowl.
When we hide our light in other purposes -- to make ourselves feel better or liked or whatever -- we waste the light that we could be using to impact the lives of those also around us. When we exhaust our efforts, we miss out on the deep friendships with the people who are there and placed in your life to know you.
If you find yourself in a toxic or hurtful friendship, please pray about whether it is where you need to be spending your time. It may be painful at first, but I truly believe part of growing in our relationship with Christ is releasing the necessity to be loved or cared for by certain friendships in our life.
This may be an unpopular insight -- but in the end, we should not have to work so hard to make a friend, keep a friend, maintain a friend -- if they are the right friendships. As we get older, I believe we have the right to be more particular on who we spend our time with when it comes to close friendships. We wait for the friends who you could show up on their front porch at 6am in your pjs and you wouldn't care what you looked like and they wouldn't care either, and they would offer to make you pancakes (maybe even gluten-free ones, ayyy). Yeah, that kind of friendship. Our real friends see our flaws, know our flaws, and love us despite our flaws. Image management in a true friendship should cease to exist.
If we are having to fix our hair or tug on our shirt or change our personality before we walk into our best friend's house, let's figure out why.