THIS is why it’s so hard to keep friends.
Last week, we talked about the importance of friends, and how to *finally* find your tribe (if you don’t already have one). If you’re active on social media, the constant interaction can easily make you feel like you’re in the loop with others.
The truth is, you can have a million followers and still feel disconnected and even lonely. Don’t get me wrong–the internet provides plenty of opportunities for actual friendship and support. This is especially true in the blogging world. However, there are so many benefits to having local (or semi-local) cohorts in your circle.
In this big wide world (of around 7.5 billion folks), I have to wonder why anyone would ever feel lonely.
Why does it sometimes seem difficult to keep good friends?
6 BARRIERS TO AUTHENTIC FRIENDSHIP
Most of us know “that person” who always needs a favor. Exchanging favors is actually a great way to make a friend. But a friendship that is all give and no take (or vice versa) is not truly friendship–it’s a transactional relationship. I’m not suggesting you keep a tally of favors and try to go tit for tat. Go ahead–ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar, and be open to sharing with them when they need you.
2) Judgment and Preachiness
I was at the grocery store with my kids recently, and we loaded the contents of our shopping cart onto the belt at the checkout, as per usual. An elderly woman stood in front of us and watched me and the kids intently. I let my son choose a pack of gum as an incentive for good behavior. (If you have ever taken four or more kids to the store at the same time, I know you feel me.) The woman piped up with “Don’t you think gum is bad for their teeth?”
Most of us don’t appreciate unsolicited advice, even from friends. Let’s be real–this is mostly a pride thing. We are all basically going about our daily lives the best we know how, trying to keep calm and carry on in the process. We may have hard lessons to learn in front of us, and a good friend won’t be content to sit back and watch us fumble through a hot mess. However, what our friends need more from us than our sage wisdom (and preaching, while we’re being honest here) is love and empathy. There is absolutely a place for speaking truth into someone’s life, but if you attempt to do so without first investing in a solid relationship with them, you risk being rejected.
3) People who Flake Out
I know you’re busy–we all are. Add marriage and careers and kids and everything that might come with the territory of being a mom… how do we possibly find time for friends? Believe me when I say I understand the struggle. It can be frustrating when it seems your friends are constantly inviting you to do things that just don’t fit in your busy schedule. The other side of the coin is that, if you are a chronic canceller, you risk losing out on future invitations altogether. Need help figuring out how to fit in girls’ nights and coffee dates? This post has everything you need.
Competition, comparison, clinginess/co-dependency are all driven by fear. These are all issues that can leave you entangled like ivy and eventually choke out your relationships. If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or perfectionism, it is likely that you have experienced at least one of these (if not all). A counselor can help you get to the root of these issues so that they don’t contaminate your friendships. If you’re a book junkie (like me), these are especially helpful:
Do you have unfinished business with a friend who hurt you? Are you so self-sufficient that people might be intimidated by you? Don’t have time for drama? I hear you. While boundaries are essential to healthy relationships to keep people from being used and abused, boundaries can be overdone if we hold onto offenses and allow unforgiveness to erect walls around our hearts. We can become so focused on our goals and what we want in our lives, that we don’t stop to think about what we can contribute to the world instead of what we can get from the world. Life is short, y’all, and we were meant to live in community.
6) People who Spill the Tea
When a friend drops something juicy on you, what do you do? Can you keep a secret, or are you itching to spill the tea to someone and make them promise not to tell? Beware, a gossip cannot be trusted. And if someone wants to share gossip with you, you can be sure they won’t keep your secrets. Trust is precious, and a good friend will not betray trust.
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5 ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS OF A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP
- Don’t spill all of your guts at once. Take time to get to know someone, and to allow them to know you.
- If someone offends you, politely speak up. It may be a matter of a simple misunderstanding. It will feel so good to clear the air.
- Learn to say no if someone asks you to do something that is just not feasible for you. Struggling to find the right words? Check out these books:
2) Mutual Respect
- A healthy relationship requires some give and take. Ask for a favor, offer a favor.
- Respect your friends’ time and space. Show up on time, and don’t call and text super early or late unless it’s an emergency.
- If you are selling something, don’t flood your friends’ feeds with your products and party invites.
- Invite your friends over. Host a dinner party, a game night, or just go out for coffee. Don’t wait around for an invite or phone call. You may be waiting forever.
- Pay attention to what your friends like, and keep a list for birthdays and other occasions. Be thoughtful.
- Drop a line just to see how your friend is doing. It means so much to know that you are on someone’s mind. If you randomly think of something funny, let them know. Pray for your friends often.
4) Realistic Expectations
- People have quirks and imperfections and tendencies. We will find compatibility more easily with some than others, and it takes time and experience to learn who we best get along with. Keep an open mind and remember that you also have quirks. Offer grace.
- A close companion–a BFF, if you will–is a treasure in life. Not everyone has discovered this treasure. If you spend a lot of time on social media or watching TV and movies, you may be tempted to feel envious if you don’t have a BFF in your life. Take heart and be intentional about cultivating this kind of friendship.
- A quick word on “toxic” people. It is very trendy these days to raise awareness about and speak out against “toxic” people. I believe that each of us carries a measure of toxicity in our hearts. If you are a believer–you might call this “sin.” It’s super trendy right now to raise awareness about and speak out against “toxic” people. I’m not trying to downplay the issue. It is important to establish boundaries (i.e. guard your heart). If someone insists on sinning against you and refuses to repent, despite your confrontation–you can love them and pray for them from a distance. It’s not wise to keep ties with those people–it will only bring you down. However, if grace can be offered to someone who offers a sincere apology and commitment to change–by all means let the relationship be restored.
5) Shared Interests
- When I became a stay-at-home mom, I dove all the way in and left myself behind in the process. I know I’m not alone in this! Even if you’re not a mom–you don’t have to let your hobbies go! Share your interests by meeting up with a social group or even share them online (on a blog, perhaps?). This is one of the easiest ways to make friends!
- You don’t have to have the same hobbies to be friends. Maybe you share similar convictions.
- If you don’t feel like getting a sitter every time you want to leave the house, open up your home. If you’re into board games, host a game night. I have a crafty friend who I love having over to work on small projects. She brings her kids and they play with mine while we chat and craft. Sometimes we do crafts with the kids. She comes to my home, and we go to hers.
- There are SO many possibilities here. If you are sitting around waiting for an invitation, you can stop that now. If you wait for perfect conditions, an open schedule, and a clean house, you’ll be waiting around forever. I’ll bet there’s a group you can start right now… Don’t worry about who will come and who will be busy. Just get the invite out!
I pray that you find true friends as you continue to be a true friend!