Friendships can bring the greatest of emotions; pride in our friend’s success, sorrow in their struggle, and victorious triumph when we overcome a challenge. But friendship can also be the things that can hurt us the most and leave scars; some that will fade with time. Being open to authenticity in our friendships leaves us vulnerable to the pain that might emerge. None of us like to be hurt like that, it crushes us, and we’d rather avoid it. It can make it confusing as to what friendship actually is.
Friendships often get mis-defined. All too often we hear people at our speaking engagements say ‘So, I have over 500 friends on Facebook, but I don’t really have a true friend like the ones you talk about’.
I get it. We live in a social media saturated world where the platforms like Facebook, Instagram, twitter, they make us feel more connected to many people and information, bringing a sense of being empowered. But, it also makes us feel truly less person-to-person connected than ever before. At some point we have to ask ourselves: do I need to make friends everywhere I go? and the question that follows that is: and what if I don’t?
When we enrol in a new class, University, or TAFE, or starting a new job or moving to a new place, these questions often come flooding back to us in a wave of anxiety and insecurity. What if I can’t make friends? What does that say about me?
For children, the criteria for making friends is much simpler. Two children playing in the sandpit together might be ‘friends’ based on the fact that they sit together at recess and play or that they take turns in using the bucket to build a sand castle. But as adults, our criteria surely changes. Right? We can’t be expected to be friends with everyone who ‘plays’ in close proximity to us, that we share a class with, or work in our department? Our individual temperaments, interests and ideals make that impossible. So what do we do about the pressure to befriend those nearest to us?
How do we navigate this as adults?
Start by working out what the word friendship means to you. Is a friend simply someone who you sit next to in class or at lunch, or someone you’ve connected with on social media.
is it something that means more than that, something on a deeper level of shared interests, ideals and values? If so, what does it mean to you?
What ever your definition of friendship is, that definition becomes how you measure all others you may consider to be your friend. It also brings with it a set of expectations you may have of friends, and in turn for yourself as a friend. This then becomes the standard you set for what it takes to be in friendship. Hold onto that because that’s how you become intentional when you befriend someone new, or strengthen any existing relationships. Otherwise, we simply walk around with five-hundred so called friends, but no one we’re truly in relationship with, that we’re truly connected to.
It’s actually ok not to be friends. Let me repeat that, it’s OK NOT to be friends. It’s ok not to share your number with them or accept their social media request immediately. It’s ok to wait out on friendship. Just as what we eat shapes our body, what we read shapes our mind… our relationships shape our being. That makes it essential that we think about who we befriend.
But you might say to me ‘But Stina, that feels so unkind!’. Here’s the thing, Jesus wasn’t ‘friends’ with everyone. He picked out 12 disciples that he called friends, one didn’t exactly make the most kindest of choices towards him either. Even among these 12 there were a few that he was close to. Eg. John is often referred to as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, someone who was held at a higher regard. BUT He LOVED everyone He met as His brothers and sisters. We can love everyone we meet, without befriending everyone. This kind of love doesn’t necessitate that we pronounce from the rooftops, social media platforms, or introduce them to others as friends. People can actually remain a fellow student from school, a colleague or a gym buddy. That’s ok. That’s good. That’s necessary to love.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of befriending others on Facebook and giving in to social media defined perceptions of friendship instead of the standard you’ve set for friendship. Just remember not all friendships bring out the best in us, and therefore aren’t good for us, nor are we necessarily good for everyone either. Be kind, and give friendship some time.
My love and prayers assured,
Stina was born and raised a Norwegian and completed her Bachelor of Psychology and Master of Social Work in Australia. She currently works in both the post-separation sector and supporting families with children diagnosed with cancer and other life threatening illnesses, whilst also being the current Young City Female Ambassador for Wagga Wagga, NSW.