We’ve all been there. Our friendship with someone is going well until something happens. She calls you to babysit her kids AGAIN, and she still hasn’t reciprocated for the last babysitting favor she needed. Or maybe you are the one that has to make arrangements for girls’ night, just like last time. Or you call up that couple and invite them over, but once again, they have some other plans. So you say to yourself, or your husband, or anyone who can see your facebook status, “I’m tired of it, so I’m not going to do it anymore.” So, you stop calling. You find excuses to not be available for playdates, babysitting favors, and phone calls. You do the “Hi, how are you?” and quickly walk by the next time to run into them at the park, at the store, at church, etc. And you feel entitled, because the relationship wasn’t equal. She was too needy, so you were always the listener, sitter, or prayer warrior. You always visited her, but she never visited you. Clearly, she wasn’t as committed to the friendship as you. She didn’t make as much of an effort to build the friendship as you did, so you feel like you must end, or at least modify the relationship.
Of course, as you complain about this at your next lunch out with a different friend, what you don’t realize is the friend sitting across the table from you feels the same way towards you. “She gossips a lot and I don’t think its good for me to be around someone like that,”she told her husband that morning. Or “she didn’t tell me she was pregnant until she was 14 weeks, when I told her the day I found out about our pregnancy.” Or, “all she cares about is her friendship with that other woman. If she brings her up again, this is the last lunch invite I’ll be accepting.”
Here’s my point: We expect our friends and our family to bend over backwards at the drop of a hat when we need them. We rank our friendships based on their willingness to sacrifice something in their lives in order to meet some need in us. And we are willing to give in return…that is until we actually start to feel the pinch or discomfort. Our self-preservation kicks in and we pull back. We come up with great excuses and half-truths to make ourselves feel better. “Well, my first priority is my family… I need only positive influences around me right now… They have other people that can help them out… I deserve to be happy... I don’t need someone like that in my life.” We seek out counsel from those we know will back up the decision we already made. “Good for you. You don’t need to worry your pretty little head about her… I cut someone out of my life just like that, and look at me!…You have plenty of other friends…God just wants you to be happy…”
Well, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of getting the bad advice. I’m sick of seeing it perpetuated on secular television shows and in Oprah’s book club picks I’m sick of seeing in groups of Christian friends. I’m sick of seeing it in the communities I’ve lived in. From San Antonio to Toledo, it is part of our human nature that has no geographical boundary and even southern hospitality and the buckeye nation can’t override. We have all bought into the lie that if our needs are not being met in friendship, then we have a right to cross our arms, have our hissy fit and delete half our facebook friends (You know you’ve done it!!! As have I!!!)
Let’s stop right now. Let’s rip up the mental balance sheet that we have for each of the people in our lives that keep track of who owes who what. Instead, let’s open the Bible and see what God truly has to say about friendship and what our rights are in getting our needs met. This month, I will be writing a series of blog posts that I hope to be thought-provoking, encouraging, and practical ways that we can seek out new friendships, strengthen our existing friendships, and recover lost friendships. I have realized that I can be a pretty terrible friend and I have seen the devastating results. I have also had pretty terrible friends that have torn my heart to pieces and left me scarred, insecure, and lonely. Bear with me, though, as I attempt to step outside my melancholy-thick personality and focus on what we can do instead of what we should not do. I’m especially looking forward to sharing with you the wonderful examples of friendship I have had in my life and how blessed I have been by them.
“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival.” -C. S. Lewis