I recently read this wonderful blog article by Donald Miller entitled, What Jesus Taught Me About Walking Away From People and had a discussion about it with a couple of sweet mom friends from MOPS, a prayer group for moms.
The article reminded me of something I heard a few years ago that made me re-evaluate who I was friends with and what those friendships were bringing to my life: “Look around you. Look at who you are friends with. In five years, that will be you.” When I first heard this I thought no way, can’t be true, I am strong and I can have friends who admittedly aren’t the greatest, but they are still PEOPLE, and I definitely need people. Who else will we have lunch and playdates with?
At this time, I had sort of worked myself into what I thought was the “popular” group of moms. I was proud to be invited to their houses, to take baby classes with them, to go to local events together. I always sort of felt like an outsider, and like they might all hate me, but everytime I thought “That’s it, they hate me”, someone would invite me to something else and I would take it as proof that they didn’t.
The thing is, when I hung out with these ladies, I felt really uncomfortable. We had completely different values and views about how to raise kids, how parents should behave, and what good parenting looked like. Not only that, but I felt insecure and like I had to compete. Their lives seemed to fit in with society / culture more, and I was also much younger than all of them.
After a couple offhanded comments that hurt my feelings, and a disappointing set of photos on Facebook showing that I had been left out from a kid’s birthday party, I was done. I decided that I didn’t admire, look up to, or want to be like these friends… and I didn’t like the person that I became when I spent time with them.
I looked at myself. I was anxious, I was unhappy, I was insecure. I felt like I had to compete. I felt like I had to buy the right baby gear, sign up for the right mommy-and-me classes, go to the right restaurants and vacations and all these expensive things that were not actually the right choices for our family.
I felt pushed to gossip, to be okay with (what I considered excessive) drinking, excessive shopping, and methods of parenting that I completely and totally disagree with.
It was middle school all over again, and I was not only putting myself through it, but these were the families I was making playdates with for my daughter. This was the atmosphere I was putting her in.
So what then? Ditch all your friends? How?
How would you distance yourself from anyone else that you didn’t really want to be friends with? I stopped trying to make plans with these moms. I declined an invitation or two and they stopped asking if I’d like to join them. I’m fairly certain that our desire to no longer be friends was mutual, which made it easier.
I also unfriended all of them on Facebook, and even blocked a couple whose posts in mutual groups kept upsetting me to read. I am friendly and polite when we run into each other, but I keep my internet a stress-free place where my “friend list” is comprised of people who are actually my friends.
What I have done when I’ve had friends that I feel a need to distance myself from but who still want to be friends with me, is to be straightforward, loving, direct, and have strong boundaries. You don’t need to offer explanations, insults or apologies. You are making the best choice for you and your family, and that is that.
What about loving all people? Healing the sick? What about saving them?
You can’t save them. It’s really simple. When you are doing good work and helping someone to heal, or helping a genuine friend through a challenging time, the fruits are good. Spending time around that person makes you feel good, not terrible. The person you become around them is someone you like, not someone you hate.
Think about it like this, not everyone Jesus met became a disciple. Many of them became followers, went to hear him speak, many were healed by him. But most of them were not people that he chose to spend his time with daily. Jesus’ disciples were truly holy, good, SAINT LIKE people. They weren’t always that way, of course, we are all human, but we can apply this to our friendships and relationships too.
In our ministerial lives, we go out and do good work, we help others, we teach, we serve. We then come home, to our loving families and sometimes friends, and gain our strength back. If your friends are not people who you gain strength from, look up to, admire, or want to be more like… it might be time to reevaluate those friendships.
I’m also not saying it’s not okay for a relationship or friendship to have a rough patch. We are human, we all struggle, we don’t need to ditch every friend who isn’t at each meeting bringing joy and strength to our lives. Look at the fruits of the relationship — are they good or bad? Does it feel unhealthy? Do you like the way you act when you are around this friend? Boundaries are important, they are Godly, and they protect our hearts and our strength so that we are able to do the work we are called to do. If you want to read a good book on boundaries I highly recommend (Amazon affiliate link) Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud.
So what next? Have no friends?
If you have to, and sometimes we do have to. There have been periods of my life where I actually needed to be lonely in order to grow in the ways that I needed to. This time around I prayed for good friends, for Godly friends. I prayed for good role models, for good families, and for friends I would respect and look up to. Friends that I actually did want to be like in five years.
Don’t be afraid of the loneliness, I found that after a period of mourning, I was much happier being myself alone rather than being someone I disliked around others. And good friends will come, in God’s good time. Let Him be in charge, and don’t be afraid to put your wonderful self out there, you just might meet someone wonderful.