The Fault In Our Friendships

The following message was re-posted with permission. I get a lot of questions about friendship and finding the right people, and it seems to be a recurring theme in people’s lives. For some reason, friendships only get harder as we get older, so I wanted to post this as a way of letting you know that you aren’t the only one trying to figure it all out.

So I’m currently in a phase of post college working life. And I’m just questioning if my friends are just friends or proximity of actual friends. I love them, but I just don’t feel like they put in the effort to hang out or catch up. I understand we’re all busy cause of full time work and church etc. but I just miss them. When is it time to just let go and invest time elsewhere with people that are willing to invest time back? Or am I just thinking too much into it? I just feel like I don’t have any friends but I do. Are you still close friends if you don’t see or talk to each for weeks/months? I don’t know if this makes sense, but have you ever been in the position of having to reconsider your friendship circle / your inner circle?

I threw myself a birthday party last year.

Since I was overseas for my milestone 21st, I figured I would compensate by throwing a huge party for my 22nd. In reality, I procrastinated so long that by the time my birthday came around, I had no choice but to host a small get together instead.

When I set up the Facebook event and sent out the digital invitations, I was immediately flooded with anxiety over whether anyone would show up. I began to question if I had been a ‘good enough’ friend to others and wondered where I stood with certain people on the guest list.

The next day, I sat across from my counsellor and word-vomited all my angst over the event. Am I worth showing up for? Would my friends still make an effort even if I wasn’t offering a $1000 bar tab and a killer DJ?  

After a solid 20 minutes of me listing all my fears, she finally said “Have you considered that your friends might express their care in different ways?”

“You value showing up for people,” she told me. “It’s clear in the way you speak and the way you endeavour to be there for others. But your friends might express their love differently. They may prefer to send you a gift instead, or they may think that cooking a meal for you is more important than their presence at your party.”

And this mind shift made all the difference.

As a serial overthinker who values words and quality time, it can hurt when others are seemingly not making an effort to be there for me. Thoughts like ‘are they really a good friend?’ and ‘do I bother investing in them?’ can flit through my mind when I’m feeling overlooked or unloved. But I constantly have to remind myself that it’s rarely a reflection of their care for me, and actually a revelation on how they express it.  We’re all unique and that translates over to how we love on each other. I have to trust that, although they aren’t free until June or some ridiculous date, their heart is in the right place. It’s hard not to take it personally, but like every good relationship, the problem can be solved by just knowing how to communicate your needs and wants.

That being said, I also know that friendships go through seasons.

There have been periods of my life where I’ve leaned heavily on one group of friends, only to have Uni, work and other commitments, separate our course. As hard as it is to have people you were once close to, get pulled away, I also think there’s a lot of beauty in it. I’m a big believer that we all serve a purpose in each other’s lives. God always knows who we need and when we need them, and He is faithful in making sure our paths cross.

 There was a girl that I barely used to see. I was lucky if I even got a 5 minute one-on-one conversation with her. But now that we’re both forging new careers for ourselves, we get to spend so much time working together, supporting one another and pushing each other to keep moving forward.

In the same way, I used to see one of my closest friends all the time when we both really needed each other’s support and wisdom. Now that she works full time, I rarely get to see her but I know that it’s a new season for her to invest in her career and form friendships with her new co-workers.

The fact that you don’t get to spend as much time with certain people doesn’t de-value the quality of your friendship. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t friends anymore or it’s time to cut them off. ‘Being close’ to someone isn’t dependent on how often you see them, but on how safe you feel when you’re around them. There are people I see on a weekly basis who will only know what’s happening on the surface level, and there are those I only see yearly who know the words in every chapter of my life.

One of the bittersweet parts of life is that we don’t get to keep the people that come into our lives.

I used to wrap my self-worth around other people and look at the quantity of my friends as a measure of how ‘enough’ I was. But that’s a really dangerous position to be in – especially since we can’t mandate that the friends we love will stay with us forever.  No matter how much we declare that we’re going to be BFFS 4EVA, people get pulled in different directions. They may get married or have kids or move overseas, and we have to let them go. As a result, people leaving used to feel like literal stab wounds and I would take every single one personally.

I’m now learning that every friend I have is a blessing, not an entitlement.

People aren’t possessions that we can hoard and keep in our treasure chest forever.  They aren’t a measure of our worth or made to carry the burden of our expectations.

Now, when people leave, I let them go knowing that while they’ve been a blessing to my life, it’s now time for them to impact somebody else’s.

Then comes the age-old question: When is it time to re-invest in new friends?

In high school, I was friends with a group of girls who were fluent in tearing each other down. Secrets and gossip were basically our second language, and we’d always find a way to undermine each other. I can’t speak for the rest of the members, but I’m sure deep down we would leave each encounter feeling worse about ourselves and with large dents in our self-esteem. I never had the courage to break free until school ended. But if I could do it again, I would tell my younger self that life was too short to hang out with people who don’t know how to uplift and support one another.

The same thing happened in Uni when my values clashed with another friendship group. Although there were days when I would feel euphoric hanging out with them, when conflict inevitably struck and things got hard, I found out where their loyalties really were.

To this day, I still look back at that period of my life and refer to it as ‘the year I had no friends.’ It was heartbreaking and traumatic, but I can also look back and see God’s hand all over that crisis. If I hadn’t lost them, I wouldn’t have found the people who helped shape me into who I am today. Confident. Self-assured. And most importantly, joyful.

There’s a saying that you are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with. If that’s true, then you’d want to be intentional about who you’re spending time with. I can only speak for myself, but through all those ‘trial and errors,’ I now know that I want the people around me to be encouraging, others-focused and pursuing a great call on their lives.

To the person who sent this to me, and for anyone else questioning whether it’s worth staying friends with certain people- I can’t tell you what to do or who to stay friends with.

I don’t ever want to show up on this page and claim I have all the answers. It was so hard writing this and knowing there were ten different ways I could respond. Relationships are intricately complex and diverse, and I’ll probably write another post in a year’s time with a completely different opinion.

I don’t know where you are right now. Maybe you’re someone who got to stay friends with the same 5 people you’ve know since primary school. Or maybe you’re now trying to pick up the pieces of a broken friendship group and wondering if you’ll ever find people who just ‘get you.’

All I know is that friendship is one of those things that’s worth taking a risk. You need people around you that will remind you to keep going. To push you to be the best version of yourself. To call you out when you’re about to do something shady. Like every other relationship, you’ll act salty towards one another and then make up in the next week. You may inadvertently hurt each other, and someone will leave.

As someone who’s come out on the other side of many toxic friendships, I can still say that it’s worth going through the hurt to find the right people. You may not find them tomorrow. Or even by next week. But gosh, if there’s anything I know it’s that you were not made to do this life alone, and God will always give you the people you need.

Encouraging you always,

Ash xx

Know anyone struggling with friendships? Share this post with them!

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Everyone struggles to get through Humpday. It’s this dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed. Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

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Brick by Brick: Thoughts on Building Community

If you’d asked me two years ago about finding community, I wouldn’t have had an answer for you.

To me, ‘community’ was a buzz word you used to tempt people into moving to a retirement home. 

To know my story is to know that I used to be part of friendship groups with girls who didn’t have each other’s best interests at heart. I thought that the type of people who had your back during the highs and lows of life, only existed within the pages of books and on the screens of sitcoms. I remember laying on a friend’s couch one night watching Carrie Bradshaw rotate through men and shoes and handbags. But never her friends.  “Do people really stay so close for that long?” I asked my friend. “Nope,” she said while stuffing more chips in her mouth. “Only in movies.”   

 Worn out by disingenuous motives and people that chipped away at my self-esteem, I clung onto wounds from the past and built walls to barricade others from getting too close to me. At a housewarming, while some were huddled together having intimate conversations, I stuck close to the booming music and ducked out of conversations that threatened to go beyond “how are you?” Although I craved a deeper connection, I didn’t have the energy to open myself up to others only to be disappointed again.  After all, what what the point of meeting him, or her, or anyone, if they were just going to ditch when the going got tough.  

Sometimes, I wish the lessons we needed to learn came in the form of handwritten letters tucked inside envelopes, titled Lesson 0.15: How to Make Friends That Last.  It would come every month alongside our phone bill, and we’d all be inspired to be better humans. I’m still negotiating with God over this. 

My lesson came in the form of a misunderstanding, severe lack of communication, and people who were desperate to avoid discomfort. It came in the form of  hitting rock bottom, a divine intervention, and then, finally, a clean slate. 

Someone I now call a true friend, dragged me through the doors of a place that promised love, welcoming, and belonging. But I still clung onto my old attitude like an old, worn out cardigan with shrunken sleeves that I couldn’t bear to throw away. Week after week, I would sit on the sidelines as a blurred face in the crowd, make brief small talk with the people next to me, and then speed home straight after the event. 

If God were to write me a letter, I imagine mine would read something like this: 

Girl, throw out the damn cardigan. 

It’s easy to wait for people to approach you first and get salty when they fail to notice you. It’s easy to stick to superficial conversations and wonder why nobody knows who you really are. It takes a certain type of boldness to  step out of the boat and go deeper with a few. 

His lesson is clear. If I really wanted something different- if I wanted to feel seen and known and loved by a group of genuine people I could one day call community, I’d have to be the first to suck it up and do the heavy lifting. 

I know nothing about building houses, carpentry or cementing. I once convinced myself I could build a life with a tradie, only to quickly realise that was not my destiny. But I imagine any type of building starts off small, with the repetitive laying down of one brick after another until you’ve constructed yourself a solid, sturdy house. 

Building a community from the ground up is the same. You roll up your sleeves and lay out the groundwork by asking people out with the intention of doing life with them. Most people will eagerly accept. Others just happen to lead busier lives. There are no guarantees the work will be easy. Not everyone will be as welcoming as you hope. But often, difficult people are placed in our lives to help us appreciate the ones who are warm and make you feel included. 

If a deeper connection is what you’re craving, then you’re going to have to be the first to show some skin. When the obligatory small talk is over, dive for the deeper stuff. Ask “how are you” and then say “No, really. How are you?” when they give you a vague, generic answer. Be open and honest about the fact that you don’t have your life together, and provide a no-judgement zone when others tell you the same. In a world where everyone is desperate to show off the highlights, your vulnerability is refreshing and invites the other person to open up about their secret struggle too. Someone once told me they felt safe confiding in me about their burdens and I nearly cried. In its simplest form, I think that’s what community is: a group of imperfect humans providing a safe space to share about their imperfect lives. 

Done well, your tribe will be made up of cheerleaders, world-shakers and shoulders to cry on. It’ll involve people who let you share difficult truths over pancakes and maple syrup, and friends who write you love letters when you’re feeling unlovable. It’s 2 am calls when anxiety is keeping one of you awake and driving for 50 minutes to their home because somebody has to put in the effort. Your community will be made up of people who bake the cakes and buy the flowers. Some will cook you dinners after you give them lifts, and others will open up their couch to you after a hard day. Ever brick you’ve ever stacked in love will come together to build you up. They’ll show up for you, and you’ll show up for them. 

I thought about all this recently when a friend told me about life at her new church. “I’m pretty sure only about two people like me there,” she said in a passing comment. 

After I got in my car, I wish I’d told her that it takes time. That nothing worthwhile was ever created by just showing up once. Whatever you seek to build will require commitment and a promise that you’ll keep working at it. To neglect this process would lead to a flimsy shelter that would barely survive a drizzle of rain, let alone the storms of life. 

Community isn’t built in a day. It’s showing up when things are messy. It’s the first to be vulnerable and the extending of an invitation. It’s shaking off your perfect facade and getting knee deep in the muddy trenches with one another. It’s tears, being honest, having fights and making up. It’s a combination of hello’s, goodbye’s and I’ll see you soon’s.

Community is not sitting on the sidelines with a wish to be picked. It’s stepping up to the plate, putting skin in the game and saying, ‘hey you, there’s no guarantee this will work, but I want to try this friendship thing  anyway.’  Its picking up and laying down one brick after the other in the form of coffee dates, house visits, and showing up for people till you’ve built a solid fortress that will be there to pick you up when life gets heavy. 

I don’t know where you are today. Maybe you’ve finally found yourself a solid tribe or maybe you’re picking up the pieces of a broken one and wondering if you have the energy to start all over again. If you’ve ever needed a letter to show up for you, let this be it:

Life isn’t meant to be done alone.

You’ll find your people.

Commit to the long haul.

Show up for one another.

Stack the bricks. 

 

When the fresh start to the week has worn off, but the weekend still feels ages away, you end up with humpday. This dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed.

 Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti* and encouragement to make humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for?

Enter your email to receive confetti* and encouragement in your inbox every Humpday!

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