Sinking Friendship

You make decisions, and you live with them. Some decisions make particularly bad roommates. I have not been a good friend. I long for close relationships in my life, but I have all but thrown out the ones I had when I was younger. The people who knew me well twenty-some years ago, don’t know me at all, today. It is my own fault. When I got out of the Coast Guard, I was ashamed of the choices I had made, and I was quite depressed. I didn’t make an effort to keep in touch with the friends I had made. I think often of my old friends, but I don’t take the time to reach out. I tend to compose letters in my head that are never put down on paper or typed into an email. Years of isolationism have taken a toll.

These days, I think the term friend is used too liberally. We use it to refer to people we allow to view our social media posts, and people we know in passing. We use it for people we know, whom we like. But shouldn’t friendship be about having a relationship? Knowing someone’s name is different from knowing her character. Social media has created an environment where people share too much of themselves with the online world, but don’t develop actual relationships. We can know a lot about each other without investing any time or effort. This is the friendship equivalent of a chocolate Easter Bunny: it looks good on the outside, but it is hollow.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4

Church should have a family atmosphere, since we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We help one another and pray for one another, which, I think can be distinct from friendship.  My church puts an emphasis on growing in faith through relationships. I don’t think the point is following each other on social media, and there has to be more than just seeing each other on Sundays and perhaps praying for each other. Different personalities look at friendship differently. I am the kind of person who considers true friends to be people that I know well and share life with. More outgoing people are energized just by being around others, and are more likely to consider acquaintances to be friends. I have dear brothers and sisters at church who pray for me when I ask and help me when I need it. But there is not the closeness of friendship that I am looking for. There isn’t anyone who is a fixture in my life, and while I tend to overshare, there isn’t anyone with whom I share my personal, day-to-day struggles.

True relationship takes an investment of time and effort. I know that throughout my life I have failed, over and over again. I have lost touch with so many people who cared about me and invested in me. Recently, I failed again. I balked at the financial investment that was required for a friend. By the time I realized how stupid I had been, there was no going back. On some level, I know there was selfishness involved in my decision. I could make excuses, but that doesn’t help. I remembered something that I had learned before: friendship requires sacrificing your own desires and preferences for the other person. I suppose that being single, I don’t have too much occasion to practice this. So, it took me twice as long as it should have to realize that the investment was not for my benefit, but for my friend’s. It wasn’t about me, and I am not used to that, I suppose.

As soon as [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David. . .Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.

1 Samuel 18:1a, 3-4

I know there are a lot of complicated reasons that I don’t have the close friendships that I desire, but I need to take responsibility for my part of the equation. I have become miserly with my time and money, and I tend to be self-focused. I am praying that God will help me to break out of this. For years I have been praying that God would help me to be more loving and to relate to people better. Progress is slow. I tend to be more task oriented than people oriented, and these days I never feel like I have enough time. It takes patience to stop to have a conversation with someone when I have a dozen other things I want to do. Further, I spend a lot of time lost in my own thoughts. I need God to help me break out of my own world and engage with the people around me, more. I feel as though I have improved, over the past few years, but I still long for something deeper.

I want a relationship that goes beneath the surface. I want friendships that encourage me. Too often I feel alone on this journey. There are so many things in my heart that I can only share with God. Sometimes, I think that maybe God wants to be the only voice speaking into my life. But every Sunday at church, I hear relationship, relationship, relationship. I am trying to solve the part of my problem that is mine, one day and one decision at a time. Perhaps the most important thing I can do is learn from my mistakes. I hope that it will help make it easier to live with my decisions.

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