I Don’t Know How to Friend

Friendships can be so ambiguous sometimes. It has always been confusing to me that I feel pretty confident when it comes to romantic relationships yet claim to not understand how to be a friend. Maybe that’s your red flag to stop reading, but please, just give me a chance. Please let me explain.

As I begin to process and think through this, maybe it’s because I’ve read a lot about romantic relationships and what the Bible says. Moving forward, even when I struggle with them, at least I feel like I have a clear guide. I don’t see a lot of books on Christian friendships specifically. It’s confusing to not struggle with jealousy in a romantic relationship yet I struggle hard with jealousy in my friendships. I feel like I have realistic expectations in romantic relationships but I have no idea what fair expectations look like in friendships. It blows my mind. I am confident that I’m not qualified to speak on Christian friendships and what they should look like, but these are my honest thoughts that maybe you can relate to. Do you struggle with this? I would love to hear your thoughts and your take on it. Welcome to the thoughts that keep me up late into the night.

two women sitting on rock facing on body of water and mountain

UNCLEAR GOALS IN FRIENDSHIPS.

I truly believe that this is the center as to why I am so lost. I guess in friendships I feel like there is not a clear goal and because there are no clear goals, it can be completely unfair to create realistic expectations. In contrast, with my view of romantic relationships, there’s a clear goal. The goal is to see if we are compatible and called to marriage and because there’s that goal, I feel like I can draw realistic expectations. We both are working together to see if we can do life together. There’s more commitment.

With friendships, I’ve always felt that they’ve been unclear. Are we friends for just a season? Am I only your “friend” because you just need someone that’ll let you vent without interrupting? Are we friends only for the time that we’re in college? Are we friends that intentionally try to text each other every day or do we get coffee once every three years and that’s about it? Based on that “goal”, I will treat our friendship somewhat differently, but it all feels unclear.

With my close friends, I will pursue those friendships for as long as I can. I have the goal of keeping you in my life long term, absolutely. I want to hear the life updates as they happen. I want to hear about the awful Tinder date. I want to hear about the new song you’re obsessed with. I want to hear about the books you’re reading. I don’t want to have to wait five years to find out you bought a home and you’re married. But that’s not what everyone thinks and it can feel weird to implement that sort of goal. Aren’t friendships supposed to be fun? Setting a goal can be a hassle and I shouldn’t have to take it that seriously…right?

It just feels like this weird limbo state. In romantic relationships, you’re either together or you’re not. With friends, there isn’t that level of commitment and so it’s almost natural to just stop talking because we don’t live together or because you changed churches or because you work in New York now. I’ll pursue you and put in the hard work to keep you around, but maybe you don’t feel the same way. Maybe to you, our friendship “ends” the moment it becomes slightly inconvenient. I’m not saying one is right and one is wrong, but both have different goals and ideas which makes everything unclear.

And let me be clear, this isn’t a problem with my casual friends, this is about my close/core friends. These are the people I text frequently. These are the people that I share my struggles with. These are the people that have seen me cry.

four person standing at top of grassy mountain

THE LINE BETWEEN FRIEND AND DOORMAT

Between friend and doormat, or maybe I’ll use the term “loving neighbor”. I am called to love Christ and love people, yes. I am called to treat one another with grace. But what’s the difference between simply loving people and being kind versus being a friend to others?

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at people with the intention of seeing them as God’s kids, but it is such an overwhelming feeling. It’s seeing them and just wanting to know everything about them and how they’re created in God’s image. It’s this intense desire to want to know their passions, what keeps them up at night, how they see the world. I am so fascinated with how God has made them and I just want to love them for who they are. Truthfully, it takes a lot of energy to do this. I love God’s people but it can be emotionally challenging to see them this way, but also it feels wrong to take a step back and not see them as God’s creations. But here’s the dilemma, how do I choose who to pour that energy into?

LOVE ISN’T SELF-SEEKING.

I feel like the easy answer is, pour that energy into people who are your friends. And then the question arises, what classifies as a friend? People who pursue you and treat you well? That feels somewhat incorrect because love isn’t self-seeking. It feels wrong to love the people that love me because they love me. Friendship or any relationship shouldn’t follow “quid pro quo”.

We’re called to love God and love people regardless. We love because we were loved first by Jesus. That’s the motivation. Being loved back can be a “byproduct” and maybe who loves you back distinguishes who’s a friend and who isn’t. I don’t know. I am completely cringing from the uncertainty in my thinking as I type some of this out.

Is it wrong to cling on more to the people who make you feel good? I don’t know. Jesus was loving to everyone but He did have His three really close friends, twelve disciples and everyone else. Read the Gospels.

This in itself makes me question what it means to be a friend. I know how I want to treat my friends but I don’t know how they should treat me. There’s no common goal. There’s not really “roles” within a friendship. The idea of expectations within a friendship seems uncomfortable, but if there are no expectations, what’s the difference between being treated as a friend compared to just being a loving neighbor? Should there be a difference? I think so.

Maybe this is selfish, but the truth is I want to be pursued and loved by people I love. I know my identity is in God, but also, I think it would be cool to have friends that also see you as God’s creation. I don’t know if it’s fair to desire that. It isn’t the core motivation to love. Jesus is that core motivation. All I am saying is it would be cool if both parties in the friendship pursued one another equally. I love loving people and I love rooting for people. I love seeing each and every one of you as God’s people. I truly do. But how should I be treated by my friends? I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s fair to even expect anyone to see me as God’s kid.

four men sitting on ground

IN CONCLUSION

So, long story short, I am completely confused by the notion of friendship haha. I am completely overthinking what it means to be a friend and I lose too much sleep over-analyzing my friendships, but this is an honest blog. That’s what you’re here for and I appreciate you sticking around even with my raw and disorganized thoughts and feelings. Welcome to my life. Friendships are something I have struggled with since preschool. To my friends specifically, thank you for your patience and your love, always.

I know I mentioned there are no Christian books on friendships, there are some, just a few. One that I try to read every time I get re-stuck in this type of thinking is “Messy Beautiful Friendship” by Christina Hoover. And more importantly, the book of Proverbs has a lot of verses when it comes to friendship. Look at Jesus’s life and see how He treated His friends. Jonathan and David had a pretty solid friendship as well.

So, I am going to sign off now and re-read that book and spend more time looking at friendships in the Bible. As I said, I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for listening.

13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

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