Calligraphy by Alexa Donner
From the very beginning of our formative years as little ones, we are taught the importance of what it means to be a good friend. A lesson that is 100% critical, as we all know it is truly important to have an understanding of what it means to be a GOOD FRIEND. However, in that life lesson, I believe that well- intentioned idea of being a friend to all, has painted this false perception of friendship. Through learning this lesson of life, we naturally begin calling everyone we know a friend, when in actuality, that is not at all the case…many are just acquaintances.
About 4 years ago, after moving to Columbus and as 30 rapidly approached, I had a breakdown about friendships. How could a gal with nearly 2000 “friends” on Facebook, feel so alone. How could a gal who seemingly knows everyone around town, feel so alone. It was a hard season for me and I just could not understand why I didn’t feel that I had friendships, when I literally knew thousands of people. Also during that season of life, I had a huge friendship falling out that quite literally tore me to pieces, as I never in a million years thought that specific relationship would end, but it did. Without reliving all of those emotions, it was a season of life where I downright felt unworthy to be anyone’s friend, which was a lie and not truth. But emotions were high and I could only listen to what my feelings were telling me.
As I have shared with you all before, I started doing some hard heart work in Year #2 of living here in Columbus. I needed to get down to the root of why I was allowing my feelings to rule me in certain areas of my life. And friendship feelings was definitely one of those areas. In this season of intense healing, I learned on a larger scale that I did in fact deal with unworthiness, which contributed to my feelings of less than and alone. But I also had spent a lot of time misidentifying relationships…calling lots of people friends, when in fact we had zero things in common, we weren’t in community with one another and/or didn’t know each other beyond that one encounter that we had at an event, at a pageant and so on. In actuality, I was swimming in a sea of acquaintances. Just to put this into further context, acquaintance is defined as someone you know slightly, but is not a close friend (sourced from Lexico). As I began reflecting on this, I asked the Lord to help me understand when this notion of everyone you have interaction with makes them a friend, started. Nearly instantly, I was taken back to elementary school, which ironically was a challenging season in my life for friendships. Calling everyone a FRIEND is something that starts young and continues well into our collegiate years. As we grow into adulthood, if that concept of friendship isn’t reidentified, we end up experiencing a season of life where we feel completely friendless and it sucks.
Since having this revelation of misidentifying friendships, I have taken the time to identify all my real friendships over the course of my life. From elementary school until now. In elevating my relathionships, I learned that at any given time, I ACTUALLY HAD 2 to 5 close friends and a handful of other people who were actually friends. That is significantly less than the 2000 people I am friends with on Facebook. ha. Equipped with this knowledge of understanding, I am able to give myself proper expectations on who I am keeping up with, who I am checking in with, etc. Secondarily, I am able to gage early on if someone is interested in genuinely being a friend or interested in what I can give them through “friendship” (a sad thing to admit, but our culture has become completely opportunistic, making it really difficult to understand what true friendship is).
I wanted to take a moment and share a bit of this, as many of us have spoken about the difficulty in making friendships as adults and we are going to talk about this further in the coming weeks and months. But I felt it was important to put this out there, as it might help with understanding why we feel so lonely at times…because society has misidentified what the word “friend” really means. Again, I believe calling everyone a friend was something well-intentioned, but growing into adulthood teaches us the opposite…everyone IS NOT YOUR FRIEND and we do not need to feel sad about that. We have different personalities, life experiences, different love languages, etc, all things that shape our relationships on a personal level. I believe the sooner we have this revelation surrounding friendships, the sooner we can understand that our personal circles are intended to be small. To be intimate. To have true friendship. And true friendship is developed through relationship and not only connection. A connection is an acquaintance and it is perfectly fine for it to be just that.