Friday Night Date Place – When Good Singles Groups Go Bad

I think I’ve mentioned before how I was once part of several singles groups and how these groups can sometimes develop strange dynamics. The key was understanding the “politics” of them:

-those who make “friends” strictly as an opportunity to date those within the circle -those who genuinely want friends -those who just want folks to kill time with until they find someone and then they can disappear -those who want an entertainment/activity circle

So I’ve been thinking a lot about when a singles group can reach a tipping point to where it might be better to move on from that group. This is a fairly common occurrence as most folks only tend to last 3 years in a singles group before moving on for one reason or another (if for no other reason than they are tired of “singles groups” and move on to explore the rest of what life has to offer).

The fact of the matter is that part of the dynamic of the singles group is that unless it is continually renewed with, let’s call it what it is, fresh meat, they eventually implode. Close and constant proximity can cause feelings to occur even when, on paper, you wouldn’t ordinarily find yourself attracted to that person. Rinse, lather, repeat, and sooner or later, most of the group has gone through the round robin of dating one another. If all went well, the group can settle into being friends. However, things rarely go well and sometimes the very process of round robin dating tears the group apart.

Sometimes the group is TOO up in your Kool Aid. There’s a fine line between a protective circle of friends and a bunch of nosey busy-bodies. The difference will lie in the type of individual relationships you may have with the folks in the group. My friends have a lot more latitude to speak into my life. A group of acquaintances, despite the frequency of us hanging out, does not. (Though I try to not be too hasty in dismissing their opinions outright just because we may not like their conclusions. Sometimes friends, because they aren’t so personally invested, can see things that you can’t.)

In my ideal single’s group, there would be married couples in there to act as mentors of a sort. One, for an example of the type of relationship the singles (think) they want, if only to take the romantic notions off of marriage to replace them with realistic ones. Two, to set the example of not ditching your friends after you get married. Three, to give the benefit of their experience. A friend of mine recently found herself in a dating dilemma which threw her singles group into a tizzy. It was a single’s group mostly her age, with largely her level of experience in life. She posed the same dilemma to another set of friends, most of whom were married and had dated to much greater extremes and experience (read: severe consequences) and the perspective was entirely different.

There are other times when the community you are in may not be the best fit for you. Communities change over time. If teh interwebz have taught us nothing it’s that it only takes one or two personalities (read: trolls) to poison a group if they are left unchecked. If you find you don’t have deepening relationships, but instead everything remains on a very surface level, you may want to move on (unless that’s what you want). While all close circles of friends have “gossip” issues because they talk to each other about each other, such behavior can turn negative. In fact, it doesn’t take too much for a once loving community to become a bullying, excluding clique.

In the end, singles groups are like any other community: you have to decide if it is helpful to you or has become toxic. If nothing else, how the group continues to reach out to people, how it loves, how it forgives, how it handles crises, and how it repairs damaged relationships tells a lot about the group. I began quoting from one previous blog, so I’ll end with another:

Take a look at your current circle of friends. There’s a good chance that a year from now, maybe two, the complexion of your circle of friends will be different. People whom you shared intimate secrets with one day drift (or storm) out of your life. People fight. Misunderstandings occur. Trust is betrayed. People move, switch social circles, life, circumstances, what have you – you wake up one day and realize that some folks aren’t as close to you or aren’t as much a part of your world as they used to be. There is a natural ebb and flow to relationships.

Luckily, friendships renew themselves. Cherish the friends in your life right now.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Conversations About Friendship

Sometimes I really underestimate the power of social networking to have interesting conversations. For this weekend’s reach-around, there was the conversation I had during my impromptu friendship appreciation day. (Okay, to be honest, weekends are slow on Twitter and I get bored easy, especially if all I’m doing is sitting around thinking.) Many of us have difficulty telling our friends how much they mean to us. Thus my tweets from Saturday.

thinking about what it means to be a good friend

thinking about how we toss around the word “friend” way too easily without truly understanding what it takes to be one

-Matthew Warner at 12:15pm December 6 Eat that, John McCain!

(before I get e-mails, Matt said that, not me. Now go buy his books)

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller i do think internet “friending” defines friendship down to where we confuse acquaintanceship with friendship.

-Susan Taylor at 12:32pm December 6 Or strangers with friends. 😉 heh

(Don’t know Susan? Go read her magazine)

Maurice Broaddus at 12:35pm December 6 we’re all a series of 1s and 0s … unless we truly invest ourselves. because i know i have teh interwebz to thank for more than a few FRIENDships. 😉

Laurie Handel Miller at 12:42pm December 6 so you’re saying i don’t REALLY have 81 “friends?” this is truly a revelation. and my friends don’t have 372 friends? amazing.

(Don’t know Laurie? She makes church a delight.)

Maurice Broaddus at 12:57pm December 6 i barely KNOW 631 people, much less have that many friends. 🙂

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller it’s like we’ve lost the word acquaintance because anything less than calling someone a friend might hurt their feelings

christammiller @MauriceBroaddus As for online I sometimes look at my lists and think, Who are these people and why do they want to friend me? LOL

(Don’t know Christa? Go correct that.)

christammiller @MauriceBroaddus And is it possible/desirable to REALLY be there – to put forth the same effort – for every single one… to risk trust?

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller absolutely not. we’re going to have people we’re closer with, who we will have more connection to.

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller we physically/spiritually/emotionally can’t be there for everyone on that intimate a level.

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller true intimacy requires trust and risk and investment and shouldn’t be (casually) given to everyone we encounter.

christammiller @MauriceBroaddus So it’s about being more judicious with whom we think of as “friends”… not trying to do/be more for friends who aren’t.

christammiller @MauriceBroaddus Which frees up our emotional/spiritual resources 4 our truest friends and allows us to let the others go to find their own.

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller i find it interesting that we were told to love our neighbors as ourselves, not go and be friends with everyone.

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller e.g., i can love “you” (generic you) and behave in love toward you without emotionally investing in any more of a relationship than that

christammiller @MauriceBroaddus “Behave in love toward you” I guess is where I was going with the question on “being there” fully for everyone in your life

christammiller @MauriceBroaddus By “behave in love” you mean treating others with kindness and respect though… not necessarily giving of energy?

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller honestly i try to be there for the people in my life, as fully as possible, while not forsaking my most impt relationships

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller keeping in mind they are in my life for a reason; and i’m not going to be there for everyone the way that i am for my wife

MauriceBroaddus @christammiller one of the biggest problems i’ve faced working in the ministry: people’s inability to make and keep friends

thinking about how destructive endless back-biting is to a friendship or a community of friends

Mark Worthen at 2:47pm December 6 but backbiting and infighting is about as productive as sticking your finger in a bowl of water trying to leave an impression.

(Don’t know Mark? Fix that.)

thinking about where we’d be if none of us were forgiven for our past mistakes

thinking about what a great support i have in my spouse, which i’ve too often taken for granted.

(who else would buy me my very own Charlie Brown Christmas tree?)

thinking about all of the precious friendships i’ve been privileged to have as a part of my life.

thinking of the family i was born into and the family i chose (in my friends)

ah … and a true milestone was reached in my twitter history: my first fail whale for too many tweets.

(it’s like teh interwebz is saying “shut the hell up”)

Hmm, if you read only the parts in red, it almost reads like a guided meditation on friendship. Feel free to add to the conversation* here or with your own friends. I’m sure it’s long overdue.

*None of this takes into account Brian Keene becoming a preacher or me looking into pimping, but I didn’t say all of the Twitter conversation was going to make sense.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Friday Night Date Place – The Road to Just Friends

Remember when we tackled this question: how do you love your brothers in Christ without giving them false hope of you wanting something more? Apparently I need to revisit the topic. The situation is a familiar one. You dated someone, it lasted a few months, you realized it wasn’t going to work out so you ended it. The things which first drew you to the person are still there, they are still every bit the friend they had always been, so you want to keep the friendship.

Now, the other person makes the attempt (read: lie) to just be friends. Sometimes they’re sincere, sometimes they intend to, and sometimes they are doing whatever it takes to stay in the game (and a lot of the time, the intent to stay friends is prelude to just staying in the game). But along the way to being just friends, there may be the occasional bumps as feelings settle down. In short, you’ve told someone to move on and you won’t date them over again, but you’ve let them know that you still want to be friends. Now what?

The transition to “just friends” is fraught with emotional land mines. It’s hard to go from dating to being just friends. When part of you wanted more, dreamed of more, expected more and all those hopes came crashing down and falling short. It takes a while to pack those feelings back into a box and be able to manage them. It takes focus to channel those “more than friends” feelings and energy into something platonic. The road may be full of DTRs.

Sometimes the road may want to make you re-think being friends. Honestly, the commitment to friendship begins with one sentence: If you can’t deal with the fact that I don’t want to date you any more, then this is the last conversation we will have. The true test comes with one simple scenario: can you handle me going out with someone else?

Basically, you have a decision to make: to be friends or to cut things off. And they have to be prepared to either accept the reality of the situation or stalk you.

For the being friends contingency, both of you will be pouring energy into the relationship, in time and emotional sweat. In some ways you have to live life in light of their feelings, balancing being sensitive with the need for you to move on and do what you’ve got to do. But you do have to lead your life and attend to your own emotion needs and situations.

In the just end it scenario, look, sometimes you can’t be “just friends” and you may have to just cut bait cause friends don’t work. If they don’t get the hint that things really can’t work when you’re being nice, the follow up conversation won’t be pleasant. To quote my brother-in-law: “come here Roly Poly, turn into a ball so I can flick you into the grass.”

Either way, there might be some stalking-ish behavior. Constant phone calls. Texts throughout the night. Showing up where ever you might be. Standing outside your window with a boom box raised above their head playing Peter Gabriel songs. They stay close cause at some point you may end your new relationship and they can catch you on the rebound, after all, the point for them is to stay in the game. This is one way how on again/off again relationships start.

Relationships are commitments, even friendships. Sometimes you have to walk away from friendships for a time in order for the relationship to heal and the two of you to move forward as adults. There’s nothing wrong with that, and that beats the alternative of silly games and stalkerish behavior. We’re better than that.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Friday Night Date Place – Friends Without Benefits

I had a friend who always got in trouble in one of the singles groups I used to be in. Whether he actually did anything wrong was a matter of debate, that debate usually splitting down the great sex divide. You see, he was nice. When he talked to women, he was attentive and actively listened. He walked ladies to their car. He checked on them if they were down or sick. He hung out with them regularly and paid for lunch when he did. To guys like me, we thought we numbered among a dying breed: the fabled gentleman. To the ladies in the group, he sent mixed signals of interest.

One of the peculiarities of that beast we call the singles group is how the dating tension is an ever-present specter. It hovers over each activity, conversation, and interaction, bubbling with attendant drama for the group. All because it’s tough having male/female friendships without sending “mixed” signals.

Because singles groups exist to kill time before people drop out of them, one of the casualties becomes the prospect of real friendship across the sexes. Everything become fraught with “is he interested in me” or “is she too into me” type questions in the back of people’s minds.

We’ve come so far in our social interactions, and by far I mean men have sunk so low, that gentlemanly actions, which were once routine, now signal interest. Apparently, if you do the gentleman thing with a lot of your female friends, despite your intent, it stirs up their passions. Why ELSE would you be so attentive? There’s nothing worse than a nice guy dangling themselves in front of a woman. So it was explained to me/us.

As I’ve managed to get my brain around this notion, despite what we said or how clear we’ve been about our intent (“I’m just looking to be a friend. I just want to get to know you better as a person”), we gave the illusion of interest. By giving the illusion of increasing intimacy (arm holding, lots of one-on-one time, even what we would consider simple politeness), we sent the signal that we were interested. In other words, it’s the couch dilemma (and will result in the dreaded “Defining The Relationship” talk).

Don’t get me wrong, if you find yourself (even in a platonic) cuddling scenario or if part of your act is being a perennial flirt, you do confuse the issue and send a mixed signal. It’s a fine tightwalk to walk. I tended to err on the side of love. I would risk helping, protecting, and nurturing because I try to be genuinely loving. If that sends a mixed signal, then, well I’m sorry society has conditioned us to believe that’s a mixed signal. In the end, I’m guilty of being nice. That being said, there is trust and friendship and relationship, none are to be treaded upon lightly. We want relationships, all types of friendships, so we need to be ever-mindful of the signals we send and the feelings that may get hurt.

Episode 14: Keyboard Courage (And Friend Pimpage)

For all those still butthurt over my “I hate Twitter” rant, I offer an olive branch of sorts. The folks at JustLife.tv had me back on their show to rant about the impact of technology on relationships.

Episode 14: Keyboard Courage (Part 1)

Episode Synopsis
Maurice was back for a two part podcast on friendship and technology. If you’re reading this, you’re using some of the technology we talk about in this podcast. We considered the role of technology in creating community and/or false community. It was a lively discussion that turned into two podcasts.

Episode 15: Keyboard Courage (Part 2)

Episode Synopsis
We continued rolling the tape (even though we’re using a digital recorder) as we continued discussing the role of technology and relationships. Maurice shared about his experience with “fans” who cross the line in their pursuit of moving a “virtual” friendship into a “real” friendship.

In the “I’m so happy for you/I hate you” of my friends department, two quick announcements: Kelli Dunlap is pleased to announce that her first novel has been picked up by Larry Roberts of Bloodletting Press and will be published under the new imprint of Morning Star in 2009. She shoots, she scores. And I’m sure she’ll still be “happy dancing” at Mo*Con and we’ll get nothing useful out of her on any panels. Probably ditto with Lucy Snyder: Del Rey has purchased her first novel Spellbent and two of its sequels. Their tentative plan is to release Spellbent in early-to-mid 2009 and the other books in the trilogy will of course come later.

Do you know what happens when your friends start selling their first novels? It makes you want to pick up the pen and start working your butt off so that you can keep up.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Episode 11: Wired for Relationships

I’ve been interviewed for the JustLife.Tv podcast. It’s a project that’s in the beginning stages, but I’ve been privy to the grand plan and I can’t wait to see take off.

Here is the Episode Synopsis:

In this episode we talk about friendship and the impact it has in a marriage context. Maurice Broaddus brought a unique spin to the conversation. We talked about the tug and pull in friendship, what we want in a friendship, and how we develop a friendship over time.

Click to go to Episode 11: Wired for Relationships

And they may be having me back to rant about “Friendship and Technology.” Be looking for that sometime in June.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

A Name Meme

The irony here is that I usually hate memes, however, I was having a discussion with a couple of friends where we were using other friends names as verbs. There are the obvious ones:

Keene – to inadvertently out one of your message board alts by forgetting to log out before you post again.

Mamatized – when you’ve been handed your butt in an online argument, dispute, or otherwise been shown to be just plain wrong about life and thought.

Haringa-d – when you’ve been handed your butt grammar Nazi-style.

Now, granted, this came up after someone said they had Mauriced in public [1) to annoy or otherwise be unnecessarily sarcastic; 2) a semi-drunken verbal rampage that involves being annoying or otherwise overly sarcastic, though usually ending in declarations of love and/or use of a “preacher’s voice”.] So, choosing five friends, I continue the tradition:

Lauren – to become obsessive compulsive about every aspect of your life or routine. Also known as a Ro.

Rolfingsmeyer – to start a project, bubble with a plethora of ideas about it, only to have the idea fizzle by the wayside as yet another project unfinished. (Specifically, this is referred to as a Rob. The Marcia is when one is playing a game of Magic the Gathering and pull a random/unprovoked/illogical attack on a player which results in your demise in the next turn.)

Stephen noises
– when a generally quiet person clears their throat in preparation of saying something. This includes the resultant pause in all conversation as everyone awaits the pronouncement.

Harp – to prematurely destroy something you’ve created because it isn’t coming out the way you imagined.

West – to have a teddy bear-like innocent love of all things horror related.

Consider yourselves tagged.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Friday Night Date Place – Shopping to Shop

Smokey Robinson sang about “my momma told me, ‘you better shop around’” (my dad listened to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, I’m not dating myself by any stretch). I am more of a pragmatist at heart than a romantic, so a certain about of shopping, haggling, and trading makes sense to me. Also feeding into this is the fact that I’m a guy, so mid-life crises (still not dating myself) also makes sense to me.

I can see this blog quickly getting away from me (it’s the potential pitfall of writing about singles’ issues while your wife not only reads over your shoulder, but keeps flashing back to the series of break ups the two of you had while dating), so let me try this another way. On a certain level, I understand (not saying I condone, approve, or otherwise give assent to) the idea of people trading up: to go prettier, smarter, funnier, wealthier in their next relationship – a terminal case of the grass-is-always-greener-itis. (Unless you are escaping a bad situation, then just run!)

It’s not much of an intuitive leap since too often we treat relationships like disposable commodities. However, what I can’t get my mind around is the idea of shopping to be shopping, or rather, trading simply for the sake of trading. A lateral move rather than a move up in anyway. I suppose in guy parlance, it could be seen as getting a little “strange” on the side; taking us back to the idea of folks getting tired of the same old home-cooking (which would really suck for me since I do all of the cooking in our house. I mean that in the literal sense).

The irony of all of this—between the stereotype of the mid-life crisis/trading the wife for the young secretary and/or the idea of getting some “strange”—is that the reason this topic has come up is because in my circle of friends, it has been the guys dumped. So obviously, this is an equal opportunity condition.

Selfishness and narcissism can rot relationships from the inside. The idea of entitlement, things being about “my needs” and “me first”, is antithetical to how relationships ought to work. Not having needs met; wanting to feel young, pretty, relevant, pursued again; simply wanting a change of scenery, these are symptoms of a poor idea of how relationships work (and while dating, maybe it’s best that they leave. However, these are things that ought to be worked through in a marriage situation).

We suffer from a relational disconnect. There is an emotional desensitization that comes with spending too much time with one person, especially when locked in the same routine. Relationships can only survive by continual reconnection. We combat the disconnect by being present in the relationship, investing time, self, and energy into it, prioritizing the person we wish to spend our life with.

I have a couple of friends who I see constantly. We worry about relational fatigue because we don’t want to get sick of each other. I worry about it less (now) because, for one thing, relationships change. If you take a look at your current circle of friends, there’s a good chance that a year from now, maybe two, the complexion of your circle of friends will be different. People whom you shared intimate secrets with one day drift (or storm) out of your life. People fight. Misunderstandings occur. Trust is betrayed. People move, switch social circles, life, circumstances, what have you – you wake up one day and realize that some folks aren’t as close to you or aren’t as much a part of your world as they used to be. There is a natural ebb and flow to relationships.

For another thing, we have a dynamic I pray will be sustained despite the aforementioned observation about relationships. It’s like we’re in a constant competition to see who can love each other more. The math is simple: Continual acts of love = continual reconnection. Not letting the relationship grow stale or old, valuing the time you spend together, not taking the relationship for granted. Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but only until the heart no longer cares.

Browse if you need to, that’s what dating is all about. Serially wrapping yourself in a relationship simply for the sake of doing so (for the sake of not wanting to be alone, or needing a new face to keep you company), is the height of selfishness. And you may want to seriously look in the mirror and examine yourself about that.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.

Friday Night Date Place – Finding Your Comfort Place

Comfort can sometimes be defined as the ability to pass gas around our significant others. (Note: this isn’t so much a test for guys as we generally enjoy any excuse to do so. In fact, right now any guy reading this is ready to demonstrate to his significant other just how comfortable he is around them).

Backing up, not too long ago, we had a discussion on my message board about the importance of similar world views within relationships. A point that was brought up was how it’s one thing to have to go out and battle your worldview in “the world” but you don’t want to have those battles at home. This kind of brings to mind the idea of being able to breathe in a relationship.

We live in fear of being rejected for who we are or, more specifically, of finally revealing what we’re really like only to have people leave us. As much as we want to be known by others, we all have walls put in place to keep people out and keep ourselves from being hurt. It’s nice to be able to lower them, to find someone we can lower them around. When we can reach a relaxed level of comfort around our significant others, we can feel free to be ourselves, to be real.

This is one of those mystery elements to relationships. There are so many ways to be connected to people, from family, to casual acquaintance, to co-workers, to friends. Some people you have simply known forever or who it feels like they’ve known you forever. This deep sense of connection comes because they’ve seen you in ways others can’t or haven’t. They get you, sometimes without words. They let you change. They let you be.

There is an ingredient that is often difficult to explain to your friends about why you are with so-and-so. Your friends may see your significant other’s glaring faults, but the ability to be yourself around them is an intangible quality. But being comfortable, being able to relax and be yourself and be accepted can balance out a lot.

Finding that comfort can be difficult with friends—that easiness to the relationship, like when friends can enjoy a good silence between each other—much less significant others. Frankly, it is rare that we find those folks we can be comfortable around. Because there is so much artifice surrounding the game of dating, it takes time to get to that place where you can be genuine.

When you find that connection, it’s precious; and maintaining it can be work, but it’s the heart of the relationship. So, besides time, continual conversation can get you to this place. Talking, and more importantly, listening, are skills best developed as soon as possible. The sooner you can quit being so self conscious about yourself and the sooner you can stop thinking so much about how others view your relationship, the sooner you can learn how to just breathe about your significant other.

Or … not breathe. It took me nearly two years into my marriage before I could pass gas in front of my wife. I thought that was a major breakthrough in our relationship. She informed that she could live with one or two walls in our relationship.

***
If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say hi, feel free to do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.

Friday Night Date Place – Circles of Friends

Since this seems to be friendship week on the blog, I thought that I would continue the theme through this week’s Friday Night Date Place. Sometimes in learning to be a contented single it helps to have a circle of friends. Friendships can assuage some of our intimacy needs as well as take the edge off the constant boogeyman of singleness: loneliness.

I think I’ve mentioned before how I was once part of a singles group and how these groups can sometimes develop strange dynamics. The key was understanding the “politics” of them:
-those who make “friends” strictly as an opportunity to date those within the circle
-those who genuinely want friends
-those who just want folks to kill time with until they find someone and then they can disappear
-those who want an entertainment circle

To break the groups down even further, there are planners and there are those who wait for invites and not always do the two meet. I was a planner: I would get bored, decide to do something, and call some folks to join me. Oh, the crap I’d take if I didn’t always invite the right folks (the right folks defined as those who might hear of people getting together and them not getting the invite and then getting bent out of shape over it).

Of course the accusation of the group having “cliques” was bandied about. Not understanding that sometimes I want to hang out with other folks or even just my closest folks. [Just as there are good cliques and bad cliques, there are levels of friendships.] It got to the point where I felt made to feel guilty for not calling folks every time I took a crap. What was on display was the fear of being outside the clique or their friendship rejected or them not being accepted (in fact, the only way to get away complaint free literally was to make every “activity” open to everyone/call everyone – which sort of ruined opportunities for smaller groups to get to know and spend time with each other). A valid fear, since we all prone to believing lies about ourselves—that we’re not good enough, not likeable enough, not funny enough, too hard to be loved—not realizing that we all suffer from moments of these feelings.

One solution was to say “why don’t you plan something?” However, planning takes risk too. The same risk as any attempt to increase intimacy: what if you plan something and no one shows up? Then your attempt to reach out is met with a slap. Some people are simply relationally lazy/afraid: they expect everyone to come to them, to bend to their needs, call them (because their hands are obviously broke)and chase after them. It’s a safe position that minimizes their risks (but maximizes their need to complain when people aren’t cooperating). But, seriously, people aren’t always going to chase after you. [I’m not Captain Sensitivity on this point: I had a girlfriend who used to love making dramatic exits expecting me to follow after her. Dramatic stunts like that only made me reach for the remote control to see what was on television.]

The temptation is to say “put your big girl panties on” when folks complain or just say “screw it, I’m tired of being constantly tested and doubted. Yes, you’ve got me. I actually hate you. ” The natural question to ask then becomes why bother? Seriously, why make the effort to dance around the neurotic landmines of even worrying about folks who seem determined to look for cracks in relationships, communities, and fellowship? Well, because we’re called to love one another, to bear one another’s burdens, and to be the “stronger brother”. So you spend a lot of time balancing out various folks’ needs and insecurities while trying to maintain your own friendships. (But, as the “stronger brother”, you do that friend no favors by just bending around them. You are to push them also.)

Eventually I left that singles group in order to help plant the Dwelling Place. I knew the tenor of the relationships would change. It’s not that we were suddenly any less friends, but I would be out of the rhythm of their lives and I/they would have to work harder to maintain the relationships. Is all of this effort worth it? Well, a solid circle of friends is always worth it; being as considerate as possible, helping folks form friendships, and easing them through their bouts of doubts and insecurity helps form you into a better friend. Just understand that developing a community of friends requires careful care and feeding.