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.