What’s in a Friendship?

Dear Christian Counselor,

Is it really that important to have a lot of friends? I think that I can feel just as lonely even when I have a lot of friends. I am the one that tends to not call or not let people get too close to me. I think it’s the little girl in me that doesn’t want to be hurt over and over again. So I just keep a handful of friends, and I tell each of them just how much I want them to know about me. When I thought that I had a good friendship starting, all the other person wanted to do was talk about her life, her day and her everything. I understand that she obviously needs to talk, but when she is done she immediately says ok, well I have to go. What’s up with that????

Your blogs make me think and also think deeper about Jesus. Thank you.

Afraid of Friends

Dear Afraid,

No, I don’t think it’s important to have lots of friends as long as you have a couple of great friends you can really count on and confide in. Even before the fall, when everything was right with the world, God said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” We do need other people. But after sin entered the world, friendships got harder and messier. I had a wonderful professor who taught, “People get hurt in relationships, and they get healed in relationships” – but once you’ve been hurt, it’s harder to risk making friends.

The kind of one-sided relationship you are talking about is not mutual, and so I would not call it a real friendship. A friendship can be one-sided for a season, during a time of extraordinary need, but to be a real friendship there should be give-and-take over time, risk-taking on both sides, room for mistakes, space for confession, true forgiveness, love and laughter. When only one person is sharing, giving, taking, etc., you are talking about a role you have in their life, not a relationship. It might be appropriate in some cases for you to have a role like that – with an elderly relative, for example. But if you are feeling used, as though you are simply a warm body on the other end of the phone, I think you are free to step back from that relationship and look for one that feels more like a friendship. You are not being fed and refreshed, and the sad part is that you are becoming resentful.

I know it will take courage for you to reach out and try again. I pray that God will give you that strength. You’ve already been hurt in relationship – may you now find some healing in a true friendship.