Winter… it’s that time of year for many of us above the equator where it’s cold, nights are long, and we find ourselves with a lot of extra time indoors thinking. As such, I believe this is a great time to evaluate friendships.
As we age, our time with friends tends to decrease as life responsibilities take over and we find ourselves too busy to hang out and spend time laughing or playing around. However, it is important to our development that we have good friends and people we can trust. As a young adult, we tend to choose friendships that promote fun and excitement. We gravitate more toward those with similar likes and hobbies, beliefs and world views. As we age, we start to value diversity more (though this isn’t true for everyone – I know SEVERAL young adults who have diverse friendships) and look for people are true versus people who can spend a lot of time with us.
My closest friends are ones I see occasionally. I value quality time more than I value quantity. It’s the friends I can say nothing around and yet they hear everything I am saying, and I can do the same for them, that I choose to spend most of my time around. It’s about the memories we create together and the moments we can look back on versus that we have “fun” at our get togethers. For some folks, we just eat together and catch up. For others, we spend our time writing and enjoying good conversation. And some I don’t see because they are not close by or our schedules are opposite one another, so we use Face Time, Messenger, and text to catch up. Our time is limited to conversations and being there when it matters. It will vary for you based upon your schedule and lifestyle.
One thing I have had a bad habit of doing, however, over the past years, is enlarging my social circle with acquaintances who value me for what I can do for them but offer little in return of helping me become a better person. I don’t believe this is a good practice and it has cost me some self-esteem and moments of tears. I started to wonder why people loved to take advantage of me versus actually become friends. So I began slowly removing such people from my life as I started to value myself more. I take longer to respond to text messages now and don’t reach out for anything – instead I only respond to their messages, and with quick answers. Unless I feel someone is put in my life for me to help them, I don’t invest time with acquaintances like I do for friends. I realize that my time as a mom, daughter, sister, aunt, and other roles I play in my life allows for little time for self-care and friendships, so I need to value that time and use it wisely. Have you come across a similar notion? Or are you feeling like your overburdened by pouring out to others but not being built up and poured into? Here are some steps for evaluating your friendships. (Let’s acknowledge that I am an analyst and over thinker by nature – so this process may be more than you need to do. Use the steps you find helpful and chuck the rest!)
Write down all the people you have spent time regularly with in the past year and note whether the friendship has been mutual or one-sided.
It is important that unless you are in a season of your life in which you need more support than usual (e.g., in mourning, newly divorced, newly married, new empty-nester, new mom) that you are able to pour into others as much as they pour into you. This may not look the same for both of you, but it means that neither of you spends more time walking away from a get together drained or needing to sleep for weeks. You may be really good at sharing tips for how to parent well while they are great with spiritual advice. You may be really good at revealing insight and listening and she may be really good at offering to help watch the kids. For most friendship, there should be an exchange not always just a infilling for one person.
Over the past few years, as I realized my knack for attracting people who took advantage of me, I came to realize that through a relationship coach (Beth Perry, if you are looking for one) that I valued significance and because of that, I subconsciously looked for people to take advantage of me because it made me feel needed and valued. As I was able to see my strengths and love myself, I no longer needed to be needed by others and started to regret friendships and loathe spending time talking to certain people (I can be honest here, right?). Have you experienced a similar shift? Do you find that with certain people you used to enjoy spending time with you, you now want to leave early and get home to watch a bad movie by yourself rather than sit and listen to them talk about themselves longer or share all the ways they need your help? If so, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY! You are allowed to morph and transition and grow. You are allowed to evolve and become a stronger person. Give yourself this permission.
List the emotions you feel as you see each name on the list.
As you go through this list, you are also going to feel certain emotions. Look at your list again and note next to each name the emotions you feel as you see their name. Are you excited to see a name, sad when you see it, apathetic? Jot it down because it is important to understand how folks make you feel. I have certain folks who text and I know it is going to be complaint after complaint or “why me” or more bad news about life. They have given themselves a name for it throughout our friendship so I know not to open those text messages when I don’t have a lot of time to respond. (To be fair, there are times in my life, I have been the same type of friend. I am not doing these evaluations without looking at myself and my actions as well!)
The people who make you feel sad or angry or rejected shouldn’t typically make it through to the other side of this process. They should stay here and not come with you to the other side, as chances are they aren’t ready for change. Again, think about seasons and is this just because of a season they are in or is it who they have become and won’t change for a while. If it is who they are, and you don’t want to bring that stuff into your 2019, then keep them at bay. We’ll talk in a couple moments about how you leave folks behind.
Look at all of the one-sided friendships on your list and note why you became friends with them and what you get from the friendship.
What attracted you to this person? Have you been friends since grade school? Did you meet while you were both experiencing some trauma or heartache? Did you bond over a love for food at a time in your life when food was King? Really give yourself time to reflect and be honest. Did they have a lot of free time to listen to you? Did they enjoy taking the kids and giving you time to enjoy your marriage more often? When you’re being honest remember to do so from both sides – the friendships that are one-sided toward you and the ones that are one-sided from your side.
As you are writing down what you get from the friendship, be honest. Don’t say that you get companionship when you are only their companion when THEY need you. Don’t say that you grow together in business when they have never offered you a hand at growing but simply tell you all about their successes, which motivates you to achieve more because you want to keep up with them. Get really honest with yourself during this part about what it is that you are receiving from them. Call it what it is.
I had a friend I loved spending time with because of the way the person inspired me to feel alive and dream big again. I hadn’t done so in a while and the friendship brought alive a piece of me that had long been dead. However, when I sat back and really looked at the friendship, this person was very good at telling me how unimportant I was in their life and how they were there only for me to gain from them. At first I didn’t see it, because I was enamored with being able to dream and I wanted friendships that encouraged that within me. But as I started to evolve and value myself more, as I came alive so did my ability to really think about who was “in my boat”. And that is when I started to see the truth. After some time away, I realized exactly how one-sided the friendship was and how I had really seen it as something deeper than it was. I was a time-filler and that isn’t a role I want to fill for someone. I want true friendships where we pour into one another and grow together through our seasons.
Make the hard decisions about who should move forward with you into 2019.
Now is the hard part. This is where I diffuse some Clarity essential oil, dab a little Oola Friends essential oil over my heart, and take a few deep breaths and pray. Proverbs 18:24 (NIV) tells us that unreliable friends will drag us down. When we think about it, we know this is true because we have all been let down by folks who we have enabled and made excuses for over the years. Don’t think with your head or your heart here, but combine them and really think about this.
If you were going on a journey and this person was going to be with you, would you reach the destination in good shape? Would you have enjoyed the journey? Would you have grown during the journey? Who would have done most of the work? These are questions to think about in case you missed something above.
During this part of the evaluation you are looking at your complete list, as there are some people who you have two-sided relationships with and enjoy being around who don’t need to come with you where you are going this year. Some people have been around just because they have always been around. And just because someone isn’t going to be a person you spend a lot of time with, it doesn’t mean you can’t have any time with them. That is up to you and the amount of time you have available.
In BFF: Building Friendships that Fit, a study by Holly Furtick that we did in our eGroup last year, Holly talks about placing people into Zones to understand the types of friendships we have in our lives. This helped me a lot as I started to understand I had some Zone 3 friends who didn’t belong there – I was doing life with people who weren’t traveling the same way I was. I didn’t need to send them a breakup letter. I simply needed to rezone them and move on with life.
Zone 0: Click and Comment – Friends we know from social media
Zone 1: Contacts – Friends we know from places we go
Zone 2: Casual – Friends we have met with outside of the place we know them
Zone 3: Close – Friends we do life with
Zone 4: Committed – Friends we have history and intimacy with
(Copyright to Holly Furtick, 2018. Get it here.
Some friends will require an announcement that you will be moving on. These are the folks who have been hurt in the past and who will need to understand that this is about you creating a lifestyle you desire and how your time is limited and you have to be careful about where you invest your time. Be honest with them but not hurtful. Explain that it feels one-sided. Tell them you feel you have been taking too much from them and need to give them freedom to have friends who they can be around and have equal footing with. Share that they are taking up a lot of your time that you need to free up so you can make more mom friends and become stronger in that area of your life. Whatever the reason is, most people will understand.
As adults, most people will NOT require any notice. You will simply shift where you spend your time. As you go through this list, consider the following quote:
Make sure everybody in your boat is rowing and not drilling holes when you’re not looking. Know your circle. ~ Anonymous
BONUS: Consider which types of friends you need to add to your circle.
As you look at your list, do you see that you have shifted to a social circle that includes many of the same types of friends? If so, perhaps it is time to branch out? Are you trying to be a stronger mother but find that your friends are all single females or males? Time to start talking to some moms and see if you find some you vibe with! Are all your friends professionals and you are transitioning out of the workforce? Maybe it will be good to add some stay-at-home friends or folks who are retired.
This year, I want to focus more on parenting (could you tell from my examples?) so I had to be honest with myself about the number of friends I have who aren’t parents. No wonder I am lacking in this area! My social circle of live friends includes mostly single professionals. So this year I will be looking at some of my Zone 2 and 3 friends who are professional mothers and taking time to see if we vibe well. This will help me do more activities that involve my daughter and less that are not friendly for children. (And don’t get me started on how churches promote this type of thinking!) I am also looking to become a stronger blogger and writer, so I will be spending more time with my friends who are doing these as well.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you take time to evaluate your friendships? Are you making some changes this year?