In my work with Soulation women often email me asking for advice. Sometimes close friends want to know my theological position on a controversial topic. Commenting women come to my blog often wanting me to both connect with their question and connect with them.
Are these all my friends? In what way?
What are my responsibilities with each of these friends?
How do we make definite yes and no decisions about friends who seems kind, but for whom we just don’t have time.
I feel frustrated, regularly, by the lack of time I can dedicate to those I’m acting as a mentor, counselor and spiritual guide to. Each speaking trip and book sold means I will probably get more practice with this frustration.
As an extrovert I usually feel delighted and eager to try. And try I do.
But befriending for life every person who wants to connect is not a reality, nor is it kind to my life-long friends.
Each of us has had the difficult decision to know how to understand a friendship’s limits.
Sally gave some helpful distinctions between a Four Seasons Friend, a Hot and Cold Friend and a Seasonal Friend. What I loved about her post is how she shared that none of these friendships are better or worse. Rather, you decide which friendships you want to invest your time with.
Dating the Wrong Guys?
The first step in deciding friendships is taking time inventory. How much time do you currently have to devote to a new friendship? This is a tricky evaluation because after work or church or family or hobbies and friends we don’t have a lot of time.
But just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re happy-busy. Just like a date Friday night doesn’t mean it’s a fun date. In friendship, like dating, it’s easy to waste time with the wrong peeps.
It’s been my observation that most women spend at least some of their time with friends they do not enjoy. In fact, there’s something in women that keeps us hanging on to friends with drama, controlling tendencies, hot and cold patterns all in an effort to be “nice.” It’s the good girl complex that keeps us from evaluating if this friendship is a life-giving place of growth.
Two years ago I wrote this in the post “The Recipe for a Good Friendship“
Psychologist Jean Baker Miller writes about five components that make up all “growth-fostering relationships”.
Each person will feel:
- a greater sense of zest (vitality, energy).
- more able to act and does act.
- a more accurate picture of herself and the other person.
- a greater sense of worth.
- more connected to the other person and a greater motivation for connections with other people beyond those in this friendship. In other words, frenemies drop away and friendship becomes more possible.
Friends who do not bring life can very easily book you up all week long. No friendship ought to keep you from growth.
Put another way, keep your Friday nights free for someone else.
I believe it helps to consider that you can only be really close to a handful of friends. Closeness requires awareness of the everyday occurrences.
You already have close friends in your life. If they’re mothers, they’re the friends that you’ve already asked and found out how their Mother’s Day went. Whether you like it or not, these are probably your besties.
I’ve found I can only be really close to two, maybe three friends. And I’m a high energy extravert. I entitle them to know how I’m feeling before and in more detail than any other friends. Sally is one of them.
I reserve knowledge about my feelings for our conversations that (even if other friends ask) I do not share in this kind of detail.
I call to cry or rail or laugh or announce things to Sally and a few others before I post it online, before I share with others.
Even if others ask.
My Four Season Friends have priority.
Any time I feel guilty for not being “nice” which translates into devoting longer and longer emails or phone calls or play dates or information to friends who want to be closer I consider this question, “Are they in my top three?”
If no, then I give myself the freedom to not make them top priority.
By saying no to them, I’m saying yes to my three.
In fact, I can say, “No,” with quiet conviction because I now know nothing really compares to friends who can stand up through all the seasons with me.