I guess I’ve a bit of a strange take on the friendship thing, having not really had many for the first 16 years of my life, then making some close ones at college who have subsequently scattered again, so my closest friends almost all live far away, including the opposite hemisphere!
Sometimes moving away has been the perfect opportunity to let an unhelpful or unhealthy friendship lapse (supported in Proverbs by 12:26 for eg), but sometimes has led to the regretful lapsing of a friendship.
Mostly I’ve learnt two things:
1. Friendship takes effort because it’s built on trust, and building trust requires intimacy often accompanied by long or quality association. Ie, being shipwrecked together, or, for the less adventurous, hanging out together in lots of different circumstances over a long period of time. So there’s the building of the trust, and the maintaining of it. This is why the best friendships don’t actually depend on liking the same stuff. A lot of people we might think we’re going to be or should be friends with are simply people who like similar things, but this is no basis for a friendship! Unless you actually spend time together and get to know one another, there will never be anything substantial there, and thus as soon as proximity or taste changes, you’re not friends any more… So, friendship takes effort.
2. Sometimes you have to love the people in your actual life right now. The internet is fabulous, it helps us connect, create and develop. It puts us in touch with people we would otherwise have no access too. But this is a blessing and a curse. Again, Proverbs is helpful here:
Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family,
and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.
We can actually only cope with a certain number of relationships, especially deep ones. Last time I checked, psychologists reckon you can sustain at most three deep friendships and a wider circle maxing out at 70 people. So sometimes, when you leave that job and no one calls, it’s not cos they hate you, it’s just that there’s not space for you. Depressing much? I know!! But who has God put around you RIGHT NOW? Who is He giving you to love as a neighbour, so they don’t have to go far away for help…?
I am an introvert, I hate meeting strangers, I live alone, and I’m often tired and drained. Making friends is really hard for me! But it’s also the only way I can invite any TLC into my life. So, recognising that friendship takes effort, I try to put the effort in, and instead of just wishing others would call me, I invite myself to their house. And recognising that sometimes friendships just die because they were flimsy, or rotten, or just cos of life, I try to think about who there is around me now, knowing that preference and taste are not the only qualifications for the friend who sticks closer than a brother…