Growing up, friends seemed to pop up like daisies, showing up in my life with little or no help from me.
Was it the proximity? My little, pigtailed self simply thinking, “Oh, you’re here? Well, I’m here, too! I guess that makes us friends!”
I honestly don’t remember TRYING to make friends during my childhood, high school or college years. Friendships just HAPPENED to me.
Sure, there were times when I had to “put myself out there” a little more, like when I moved to a new high school and went to college. But the friends thing still seemed to happen quickly and effortlessly. I meet someone, and we are friends. It’s just that easy!
Then I became an adult.
Did I forget how to make friends somewhere along the way? When did this get so HARD?
Is it the effort?
Maybe it has something to do with the amount of effort involved. Friends were just kind of THERE when I grew up. Now we’re all working full-time jobs, living in separate places, or busy with our spouses and/or kids.
Free time (and energy) flies out the window pretty quickly. And instead of seeing people every day during that sparse free time and inevitably hanging out, you instead have to pick up the phone or text someone. You have to make PLANS.
Why do I feel like I’m dating again?
I think it’s the initiation part of making friends that leads to me feeling like I’m dating again. You legitimately have to “ask someone out” on a friend date to “get to know each other.”
It’s a little easier when I’m inviting a couple to do something with me and my husband. (Although there’s still the post-dinner debrief. “How do you think it went?” and “Do you think they liked us?” are popular after-hanging-out-with-another-couple questions in our household.)
With one-on-one interactions, though, I legitimately WANT TO FLEE FROM asking in person, calling or texting someone to see if she would like to “get together.”
Maybe that’s my introvert personality showing?
All I know for sure is that I end up thinking the following before and/or after any such interaction:
- What if I come on too strong?
- What if she doesn’t want to be my friend?
- What if she already has tons of friends, and I come off as desperate?
- Why would she want to be my friend?
- What if we do end up getting together, and we have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT, and I sit there awkwardly sipping my coffee and praying to God that this evening ends before I implode with discomfort?
INSECURITY. THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.
Then there’s the time involved
Besides the insecurity factor, there’s the time factor. Quite frankly, putting in the time needed to cultivate a new friendship is EXHAUSTING.
That’s probably why my closest friends are all people I’ve known for at least 5 years and most of them for more than a decade.
I’ve been fortunate to maintain friendships with a number of wonderful women over the years. But at the moment, I don’t have many of those friends nearby.
And so I’ve reached the point where I must start reaching out and trying, really trying, to get to know the women currently in my life.
But oh the insecurity! Oh the time and effort needed! And there’s that other factor, too. It’s what I’ll call, “The Christian Woman Atmosphere.”
I don’t belong here.
This atmosphere was created because of that strange ideal of what a Christian woman is. If you’ve grown up in Christian circles, you probably know what I mean.
The ideal Christian women is a meek, quiet and tranquil woman. She always looks put together, holds her household together, and never loses her temper or speaks rashly.
That is not me. Not even close. I’m not even on the same map as that woman!
I’m guessing many Christian women struggle with feeling inferior to that ideal. But I think I struggle with it …. let’s say DIFFERENTLY.
From my observations, I’ve seen a number of women who either seem to fit the ideal or women who are guarded and play the part–unless they feel extremely safe with you.
I don’t judge either types of women. I completely understand! You don’t need to show all of your messiness and brokenness right up front in a new Bible study.
The problem is, that’s what I do.
Why can’t I be different?
It’s not that I share my deepest, darkest secrets right away. But I don’t pull many punches about what I’m struggling with or thinking about.
Let me be clear. This IS NOT a humble brag. This is a “I-wish-I-could-sometimes-stop-these-words-from-spewing-from-me” confession.
But I can’t. It’s who I am.
It’s not that I’m unafraid to be “messy” and “broken.” It’s that I legitimately don’t know how to not show those parts of myself. I don’t know how to hide them—even when I want to do so.
Frankly, this hasn’t worked well for me in “The Christian Women Atmosphere.” Mostly I end up feeling like a crazy, ranting lady who is clearly more broken than the women in the Bible study with me. (Yes, I know some of this could be my perception. But it’s a very real feeling I have struggled with for years.)
Let me tell you: I have been in a room filled with Christian women and never felt more alone after confessing a sin and being met with silence.
I have sat in the awkwardness of sharing a deep struggle at a Bible study and having people respond with a pat reply, if there’s any reply at all.
I have had well-meaning women tell me all the things I could do differently to make myself FEEL like worshipping God after I said I never wake up in the morning wanting to have devotions. (For the record, listening to the majority of pop Christian worship songs today will MOST ASSUREDLY NOT inspire zealous affection for the Lord in my heart.)
Perception is not always reality.
That being said, I truly do understand not everyone shows up the way that I do. Nor do I want them to do so! I shudder at the thought of every woman being like me!
However, I don’t think this strangely stiff “everything-is-fine” atmosphere has made it easy for women in the church to make friends.
At least, it hasn’t for me.
But you know what? I’m not going to give up. And I know my perception of making friends and “The Christian Women Atmosphere” may not be correct.
At the end of the day, all that matters is that I’m being the woman God created me to be, extending grace when I can’t understand the women around me, and continuing to TRY to make friends.
I won’t give up. But really, when did making friends become so difficult?