When Friends Leave You Out or Let You Down
People are (almost) always worth the risk.
If you've been consistently hurt in relationships, suffer from social anxiety, or are the type of introvert who is left flattened by an overabundance of conversation, it might be difficult for you to see it that way, but stick with me for just a bit.
When I was in the 4th grade, I had a friend named Kristi. We did all the typical 4th-grade-girl things, from sleepovers to Barbie birthday parties to walking to 7-11 for Slurpees. The first time I ever saw the TV show Dallas, I was lying on my stomach in front of her television set on gold carpeting, chin propped on my arms, wishing I could make my hair as big as Victoria Principal's. It was 1980, after all, and we were already beginning to turn our noses up at the smooth, straight hair of the '70's.
There was nothing to indicate that our relationship might be heading toward a break-up, but I remember clearly the first month of 5th grade, when a new girl showed up in our class. She, too, was a Kristi (again, it was the '80's), and the two Kristis became fast friends. Without me.
While that relationship fail happened over 30 years ago, I still remember a couple of things:
1. As I said, I didn't see it coming.
2. When the two Kristis became friends, they paired off together entirely, and their pairing didn't include me.
3. It stung so badly, it's the first memory I have of lying face down on my childhood family room sofa and crying hot tears into the upholstery.
4. My mom, in her signature "suck it up, Buttercup" parenting style, rubbed my back, wiped my tears, and calmly stated, "Well, it's time to find new friends."
5th grade dawned differently than I expected, but sure enough, I found myself a new little circle of friends and life moved on.
Five Septembers later I found myself in the cafeteria of a large public high school, population 2,500, navigating lunch tray, backpack, and braces. More than ever before, having a close circle of friends was essential, but I hadn't spent even a moment of my summer vacation worrying about that; I had good friends and high school was going to be great.
Two weeks into the fall semester, it became painfully obvious that my trusty small circle had moved on, and they weren't going to include me. Once again, there was nothing to indicate that our relationship might be heading toward a break-up, but here I found myself in the same position that was my 5th grade lot, this time a little older and a little wiser, this time perhaps not so prone to messy crying all over my mom, but just as painful and deep a sting.
Freshman year of high school can be one of the worst times to find oneself friendless — no one wants to be that girl who has no one to sit with at lunch. You can get through classes pretty easily, but the lunch hour comes around and it's clear you are on your own. I'm not a social superstar. I had to readjust.
I'm not sure that the stories I'm telling you aren't entirely about my own failures as a human — maybe I'm just that big of a dork or a totally mean person unworthy of relationships or super needy or I had inexcusable B.O. But several years ago, I found myself virtually friendless all over again. Two relationships fell apart, two close friends moved, one friend went back to work and wasn't available and our friendship gradually faded.
The difference this time, as an adult woman, was that I knew I had already tread that ground once (twice) before. I was lonely and I had to readjust, but I'd walked this path previously and knew that despite the pain of rejection and the ache of loss, people were worth the risk.
People are (almost) always worth the risk.
What might you lose if you take that risk?
1. Your expectations might not be met.
2. The person you risk a relationship with might end up walking away, moving, or dying.
3. You'll certainly feel loss in tangible ways, like not having someone to go to the movies with or to text your daily frustrations and triumphs to.
Like the arc that is the human life, friendships often follow that grand story we see in the Bible itself:
- Relationships are created
- In time (sometimes decades) there can be a fall, or a loss of some sort
- There is often something of a redemption, even if it's not directly related to said relationship
- Reconciliation eventually happens, even if not with the friend with whom the relationship began
No matter what, always keep your eye on the fact that God is ultimately about that reconciliation. In his tender care of our hearts, he delights in seeing his redemptive work in our lives. It most certainly does not always look the way we think it should, but it is always born out of his great love for us.
What you must remember when a friend leaves you or lets you down:
1. As Christians, we live and breathe for an audience of one. It doesn't matter what others think about us; truth is, none of us is perfect and we all let people down at some point. What matters is that the God of the universe, the one who created the heavens and the earth, created you in his image and he loves and values you, no matter what. Think on that: No matter what.
2. People are not God. When we place a relationship with a human on par with our relationship with Jesus Christ, we will always be disappointed. Adjust your expectations to people-level. People stink. Jesus is perfect.
3. Tell yourself the truth. If you've spent any time reading my stuff or hearing me speak, you know I say this pretty much all the time. Tell yourself the truth. What's the truth? Jesus is sufficient in every relationship or void.
Occasionally, there will be that friendship that needs to end. This is where the (almost) comes in. If you are being abused, manipulated, used, or treated unkindly, it's absolutely okay to call it quits. As a faithful friend reminded me recently, we love people by creating appropriate boundaries when necessary.
Why are people (almost) always worth the risk? Why does knowing the truth that they most certainly will, at some point, leave us out or let us down matter? Because in all of our relationships, our weaknesses and frailties as humans ultimately point us to our need for a savior, and the knowledge of that need then points us to a savior. If your savior is the God who made you, Jesus Christ, you will be healed and loved like never before.