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What Kind of Friend Am I?

Some friends and I have been talking recently about friendship: the crazy dynamics of female relationships, what it takes to build a good friendship, what can damage or destroy one, how important they are, what causes the ebb and flow in these friendships, what happens when different personalities meet together in a relationship, how to navigate different friendship styles, and more. I want to delve into these things on Thursdays for awhile.

little girls jumping rope together

One of the things these conversations has done is reminded me of my childhood friendships and how they compare with my friendships today.

Some of my friends are people I’ve known since I was a little girl. I’m still in touch (to varying degrees) with people with whom I went to kindergarten, first, and second grades and with people who home-schooled the years I did. This is in spite of a cross-country move when I was fifteen. One friend I’ve tried to find after losing touch when she moved to Japan during our college years. We had been pen pals for years before her move, and I miss her greatly. I still hope to find her one day.

The friends I made in college are indeed life-long friends. One of my best college friends, Heather, and I can pick up right where we left off even when it’s been months since we last spoke. She and I both have a bundle of children and crazy lives, but whenever we end up within 45 minutes of each other, we do our best to get together over coffee or dinner. Julie is another dear college friend, with whom I have already made plans to be neighbors, race each other in wheelchairs, and raise all sorts of ruckus in assisted living when we’re old.

Then there are all my dear Internet friends. Yes, I have Internet friends. I’ve made many dear friends through my online work, and every year I manage to meet more and more of them in person. Last summer I traveled to a foreign country for a week with eight of them. I’ve roomed with them at conferences, meeting them in person for the first time when we all carried our suitcases into the same hotel room. We pray for one another, talk through both writing and life crises together, and encourage each other when we find ourselves spiraling into another cycle of self-doubt about our craft. We talk on the phone or Skype for hours, we text, and we could converse on Facebook all day every day if we didn’t have children depending on us for survival.

All of these friends, from so many facets of my life, have been true friends. They have stuck with me through some unimaginably difficult times. They didn’t back off when our daughter Elli was born, visiting in the hospital and bringing food to the house.  They included our family in theirs for birthday parties and get togethers, even though accommodating a child in a wheelchair isn’t easy. They have called and written emails and sent letters and some even traveled long distances to mourn with us when Elli died.

And that’s where the challenge comes in. So many of my close friends live far away, including some on the other side of the world. I am thankful to have a couple of good friends nearby, but lately I’ve realized that I need to invest in my relationships at home, too. It is important to maintain my relationships with old friends (“make new friends but keep the old…”). But the people I see weekly are the ones I can most readily help and encourage and hug and celebrate with and grieve with. These friends live on life’s front-lines.

I’ve begun to wonder if I’m a very good in-person friend. Do they know how much I value them? Am I’m doing enough to carry my part of the relationship? This is something I need to work at, especially given my somewhat hermit-like tendencies.

What about you? Do you have friends from way back? Internet friends? How about people in your immediate area? How do you build relationships in person?


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  1. I keep in touch with my best friend from high school and when our schedules allow and I’m visiting my parents we get together. I have another dear friend I made after I married, but jobs moved her away and we don’t get to see each other very often. When we do though it’s like nothing changed and God always uses her to call when I need encouragement.
    Friendships have also been on my mind quite a bit over the past year as some of our friends from the church we left are no longer the closest friends. It saddens me, but I’ve done my best to maintain the friendship and in the end that’s all I can do. I can’t make them reciprocate. I’ve found myself in a time of transition where friends are concerned over this past year. New friendships are being formed, but as a shy introvert it takes me a long time to develop close friendships.

  2. Love this, Joy. Looking forward to reading your thoughts and processing what friendship looks like in this day and age. Maintaining friendships has always been my strong suit but moving out of state has really made me examine the best way to do this and how I can still invest in new friendships as well. There’s no substitute for real life, day to day friends. As I continue to build my community here, I’m grateful for the local friends I already have and mindful of who else I want to join the circle.

  3. I only keep in touch with a few friends from high school, through Facebook mostly. I was not a Christian in High School, so my views on life are just so different now. I have amazing women in my life through church, some of my best friends. I am also thankful for the love and support of the women I found through blogging. These ladies I am honored to call “friend” as they’ve prayed for me, with me, sent notes in the mail. I have a once a month “ladies night” with some of my close friends where we gather to watch movies and fellowship. It’s important for me to have this time for myself with my girlfriends.

    • I need something like your once a month ladies’ night. I’d love to start a book club or game night or whatever and know that night is saved for my friends. Great idea.

  4. Community is one of those words that seem so esoteric and spiritual these days, but the truth is that it just means showing up in each other’s lives. I try to do that, here, in my real life. And it’s good. Great post, as always, Joy. (But I still can’t wait to hug you in person.)

  5. I don’t spend nearly as much time with my friends as I’d like to, so most of my relationships are lived online, via phone/text, or through FB. It’s silly…but it makes the time we spend together in person all the more valuable!

  6. A lot to think about. I have a post up my sleeve about this as well. Love your thoughts, they will totally inform and give shape to mine. I love being your internet friend, my dear. You are a source of huge comfort and laughter and wisdom (and other stuff) to me! xo

  7. Oooh, you’ve pinched a nerve here. I have a couple of groups of long-term friends whom I am missing these days, so I need to make some effort and re-establish contact. And – maybe because of my profession – I don’t have a long list of close friends here in town. Need to work on that – a lot.

    • Friendship is so difficult in ministry. I concluded fairly early that we needed to cultivate friendships outside the church — people who would be friends no matter what happened within the church and/or ministry. Sad. We have some close friends from our most recent church who will remain friends even if we end up in different churches, and they are a real treasure.

  8. I’ve been thinking about friendships too. I have one friend that I’ve know since gradeschool. We found each other again (after highschool) when we where both having our 3rd child. But, she lives a few hours away and we text back and forth. See each other we can carve out a weekend. It is hard to me with the here and now friends…to make sure that I’m living up to my side as well as being aware if they are ‘real’ or not. Does that make sense? Its hard for me to reach out when i need the friend.

    • I get it. Friendship is risky, especially in person. we have to step out and open ourselves up to rejection, and that is never easy. Asking for help when we are in need is a big test of a friendship — is the other person invested enough to go out of their way for you? Am i invested enough to go out of my way for them? We are good at saying all the right things, but not as good at following through. Somehow those risks seem less when the friendship is long-distance or much older.

  9. Great topic… friendships are some of the most dear and most complicated relationships we have.

    Glad we are “internet” friends. XO.

  10. I think you make a good point about in-person friends. I spend a lot of time lending my thoughts to people far away. I need to focus more on my friends that live close to me. I have one friend I work with and see almost everyday and I so deeply value our friendship. So I guess it’s maybe not that I need to value the people closest to me by locality, but maybe I just need to make more!

    PS-How was your time away? I commented a while back about when I took some time off of work. I had mentioned I was reading crappy fiction. Was your time restful and restorative?


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