Who are your real Friends? The Single’s Core Friends – “A friend who understands your tears is much more valuable than a lot of friends who only know your smile” -Unknown
As singles, we need friends. I suspect if you were to ask most singles, they could name off at least one. For some, their family is those close friends. But having friendships outside of family broadens the intrinsic value of God’s creation. Having these friendships makes life more enjoyable and provides rich dividends for many years.
Some time ago I went to a house warming party for a new friend who had just been through a long separation and subsequent divorce. The home would be the first she would move into where it was just her and her children. Some of you have been through that. It is a bittersweet experience of leaving the past and embracing the future. We met through life groups at my local church.
As I walked up to the home, I was overwhelmed by the number of cars and people I could see from the outside. When I entered her home, it was packed full of people chatting. I was greeted right away by someone who I didn’t know, but by the end of the evening, we were all on a first name basis. As my friend gave me the house tour, God’s goodness was evident. It would be a place where she and her children could feel safe and secure.
During the celebration, she went around the room and addressed each person in thankfulness and encouragement in front of the rest of the group. Some she had known for most her life; others a decade or so; down to me and another lifer (Life Group member), only months as even those of us who were last in friendship felt included. Some people have that way about them. It was a moving experience to see so many people vested in her life and she in theirs. As I stood there, just taking it all in, something inside of me leaped forward as if to say, “I want this.” These were people who cared for her. They were her core, her inner circle, her tribe. Her life was not perfect, yet these people remained invested in her, regardless of the messiness.
The CLO (Chief Love Officer)
Growing up in a home much like that, I can relate. If you know my mom, then you know she is deeply loved by so many. I often refer to her as the CLO (Chief Love Officer). She isn’t famous for anything other than loving people and telling them about Jesus. People from all over know her, love her, and she invested in their lives, and they invested in hers. It was never a quiet house growing up.
Living the single life is a bit more isolated if you don’t choose to put yourself out there. Having been married, I know what it is like is to be part of a team. As a single, you must choose to risk being rejected to find those true core circle of friends (PS… Join your church’s life group, Sunday school class, etc.). Making close friends is one area in previous years; I had limited myself for fear of rejection. We are all a different type of weird. The challenge is finding those similar, willing to do life with you, and then setting good boundaries around those friendships.
Core Group vs. Inner Circle vs. Extended Tribe
As I ventured out to establish good boundaries around friendships, I found out quickly that not everyone willing to do friendship could receive my full measure of trust. Additionally, some friendships are one-sided. There are some we pour into, others who pour into us, and those rare friends with whom it flows both ways. So, I created gates of trust. The pattern is after Jesus in how he set up his team during his ministry. He had his core group, his inner circle, and then the extended tribe (Luke:10: 1-24).
There will be some friends who you will have a relationship with that stand arm’s length away, the extended tribe; some a firm hug, the inner circle; and those who are as close as a whisper, I call my core. The key is testing these friendships and understanding that not everyone has to be a “core” friend. Not everyone needs to know you are having a bad day or that you are struggling with something.
Why? Because it is human nature to reject people who make us feel uncomfortable or who say something that we neither understand nor care to know. I am always surprised how much people will tell you if given the room to speak. Transparency is great, but some will use that to hurt you if they are hurting. So test things before allowing someone to pass through the gates of trust.
Testing these friendships assures the protection of hearts. If you are around someone who is easily offended, or who holds it in, then blows up, a few months of friendship will surely tell. Or what about the gossip, who gathers information only to share with untrusted confidants. Watching the patterns of their life thus far will also provide signs. Today, as I venture out into new friendships, I can quickly tell what category of a friend they are.
The Core Friends
With my core friends, I know I can’t shock them. There is nothing I can do or say that they will be like “oh I didn’t know that was coming.” They know me. They know when I need space, and when I need them close. They are not going anywhere; even when I reject them, they stand firm knowing that it is momentary. “That’s George.” I extend the same to them. Why? Because doing life without these people, isn’t an option for me.
These core friendships are not absent of conflict. Many times it’s this iron sharpens iron friends that cause you to see the reality, even when you want to run from it. Core friends aren’t afraid to call you out nor are they surprised when you do the same.
All of this is preparation for any relationship you may have. If you don’t have at least one core friend, you are missing the greatest opportunity to test everything the Bible provides in the way of partnership and relationship outside of marriage.
Having a friend unwilling to leave you or give up on you even when you are at your worst is one of the most incredible shows of love, God’s love. It’s how he loved us as he was; rejected, hated, gossiped about, etc. He keeps coming back, and back, and back. Don’t you want friendships like that? I am always looking for those core friends.
Finally, some house cleaning!
Today, as I look around at single Christian circles, I am amazed at how we have moved so far away from the culture of people. The culture of loving them, bringing them into our lives and honoring them even when their imperfections create inconveniences or negative perceptions not understood. We have become gossips, self-righteous, lovers of self, more concern with appearances, and frankly, I want nothing to do with it.
There is a difference between talking about someone and talking ‘of’ someone. That latter is out of concern for the well-being because your friend needs you and you need help with deciding the approach. The former, about you receiving some adoration for bringing someone else’s flaws to the surface for people who don’t need to know. The bible calls it gossip.
Core friends will get it and understand your perspective. Anyone else, you are just damaging your godly influence. If you don’t want to be around someone, then don’t. Talking poorly about them or making fun of them with your justifications, really shows poor character.
Core, Not Core
You may find initially, you place someone in your core group, only to discover that they are really a tribe member. These new friendships are where most hurt feelings come to the surface. You trusted them with something private only to find they have exploited it either because they are hurting or trying to gain some power over you. Even in those situations, we have a responsibility to forgive and move on. The new boundary may feel awkward at first, but the value of keeping that person in your tribe will only sharpen your ability to relate to many different personalities. Finally, there are some; you will need to distance yourself from because they are too toxic and until they choose to change, they shouldn’t be allowed into your friend zone.
As a single, I can’t imagine doing life without any of these people. They are my tribe, my inner circle, my core. I hope you will explore how you are doing life with others and consider pulling people closer in this season of life. Risk rejection as it might lead to some of the best friendships you will ever experience.