What happens when your single friends give you the boot?
That’s what happened to me when I started dating my now-husband. I had a wonderful group of single Christian friends. We’d meet multiple times a week. Life as a single was moving along just grand.
Then it happened. After months of circling around each other, we finally made it official. The guy I’d been crushing on was finally mine. Score! I expected my friends to be excited and supportive. Imagine my surprise when friendships began to morph once I descended from my initial boyfriend high.
The pseudo-shunning started subtly enough. I learned of group outings I wasn’t invited to. Then friends became less available for coffee dates and dinners. When confronted, I got excuses like “so-and-so was supposed to tell you,” and “I just have a lot on my plate right now,” or “well, we just assumed you were busy with other things.” “Other things” — that is, my boyfriend — had apparently turned me into a social leper.
I was in no way prepared for this.
Suddenly I found myself adrift, getting thrown the leftover scraps of my friends’ time and energy, struggling to keep my friendships on life support.
When we’re single, we like to commiserate about what it’s like to be the odd man out — the one who’s alone when everyone else is coupled up. We want a shoulder to cry on when we’re left behind by friends who are seemingly sucked into the black hole of a romantic relationship.
Yes, there are those who truly do excommunicate themselves when they pair up. I’m not discounting or condoning that behavior. But rarely do we acknowledge that the prejudice goes both ways.
I began to peel back the layers to figure out what was really going on and realized it went so much deeper than just a “singles” vs. “couples” issue. The general issue is our reluctance to pour into friendships with people who aren’t in most ways like us.
Friendships are important to me. Always have been, always will be. It’s biblically important to connect with others. Jesus had his 12 disciples, but didn’t He also break all the social norms by befriending fishermen and tax collectors alike? Didn’t He shake things up enough to show us friendships shouldn’t be homogenous? Aren’t cliques supposed to end in high school?
As I started looking at my own life, I wondered how many friends I really had that weren’t a lot like me. And I didn’t like the ugly answer to that question. My new status as a pariah opened my eyes to my own friendship prejudices.
According to Matthew 5:13, we are called to be “the salt of the earth.” In order to do so, we need to learn to be more like Jesus. And He interacted with a whole lot of different folks.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples of all nations.” That’s a little tricky to do when we’re only hanging out with people with the same issues and problems we face.
I get it. I really do. As Americans, we’re busy. It’s uncomfortable stretching our friendship boundaries. We want a return on our companionship “investment.” In order to live a fuller life though, I had to throw those preconceived notions of perfect friendships out the window and get to work.
I tried harder than ever to connect with people, fighting against the temptation to take the easy route and only bond with my own kind.
I joined another Bible study made up of women in various stages of life. I occasionally got involved with service projects. I led a small group of young women. I opened myself up to my now-husband’s friends as well.
Once I made myself available to others, teachable to the Holy Spirit and faithful to the Lord, things began to change. Many times a phone call, text message or a word of encouragement sowed a seed that blossomed into a beautiful new friendship.
The group of people I now consider my community is much more diverse. Yes, I still interact with people from my old singles group. In fact, some are my closest friends. But now I take extra care to embrace people regardless of their age, race or relationship status. And I’m a much richer person because of it.
I have friends who are wise and pour into my life, and others I’m able to pour into. Some relationships are deeper than others. Some are even one-sided as I strive to be like Jesus in their lives when no one else does. Although I don’t feel like the odd man out anymore, I have more compassion for him.
Evolving communities are not a bad thing after all. The Lord uses them to gently stretch and challenge us to be more like Him.
Whether you’ve been booted from a group or sit safely in your homogeneous bubble, what is the Lord calling you to do? Is it as simple as talking to a co-worker or as scary as stepping out in faith to start a friendship with someone who rubs you the wrong way? Whatever it is, don’t do yourself the disservice of ignoring that person. There may be an odd man out waiting for a friend just like you.
1 Peter 1:22 “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”
Julie Hall is an author whose first Christian young adult novel, Life After: Huntress, will be released as a hard copy and e-book this November. It is the first book in the Life After Trilogy, published through Deep River Books. You can follow her blog at JulieHallAuthor.com.