Too Many Friends

8:00 AM



"It is not possible to be intimate with more than a very few, because there are only very few in the world with whom we have practically everything in common.

Love, then, must be true to the ones we love and to ourselves, and also to its own laws. I cannot be true to myself if I pretend to have more in common than I actually have with someone whom I may like for a selfish and unworthy reason."

No Man Is an Island /// Thomas Merton

I am not the most popular person ever to inhabit my college. My hyper-introverted friend frequently leaves me home alone on her many social excursions while I, the more extroverted child, read a book. 

Still, there are always a few people in my life that aren't at all close friends but want to be. I feel that all the open slots for best friends got filled a while ago, and I have no more time or frankly interest in pursuing semi-friendships. I don't mind counseling or encouraging diverse peoples -- I just don't want to be "friends" with them all in a way that means frequent catching up or spending time together. I want to help people and get to know people without necessarily befriending them all. It burns me out and piles up social obligation.

Help a girl out. Do you feel this way? Do you agree that love itself limits the number of intimate friends to just a few? How do you handle the pressure to befriend somebody you're not interested in befriending? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Photo creds to Elena Marie's Photography

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26 impressions

  1. I'm weird in that, even with so-called close friends, I draw a distinction between "people-who-are-close-to-me" and "people-I-am-close-to"...but I still can't counsel or help anyone without getting drawn in emotionally. #infjproblems Hence, burnout is a semi-regular occurrence for me, lol. On the other hand, if I don't want to befriend someone, I'm pretty good at avoiding them...ha.

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    1. I totally do that too! Except that I wouldn't call "people who are close to me" close friends. Is that different?? :P

      Avoidance and annoyance seem to be my key strategy to get rid of or make friends, respectively. ;)

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  2. "It is not possible to be intimate with more than a very few, because there are only very few in the world with whom we have practically everything in common."

    This.

    I have met very few people with whom I have a few things in common, and only one person in my lifetime with whom I have "practically everything" in common. Of course, I have acquaintances, and we do stuff together, and I enjoy it while it's happening, but I'm always acutely aware that my acquaintances and I do not "belong together" the way my best friend and I are just perfect for each other.

    But to answer your question, because I'm a curmudgeonly anti-social loner, I feel no pressure to be friends with anyone with whom I don't want to be friends. On the other hand, I don't really have people beating down my door trying to be friends with me anyway.

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    1. "Curmudgeonly anti-social loner." :D That's great!

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    2. Yep, I'm a 28-year-old crotchety old woman! :)

      Seriously, though, people are weird about close friends. Apparently it's "selfish" to want to have a friend who is a lot like oneself and with whom one can share everything. But it's very spiritual to be completely open and bare with everyone (well, every Christian of the same gender) in the name of vulnerability. I'm an ISTJ, though. We barely do vulnerable with people we've known for years, let alone people we've just met!

      And apparently, if one is lonely, one should just look for more opportunities to serve others and quit be so self-focused. Obviously, we shouldn't use loneliness as an excuse to sin, but it's not selfish to want to be loved and appreciated for who one is and not who one pretends to be so that one fits in with the larger group better.

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    3. In my freshman Bible study, one of the (freshman) leaders sat down someone and basically told them they needed to be open with the group about everything they were going through. Yipe, that might have been my ISTP boyfriend put on the hotspot. I don't remember. I was close enough to be really appalled at this "genuineness and authenticity" thing taken to the point of abusing someone's privacy.

      I just don't think we really know anything about friendship! It's all ministry or sacrifice, with no understanding of the human desire for other people.

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    4. In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis argues that Friendship is about "naked personalities," but that Friendships don't begin there. We begin with some shared interest, and over the years we "fight beside him, read with him, argue with him, pray with him" and eventually we know him and love him as well as we know and love ourselves. According to him, Friendship is deep and narrow (in that we are not Friends with everyone), and there's nothing wrong with that, that we have no duty to be Friends with everyone. (The capitalization is his, to illustrate the importance of Friendship as a kind of love and as a serious and important thing, differing from Affection, which is the sort of love Lewis says we have for people we know and like who are not our Friends.)

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    5. Thanks for sharing, Casvelyn. That's definitely been my experience with capital F Friendship. I love how he defines Friendship as "naked personalities," evoking intimacy and no shame. In the same way marriage unites naked bodies in the ultimate body and soul intimacy, Friendship unites naked personalities. That's something so sacred, so intimate, and so limited. Facebook friends just don't cut it.

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  3. Jesus had numerous followers, fewer true disciples, twelve apostles, three in the inner circle, and the-one-whom-Jesus-loved. If God incarnate had limits in relationships, then how much more do I need them?

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    1. Exactly! Jesus is who I immediately think of when I think of limited intimate friendships. He poured Himself out to practically everyone He met, yet He didn't really have that many deep friendships.

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  4. Coming from a person who has always been on the "not needed" end; I would venture to say that it is rather selfish to base friendships solely on what YOU need. I have no sisters, my sister-in-laws all have sisters, in their world I am un-needed. The women in my church have all been friends since they were little. They have plenty of friends and therefore I am un-needed. My husband's family is very small and I am not accepted there either. Lest you think I am just a fruit loop with whom nobody would possibly want to be seen, I am quite a normal person with normal interest, I just have not managed to find anyone who "needs" me as a friend. It makes for a rather lonely existence hoping to someday come across someone who does "need" me to be friends with me. If you discredit somebody based solely on whether or not you need them as a friend you may be depriving them of something that they DO vitally need. Just food for thought!

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    1. I'm actually thinking of people who already have friends but still want a friendship with me. The issue changes when it's somebody who has NO friends. I'm so sorry you're in this situation. I've felt this pain before, and it SUCKS. I pray you find someone with whom you click!! Keep praying for closer fellowship. I believe God does want us to be in fellowship with fellow believers, so it's certainly within His will to pray for close friends.

      At the same time, I think we're defining friendship differently. I'm not talking about "needing" each other.....I don't think true friendships are ultimately based on needs, though it meets each other's needs. True, close friendship is way more organic and genuine and mysterious than that. I mean, that's why it's hard to find friends --- it's not just about needs and similarity (though it is). It's akin to falling in love. You could fall in love with anybody, but you don't.

      That's why "friendships" with people who need me are so exhausting, because it's not authentic. It's almost mercenary, because it starts with meeting somebody else's needs and then me feeling guilty about their lack of friends. I CAN be kind, loving, and inclusive, but I CAN'T magically click with people and feel comfortable sharing my life with them. I can be their friend, I guess, but they will never be my friend, if that makes sense.

      I too have been on the "not needed" end, the outsider of a clique. It's painful. I really appreciated when people reached out to me...but I never thought it was selfish of them for not becoming my best friend, or choosing to invest energy and time in other people. That's just how friendship works.

      And your time will come when that special friend will come along!!!

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    2. I have followed your blog for years; the primary reason being that I want to be able to relate to my daughter better. I am not a young person, I will be 37 in two weeks. I have 5 children; I have a teenage daughter. It has been my unfortunate circumstance to come into people's lives, after their core group of friends is already established. I have pursued many friendships only to discover that their " friend plate" is already full and I was not "needed" and so I back off.

      I totally understand what you are saying that you just click with some people and that cannot be manufactured, but when people no longer feel the "need" to add friends to their clique they may exclude a person with whom they could be very close, because they don't invest enough time to determine if the person might be someone they would click with or not.

      In my entire adult life the only close friend I have had is my husband. We have many superficial friends but nobody "needs" us enough to take it to a deeper level. I have never once had the urge to go out and go shopping and actually had someone to call to go with me. I have poured out my heart's desire before the Lord and as of yet he has not given me my desire.

      All that to say, I totally get where you are coming from. Your viewpoint is the viewpoint of everyone I know, but it leaves no room for people like me! I understand that people only cave a certain amount of time and energy to expend to relationships and that requires exclusivity, but many people are blind to people right in front of them, Christ was not. He was not close to every person he came into contact with, but he did look to see if their was a need he could fill. As followers of Christ, I believe we are to look to the needs of others and not just our own. The bottom line of what you have said, no matter how it is couched, is that you have no room for any more friends in your life. I just ask that you open your eyes to those around you and keep your heart open you might be excluding someone who really does have something to offer you! Your "friend slot being already full" may mean that you pass on a relationship that could change your life or the life of someone else!

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    3. I know what I have written sounds pathetic and that there must be some reason that I have remained friendless my entire adult life. It sounds that way to me as well, but I have poured out my heart before God and I really believe in my heart, the answer He has given me is that people really do base their relationships on their "need" for those relationships. You are in the current position, as I was when I was in college, that you have no more time or energy for relationships and that is ok for this point in your life. As you grow and mature and get married and you meet other people in other places, keep your heart and eyes open to the people around you! When people no longer feel the need for new friends because their own needs are already being met by their current relationship they tend to live rather cliquish lives, creating barriers which others cannot pass through. I don't believe it's intentional, it's just not something people think about when they are not in the situation themselves. My husband and I had to move to a new area where we knew no-one and while we have added many new acquaintances we have not been able to penetrate that "barrier". Our solution has been to pour ourselves into ministries in our church.

      My one goal in writing all if this is to open the eyes of just one person, that we might all look past the superficial things, look past the outward facade that everyone puts in place to appear that they have it all together, look past your needs, and be ministry minded enough to be willing to meet the needs of others even if it might not be meeting your own personal needs!!! When we are willing and able to do this, then we are truly becoming Christ-like.

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    4. Stephanie, I so appreciate you pouring your heart out! This is such a sensitive topic, and neither of us really knows each other or our situations, which makes it even more tricky.

      I will take to heart what you have said. I'm also fully aware that when I graduate college and lose most of my friend group, I'll probably be in the exact same boat....making friends with people who already have friends.

      I guess I'm just confused at our different definitions of friendship. I really, really disagree that friendship is based on meeting needs, especially meeting only one person'a needs. You say that you've been pouring into ministries since your church family has rebuffed your attempts to befriend them, and I sense that that's very unsatisfactory for you, as far as filling the friendship hole in your heart. That's how I feel when I try to "befriend" people out of their needs. It's not true friendship -- it's ministry. I draw a sharp difference between the two. What's awful about charity case friendships (as terrible as that sounds) is that they expect me to be their best friend, when in reality, I don't remotely share that kind of intimacy. I end up lying to them in my actions, pretending to be close friends, when really, I just feel sucked try from meeting their needs. And I'm talking about people I've known for years, not just shallow attempts to be friends. I feel like I'm lying to people when they say, "Oh, I'm so glad we're friends!" and I don't feel comfortable using that word. And maybe it's the introvert in me, but I'd rather have no friends than fake friends.

      I try to listen closely to God and use wisdom with every person I encounter to determine how to love them best without forcing myself into a fake friendship that burns me out and will eventually hurt them. Thank you for your insight and your ministry to Christ's church even when nobody has been ministering to you.

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    5. Bailey, I truly appreciate the grace with which you have handled my ramblings! I will not belabor anything other than to try to explain what I mean in "needing" friends. BTW I do understand where you are coming from in your "charity friendships"; I had some of those in college as well.

      My theory on relationships is that all relationships into which we invest ourselves meets some need in our lives, otherwise we have no reason to pursue the relationship.

      For instance, your relationship with your boyfriend, while you could live without him, does meet a need in your life that no other relationship can fill.

      Your relationship with each of your friends meets a need in your life even if the need is someone with whom to share thoughts or just having fun!

      If nobody ever needed relationships we would all be perfectly content to live in a cave by ourselves and never interact with anyone else! God created each person with a desire to interact with and have relationships with other people. Each relationship we allow into our lives does meet a need in our lives or we would not see the need to pursue it as you already stated.

      I believe that each person has a type of "relationship meter". What it takes to fulfill that relationship meter will be different for each person based on family upbringing, personality, stage of life, etc. Once a person feels that his/her relationship meter is full, they no longer feel the need to pursue other relationships, which is precisely how you described yourself which is not intrinsically wrong at your stage of life.

      In my case, I moved to a town where everyone has lived with all their extended families for ages and everyone feels like you do; their relationship meters are already full. As a newcomer, I have little hope of finding a close friend because nobody actually has a need for anyone new in their lives. They are all friendly and kind but they have the relationships that they need already established. Does that help at all? I won't keep bothering you, as you said it is a sensitive area for me and I hope that it will at least help someone who reads your blog to look around and give space in their lives for a newcomer.

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    6. I actually agree with you 100%! I used to place more emphasis on needs in relationships --- "need" in the more urgent, necessary sense, I suppose. If we're talking about friendship naturally filling that human void for close friends, I totally agree. I just don't think all relationships start with a more obvious need (though certainly a great number do), and I don't see much success for a "friendship" that starts out with one person trying to meet the other person's needs without there being a more organic connection.

      I actually think that that deep human need/drive for friendship is present even when our circle seems full. It happens when people live, work, and play together. I felt perfectly satisfied with my couple of friends, but was surprised to find myself close friends with the fellow RA I worked with for two years. I didn't "need" her, but that drive for human friendship was still there. All that to say, you can break into those un-needy circles through living life with these women. It's not guaranteed, but it's possible!

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  5. That's why "friendships" with people who need me are so exhausting, because it's not authentic. It's almost mercenary, because it starts with meeting somebody else's needs and then me feeling guilty about their lack of friends. I CAN be kind, loving, and inclusive, but I CAN'T magically click with people and feel comfortable sharing my life with them. I can be their friend, I guess, but they will never be my friend, if that makes sense.

    THIS. All the this-ness. I keenly feel your pain right now. I'm am currently in pre-rundown mode, mostly due to being all peopled out. I'm the kind of person who is everyone's friend, but I don't have many friends of my own. You feel like a real heel sometimes because: I'm sorry, but I just quite simply don't have the time, energy, or - if we're truly honest - desire to befriend you right now. I'm flat out keeping up with my real gut-level friends who know me well, let alone trying to start brand new relationships with people I'm not even sure I like (did I just say that out loud? :P). Though I look like an extrovert, I really NEED my alone time, and I am actually perfectly fine to not see my friend for several weeks. With one in particular, every time we "catch up", I'm told we need to "catch up properly sometime soon!" and that makes me wilt on the inside (Didn't we just do that? Do we need to schedule another get-together? *brain short circuits*).

    All that to say, I haven't yet worked out how to handle friends who want to be your friend when you don't have the energy to be a friend back. I'm all for helping and counselling and encouraging, but I am unable to be my raw, messy, dumping self on just any friend. It has to be a real close one. I've been in the painful situation where I've been a friend to someone, and they get upset at me often because I'm not as open with them as they are with me, and I seem to avoid talking about how I'm doing. I find that hurtful and tough, because then it creates obligation for me to be vulnerable with them in ways I'm not comfortable in doing. I personally don't feel that's right, and I'm still not sure how to deal with that one... I think perhaps we just need God's wisdom in this to show us which people are the ones He needs us to invest in, and which ones we need to let go. We can't be everyone's friend, and not everyone can be ours, and I'm sure God knows which are which.

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    1. Your last few lines. YES. God has allowed me to back away from some friendships and to invest in burn-out friendships. He's allowed me to feel no responsibility when a friend gets mad at me for not wanting to go that movie or not wanting to reciprocate the words "best friend." Different seasons of life also change the kind of interactions I have. During school, I just stick with investing in my close friends with occasional dinner dates with other acquaintances. Oh, and lots of mentor and professor chats!!

      I sosososo relate to friends getting upset because I didn't want to open up. One friend got mad at me for not telling her everything in a personal situation, and that was my one of my first lessons in realizing that sharing my heart with everyone is not healthy or necessary. My feelings and friendship are not to be demanded or expected. Nor am I to demand or expect other people's friendship. Friendship is different than love ---- the latter is for all, the former is for few. I think that's what many people mix up, and it's a nightmare to fix. :/

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  6. I can feel both sides of the topic. On one hand trying to be 'friends' with people who love to be with you but ultimately don't click- that's exhausting. On the other hand when /you're/ not clicking with anyone and you just really need someone to lean on or even just someone with whom you feel comfortable asking for a hug - that's exhausting and disheartening. It makes me think, 'well maybe I'm just not meant be one of those people who gets to have friends'. And while I never want to be anyone's pity-case (few people would I think) there is definitely a sense of "Hey! Hello out there! Anybody looking for a friend? .... Somebody? ... Anybody?" And if someone notices how down I'm feeling at those times and reaches out with a bit of Christianly love but not friendship... that makes me feel even more lonely, like the charity-case families in a neighborhood. I completely understand why those families can get so defensive; because people like the idea of helping out, but don't want to get truly involved. And I understand, people simply can't get deeply involved in every cause. They can't become true friends with everyone. I get it. But at a certain point, if you don't have the energy, desire, or ability to be a /friend/ then I don't want your /ministry/ either because /I/ don't want to pour my feelings and hurts on the table for not-friends, anymore than /you/ do.

    On the topic of friendship not being based on need. I disagree. It should not be /formed/ based on need nor should it's /foundation/ be need, but my idea of a true friendship is two people who are always there when the other needs them - not because they feel an obligation - but because they want to be; because they feel their friend's needs as their own.

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    1. This is everything I'm trying to say and not saying well, especially the last part on needs and relationships.

      But everything you said just makes things trickier, because sometimes the only thing people have to offer is "ministry" and not friendship.

      This whole conversation makes me want to be an anti-social introvert for the rest of my life. :P So many expectations, so much hurt, and so little time and energy. What a frustrating situation for everyone on both sides of the issue.

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    2. Having said that, different people need different things. Some people really need a friend, other people really need ministry, i.e. comfort, guidance, help. It also depends on definitions here: what do you call a friend? Someone you can dump your every issue on, or someone you can share a part of your life with? Someone you need to spend every waking moment with, or someone you can touch base with for a catch up now and then with no pressure?

      Maybe we need to give each other grace. We can't share our whole lives with everyone, but we can be grateful for the part of it they choose to share with us. We may not have many true friends, but we can recognize the sacrifice people make of their time and energy to genuinely care about us, even if they can't be there for us all the time. Grace covers a lot of things, and helps us see the blessings in disguise.

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    3. Jasmine, yessss. So, do you want to take over my blog? Because I love everything you say. :D This is the lesson I had to learn over and over again in high school, and the lesson I wished my friends in high school would have learned. Love and friendship are gifts to be given and received, not things to be demanded and taken.

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    4. You - and your blog - are awesome, Bailey. It takes a brave person to say the first thing! It's easy enough to comment once someone else has paved the way. :D I think you nail it right here -

      Love and friendship are gifts to be given and received, not things to be demanded and taken.

      The sooner we all recognize this, the better our friendships will be. :)

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  7. I'm always looking for a new best friend-I can get almost obsessive about it, honestly. But then I'm bad about keeping up with the older friends.

    Granted, there's only so many hours in a day, but I think one can have a close friend without spending a whole lot of time with them-it's the whole kindred spirits thing. I guess I think love doesn't limit the number of friends as much as life does. Also, personality can.

    I'm really bad with befriending people I don't want to be friends with. One of my closer friends is someone I never wanted to see again after the first time we met. It's even more ironic considering the fact that usually with new people the worst reaction I ever have is "meh." He was the person who I've had the strongest dislike for ever at college, and now we're close. And not because I'm faking it or he is, I just had a faulty first impression. Usually, with people I don't want to be friends with, I just act somewhat friendly, which probably comes across as more friendly than I intend due to my personality. And either we become friends or not. Sometimes I do feel guilty but I don't want to become enslaved to a friend I don't really want to have. I'll spend time with them once in a while but usually when they're really pushy they give up after I don't hang out with them a lot. It sounds harsh, but then again I don't reliably hang out with close friends either. My friendship style can be best described as serendipitous.

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    1. I have a friend -- well, a couple of friends -- who sound exactly like you! "I think love doesn't limit the number of friends as much as life does." I never thought about it from that angle before, but I think you're right to a certain extent. Intimacy requires time, though, so deep abiding intimacy is necessarily limited.

      Ironically enough, I tend to rarely like my best friends too! It's God's way of surprising me with my own ignorance once again, I suppose. :D

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