It's easy to get used to a select group of friends, but what can you do to go beyond your habitual relationships and break down social barriers?
The 2004 movie Mean Girls has become a cult classic for some Generation Xers, with catch phrases and quotes continuing for over ten years now. Prints on shirts and other paraphernalia might read something like, “You Can’t Sit With Us” or “On Wednesdays We Wear Pink” and “That’s So Fetch!”
The movie is essentially about the drama of high school cliques, and depicts girls’ being exclusive in friendships. While movies are not exact pictures of reality, there are times in our daily lives that can feel like we are emulating them in our actions. Do we realize how we, as Christian women, are conducting our friendships? “BFFs,” “BFFLs” and “besties” are all cute little names we like to call our “best” friends. While there is nothing wrong with having a close friend whom we can trust and confide in more than others, are we excluding others in the process? In the Bible, we see examples of friendships such as David and Jonathan’s or Mary and Elizabeth’s, but we do not see any instances where they show less respect to others in their presence—or where they behave as though their “special” friendships make them better than others.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, why do we find ourselves drawing closer to some than to others? We all come from different places and backgrounds, but one thing that binds us all is our calling to be part of God’s family. We will naturally not be as close to or find common interests with everyone, but we must be careful not to let society influence our thinking and behaviors regarding how we establish friendships. Are we being warm and welcoming to others? Not just giving a half-smile or a stiff wave, but actually interacting with those we might not initially befriend? Do we make an effort to spend time away from our “usual group” of friends? Or to go and talk to others after services and break away from our “buddies”?
We need to make a conscious effort to get away from worldly examples of friendship and to study real biblical examples that matter. The wrong people and the wrong influences can affect us: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Over the years television shows and movies such as Friends, Sex and the City, and Desperate Housewives, have portrayed exclusivity, gossip, slander, backstabbing and other negative behaviors as normal ways that friends interact—specifically among women—though we are clearly told to avoid such things (Proverbs 20:19; Psalm 34:13). Popular media portrays the idea “If I have my friends, I don’t need anything else.” These types of beliefs are false and misleading, and focus our attention on worldly attitudes. We need to ask ourselves how we are learning and growing through our time spent with others and to remember Paul’s admonishment “to malign to no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:2).
Next time you are sitting there talking to your “usual” people, invite others to join in. Sit back when you talk and keep yourself open to them. Body language says a lot and really makes a difference on how people perceive you. If you are in a group huddle or have your arms crossed and back turned, you are closing yourself off to those around you and not giving the appearance of being opening and welcoming.
You may be pushing people away without even realizing it. If you choose never to be without your “besties” you are essentially cutting yourself off, potentially hindering yourself from getting to know others and possibly developing new, meaningful relationships. As the saying goes, “Make new friends but keep the old.” If you are always “hanging” with your “group,” how are you benefiting yourself and others? Are you really making the effort to know your fellow sisters?
Proverbs 27:17 states, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man [or woman!] sharpens another.” Women at any age can fall into the trap of not reaching out, but if we can be proactive and make the effort, we can be an example to others who will hopefully follow suit.