If you know me well, you know that sometimes (very rarely) I am right in the middle of the action. I am driving (sometimes hogging) conversation. I have a lot to say, and don’t hold back.
But most of the time, I am an outsider. An observer. It’s where I am most comfortable more often than not. I love to sit back and take it all in. I love listening and laughing to other people’s stories. I love learning everything that makes a person who they are.
Obviously, sometimes being the outsider is lonely. Sometimes I don’t love it. Sometimes I’ve had enough of it and want—just once!—to be the person who is interesting and sought after. The person who people want to talk to and get to know.
When you’re the outsider, you can feel like you are on the outside of a window looking in. Watching everyone else have fun. Watching everyone else build friendships. You feel like screaming and pounding on the glass, begging to be noticed and included. But that would be too desperate. You don’t want to appear needy, after all.
This has pretty well described my life when it comes to relationships. In middle school, I introduced my best friend to some newer friends of mine and watched her develop close friendships with them. She quickly became closer to those people than to me, and I was heartbroken. In high school, I was almost always the third wheel. If I ever went out with friends, it was with a friend and their significant other or a good friend and her BETTER friend. As an adult, I’ve made most of my friends at the churches I’ve attended. Even there, I found that I could never seem to make it into what felt like the “inner circle”. I wanted a best friend so desperately that I was so jealous every time I observed it happening for someone else. This just made me bitter, and consequently, not very approachable.
The feeling of rejection really wore me down. And because rejection seemed to be lightly sprinkled all throughout my life, I started to expect rejection instead of love. So I stopped trying. I stopped reaching out. I stopped showing others that I care. I gave up.
I didn’t really learn until recently that if I want friends, I need to be friendly. Is that the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard, or what?! It’s embarrassing to even admit that, but it’s true. The truth is, if I want to have a friend, I need to be a friend. If I want to have meaningful, non-surface-level relationships, I need to be vulnerable and reach out to others.
I’ve learned this in small ways along the way, but I didn’t put it all together until recently. When I look back, I can see that this is true. I’ve had some really great relationships, but because I was so caught up in the idea of having a “best friend” the way I felt others did, I missed out on being content with the really meaningful relationships I did have. I wasn’t happy enough being second or third best, so these relationships went cold. It is ON ME that I don’t have close friends, not them.
Another way I’ve sabotaged my relationships is by expecting too much from them. I would work so hard to get to know a person, but I would end up hurt when they didn’t seem to care as much about me. I felt like I was doing all of the work, all of the giving, all of the sacrificing. (Man, I sound like a jerk.) Eventually, I would give up. I wouldn’t stop caring for my friend, but I would stop trying to show her how much I cared. It felt so one-sided…like I was the only one who wanted this relationship.
A big part of this is the fact that I wasn’t content. And I wasn’t looking to God for my love and acceptance. I didn’t always feel like God’s love for me was enough, because I didn’t always feel it. But the truth is, I am loved by God. More than I could ever understand. Because of that love, I can and should live differently. I should live loved.
Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won’t find yourself begging others for scraps of love. ~Lysa TerKeurst
This means that I shouldn’t live in a way that I am searching for love and acceptance. I should live loved and accepted. I shouldn’t live in a way that only loves so that I can be loved in return. I should live loved and accepted. And I shouldn’t live in a way that keeps me as the outsider, bitter and unapproachable. I should live loved and accepted.
Only then can I be love. And only then will I be open enough to receive love.
So what can we do? How do we “live loved”? It’s not easy, but it is simple. Instead of seeking love, we show love. Instead of waiting for an invitation, we offer friendship. Instead of looking for someone to lift our burdens, we lift someone else’s burdens.
The hardest part about this for those of us who have experienced a lot of rejection is that it is FREAKY. Yes, they might say no. Yes, they might be too busy for you right now. BUT…they might say yes! They might take you up on the help, the friendship, the love, or whatever it is you are offering! And maybe for you that is even more freaky…but it is worth the risk, and it is worth the work.
God wants you to have great relationships on earth. God is enough, but that doesn’t mean He needs to be the one and only. Often times, it is through our close friendships that God speaks to us.
Can you relate? What lessons have you learned over the years about love and friendships? Please share in the comments below. 🙂