Friday, January 17, 2014

Some thoughts on friendship

In my book list from 2013, I mentioned that I wanted to share more about my last book of the year--Friendships Don't Just Happen! by Shasta Nelson, founder of GirlFriendCircles.

I initially read about GirlFriendCircles in a magazine (maybe All You?) and so did my mom. We both thought it was a unique concept where women can join a local community and meet up with other women who are interested in making new friends. It's currently only available in select major cities, but I was intrigued, and when I saw that Shasta had written a book, I ordered it through inter-library loan for a small fee. It was worth the investment!

I nodded my head in agreement when I read statements like "The world needs way more people willing to give energy to initiating relationships." and "For the sake of our relationships, but also for our own personal integrity, we need to be people who do what we say we're going to do." One of my biggest struggles in recent years is feeling like I am constantly initiating with others without much reciprocity. I know it's a character trait of mine to have ideas and to carry them out, but it can be discouraging when I feel like things are one-sided. And I have been hurt countless times by people who make statements like "Let's go out to lunch sometime," and yet they never follow-through. I acknowledge that I can be overly sensitive when this occurs, but I do think it's a valid point and reiterate what Shasta said above that we need to be people who do what we say we're going to do. That to me is definitely an important piece of friendship.

(Note: I re-read the paragraph above, and feel compelled to add that I am by no means a perfect friend! Nor do I always initiate, even when I have an idea to. But it is definitely true that I do the majority of initiating when it comes to social connection. And while I often don't mind it, I go in stages when I find it quite frustrating.) OK, moving on . . .

Another section of the book I found insightful is that Shasta has developed five circles of connectedness to help us understand where each of our friendships fall on a specific continuum. The categories are  

contact (people with whom you are friendly, but whom you don't see outside of your shared context)
common (people you are intentional with, but it's primarily based on one shared commonality)
confirmed (people you have a shared bonding history with, but there is no longer regular connection)
community (people with whom you spend intentional, regular time beyond the area you have in common)
commitment (people with whom you intimately and consistently share your life; commitment extends beyond areas you have in common)

The author encourages you to write down the names of all your current friends on the continuum. This was a helpful exercise for me, and my mom said it was helpful for her to think about this, too. Shasta claims that it is important to have friends in each of those categories because they meet different needs in our lives. My list confirmed for me what I've felt for a long time--that I have a lengthy list of what Shasta calls "left side friends" (the contact and common categories), but the number of names on the right side are considerably fewer. Part of that is because we've had so many close friends move away. In addition, our family members and friends from high school/college are spread all over the country, which makes long-distance connecting difficult! I did feel encouraged from the book to keep at it because friendship is so important whether you live 5 minutes or 500 miles apart.

If this topic interests you, I encourage you to read the book. Shasta also shares some excellent insight on pursuing forgiveness, and on taking risks in exploring friendship. I'm glad I read the book and recommend it to you! I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on this subject.

(Pictured at the top of this post with me is Mandi--a faithful friend for 16 years!)


Mom said...

I also enjoyed this book and am glad to read your thoughts here. :) The most helpful concept for me was the five circles of connection - my expectations of some friends changed for the better after realizing they were not in the "category" that I had assumed. Friendships are important, and I count you among mine! :) Love you lots, Mom

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

Those five categories…YES. That is huge in helping me understand a few things in my struggles with friends right now. Just knowing where they fall is kind of an "aha" for me. Definitely going to look into this book.

I don't know why friendships in my 40s have been such a struggle but they certainly have been more challenging than any other decade.

Female relationships are such an important part of our lives, but for me they've been a refining experience as well.

kelseylynae said...

I may have to look into this book. I'm interested. The five categories are very interesting and I'm sure I would find that my list would be similar to yours.

The past few years for me have been difficult in some ways in the arena of friendship. I think this is due, in part, to the season of life most women my age are in: we've been out of college long enough that some of those relationships are no longer the ones we want to/need to invest in [or we're so far away it is difficult], plus we are all "settling in" to our careers and starting families etc. that sometimes I think we put priorities there without realize the intense need we have for real community with other females.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Kristin said...

That sounds really interesting, especially those categories. It would be an interesting exercise for me to do as well, but I'm pretty sure it would look much like yours! I love how intentional you are in relationship. I appreciate friendships immensely but often fail at the follow-through myself by not prioritizing it enough. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book!

Speaky1013 said...

oh honey! love the pic!! love you!!!

angie said...

Just as you shook your head in agreement with much of this book, I nodded in agreement with all of your post. I have struggled with friendships over the last few years. Like you, I probably am left-side heavy, even without formally writing it down. Over the past five years, three kindred spirits have moved away. And the fast pace of our lives and decrease in face-to-face connection has not helped. I appreciate your vulnerability in discussing your own friendship trials. I too can relate to feeling like I am usually the one being intentional with very little follow through from friends.
I checked with my library, but they don't have this book. I'm going to explore ILL, if my branch offers it any longer.
Thank you for exploring this sensitive topic, Carrie. I often feel that I am the only one who struggles in his area. It is comforting to know that this is a common feeling, especially judging by the other comments.

Lisa said...

I thought it was just me...comforting in a small way to know other women struggle with true friendships.

Kara K said...

Carrie it was brave of you to post on this sensitive topic. I think that it's hard for any person, regardless of gender or age, for them to admit they are lonely or could use more friends in their own lives. I was thinking more about your comment on how you've been hurt times by people who say they want to get together for x,y,z and then never follow through. I just had that situation the other day and had to acknowledge in myself the hurt I've been hanging onto in those same situations. People refer to me as "the planner or the organizer" but sometimes it's nice to sought out too and not always being the seeker!

Carrie said...

Oh my. This book sounds right up my alley! Admittedly though it strikes a chord in the same way it does for you. I'm usually the idea person. "Let's do this!" and I follow through. And I, too, am hurt by lack of reciprocity and follow-through. it is frustrating, yes, but also *hurtful* whether or not I actually have the right to be hurt.

I'm starting to realize that this is my role in life. And if I am to be a bit lonely that's not much of God to ask for. My humanity would like someone to reach out to ME but I'm still called to obey, regardless. There's the rub!