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!)