I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of intentional community and relationships for a long time. What does it mean to be intentional about the community we surround ourselves with?
I know I’ve said it over and over again that I am blown away at the depth of relationships in my life and the quality people I am blessed to consider my friends. Does this mean it is always easy? Let me assure you, it isn’t. Does this just happen because I have gobs of time and so do all my friends? It doesn’t. Deep abiding friendships aren’t something that I happened to stumble into. I don’t think community works like that. Sure, some of my friends have been my friends for decades. Others were long time acquaintances that have become dear friends. Still others are people I’ve met very recently and decided I want to be friends with.
I believe that in order to be part of a close community of friends, we first have to be good community.
We have to actually be the kind of friend people want in their lives. I’m not saying we need to be someone we aren’t, but I am saying we have to intentionally be a friend to people we want in our lives.
We can’t blame other people for not being good enough community or support if we are not that friend ourselves. I’ve realized that friendships are one of those things that we have to take responsibility for. We have an important part to play and can’t put the blame on someone else if we don’t have meaningful friendships. Similarly, if we let a friendship stray into unhealthy territory or if we continue to foster unhealthy relationships, we have responsibility there as well. Not full responsibility for everything (heavens no) but rather we are a key player in a friendship. If things are going south or not going at all, we should look at our part in that.
I think friendships are an important investment of our time, energy, and ultimately our heart. If we invest in healthy friendships, when we hit a rough patch, those friends help us get through it. But I always come back to the realization that friendships are and have to be a two way street. Friendships where one person always carries the other but can’t rely on the other are not actually friendships. That is a circle of acquaintances. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have acquaintances – people we enjoy and spend time with on occasion — nothing wrong with that as long as both parties share that expectation.
We all have a lot going on in life. Challenges, heart break, things that overwhelm us. Choosing to invest in relationships is work and we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that they just happen automatically. And there are many many variables in our friendships: How and where we spend time. What we do together. What level of intimate sharing we do. SO many variables and as far as I can tell, there’s no right way. It is entirely dependent on the people involved. But it seems to me that both parties need to be involved in order for it to work. In my experience, I have never regretted spending the time invested in genuine friendship. I’ve certainly been hurt in friendships and felt rejected and abandoned. I’ve been in unhealthy relationships that sucked the life out of me. And I’ve been blessed with some of the best people in the world who love me and support me and keep me on track.
How do you foster intentional community in your life?