It’s Time To Stop Sucking At Friendship

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Photo by Seemi Samuel on Unsplash

There’s this myth, this lie, that continually gets fed to all of us. We have all been the recipient, and the one dishing it. It’s something that becomes an enormous waste of your time. Sometimes it’s through our words, sometimes with our actions. We tell those who care about us “I really want to spend time with you, I’m just really busy right now.” But at the end of the day, everyone makes time for what, or who, they care about.

As of late, I’ve found myself reconnecting with people, and trying to have genuine friendships again. I’ve been really trying to make the effort. But even I am guilty of this. And it needs to stop.

How often have you tried to get together with someone, and they feed you some bullshit about how they really do want to get together, but they are really busy right now? Maybe next week? Or the week after? Or probably never (if we’re being honest). You may take it personally, or you may just not care. You may be the one doing this to everyone (SHAME!) Either way, it’s hurtful in the end. But I think it’s only hurtful because there’s a fundamental truth being misunderstood in this transaction.

People make time for what they care about. Always.

This is true of everyone, because it’s human nature.

We take it personally because we thought we were enough. We thought we were worthy of that person’s time and attention. We were willing to give of our time, and we were rejected. This is why I call it a transaction. It is a transaction. A transaction of feelings, of love, and of our time. But one party decided the other wasn’t worth the cost of feelings, love, and time. But we don’t have to take it personally. We just have to be careful, and be aware of who is worth spending the currency of our life .

If we are careful to pay attention, everyone gives signs of who is important. For instance…

Who reaches out first?

Are you always the one to try and meet up? Or does the other person also call (or text) you up to get coffee, or go to a movie, or invite you along to whatever they are doing? Is there a mutual participation going on? Or are you doing all the work?

This is usually a good sign that maybe you’re valuing them more than they value you, and it could be a waste of your time and resources.

The “No Reason” Conversation

Who checks up on you for no reason except that they were thinking about you? Who cares about how you are doing? Who at least acts interested in what’s going on in your life? These are the people you should be cherishing and holding near and dear to your heart, because they deserve to be there. There aren’t a lot of people that do this with me, and I’m careful to be aware of these people and make sure I’m showing my appreciation, as well as pouring my time and energy into those friendships. Because these are the people who are really going to be there when you need them to be. So take note!

The “Three Strikes” Rule

I’ve mentioned this in another post, but I have a “three strikes” rule. This may seem harsh, but it works for me. This rule primarily applies to making plans. It usually goes like this:

  • If I try to make plans, and you tell me you can’t BUT you want to. — strike one.
  • If I try to make plans, and you tell me you’re sorry but maybe next time — strike two.
  • If I try to make plans, and you’re really busy, but you’ll let me know — strike three.

The same applies to actually making set plans:

  • If I make plans with you, and you text me prior saying you can’t make it — strike one.

…You get the idea…

I do this to protect my time, but also to protect my feelings. So many people spend all of themselves on people who don’t give a damn about them, causing them intense inner turmoil, and often times, questioning their self worth. I know I’m worth more than that, and you should too.

The Circles

The reality is that each person only has so much time in their life for so many people. Usually only two or three people. The rest is half-assed effort, and beyond that is just half-assed excuses for the lack of effort being given.

You’ll often hear me reference my “inner circle”. These people know they are my inner circle because of the nature of it.

This is how I would map out priorities of relationships in my life:

  1. Inner Circle — The few people who have an “all access” pass to my life, and who give me the same. We are connected. We talk often. We help each other. We are there for each other always. Period. (Maybe 4 people TOPS)
  2. Outer Circle — The people I would consider friends, but I’m less invested due to time constraints. I’ll make time to see them or talk to them on occasion. I may reach out and see how they are doing. I genuinely care about their life, but I’m just less invested. They get the “Restricted Access” pass to my life. They get access to my life, but certain areas are locked up. (This can be about 5–10 people)
  3. Everyone Else — I’ll talk to you. Hell, I might even ask you about your life. But I’m not going to pretend you’re a priority in my life, because I believe that would be disrespectful of your feelings and your time. We’re acquaintances, and that’s ok. I know you. You know me. I say hi to you in the grocery isles, ask how your family is, and maybe even say we should grab coffee sometime. But there’s a good chance it may not happen. Because, let’s be honest, neither of us really have the time. We’ve already dedicated ourselves to the inner circle and some of the outer circle.

This is how it should be understood by everyone. We should be able to know who these people are. Sure, anyone in any of these groups can become a member of another group depending on the ever changing dynamic of relationships that are dictated by life’s circumstances, but you should know who is in which group, and act accordingly. If you know who these people are in your life (don’t lie; you know), then you should be an adult and not treat the people who aren’t in your inner circle like they are in your inner circle. It’s hurtful and an irresponsible mistreatment of their feelings. Don’t be an asshole.

One Final Thought

It all comes back to story. Everyone is telling a story. They have an idea of what character they are, and what story their life is telling. They will invite people into their story that contribute to the over-arching message and theme of that story. That might be you. And it might not, but that’s ok. Because millions of stories are being told every day, including your own. What story do you want to tell? Mine is not one of catering to everyone else’s story. My story is not about a character who gets trampled on by people who don’t care about him. My story is about finding people that want to do something amazing with their life. My story is about discovering what it means to be great, wise, humble, loving, and real. In order for me to tell that story, there will have to be people who are seeking the same thing who are an integral part of my life.

I’ve realized as I get older that I’ve become much more exclusive about who I’m really sharing my life with. My inner circle are the people that I respect greatly. People whom I take advice from. People who have been given the ability to speak into my life and have an impact on the way I think about things and do things. This is a great responsibility and also a dangerous thing if put in the wrong hands. We often let the wrong people into our inner circle. Those people will begin to write their own story over yours. Don’t lose your story in the drama of others. It’s not their place to tell your story. But if you won’t do this, someone will. Cherish your story above everyone else’s. If you do it right, it will benefit everyone else, and you’ll become more selfless, more humble, and more loving. Because the best stories are the ones that have a positive impact on the world. Great stories are filled with magnificent love, unmistakable joy, and an indelible passion that changes people and reshapes the way people see the world. Tell that story.

Ultimately it comes down to a simple truth: If they care about you, you will know.

The opposite is also true. If you have to wonder if someone cares, there’s a good chance they don’t, and you need to be ok with that. Because ultimately no one is worth the hurt. The hurt comes from the mistreatment of feelings. That is usually immaturity manifesting itself in that person’s life because they don’t know how to “adult” when it comes to relationships. Don’t let someone else’s immaturity be the reason you question yourself or your self-worth. It may seem selfish to be this cut and dry with people, but ultimately it will benefit your quality of life, and the relationships you pour into, which makes a better impact on the few people you can really love well.

Side note: I find it interesting that the people who often publicly complain about not having friends or not having that “special someone” in their life, often have people lined up to be friends with them or even take that person on a date, and yet they still complain about how lonely they are. This is an obvious desperate grab for attention. Everyone knows it. Please just stop doing this. It’s sad and pathetic and not becoming of you.

This post has taken on the tone of a rant. I usually don’t do that kind of thing, but I feel like this is something that really shouldn’t be a thing in our mid to late 20s and beyond. People should know how to treat the people they care about. But we don’t. Why is that? Maybe that’s for another article.

All I know is that if I reach out to you, know that I mean it. I may screw up from time to time with the people I care about. I may hurt your feelings. I might do or say the wrong thing. I might get my priorities mixed up. But know that I care and I’m trying to have a genuine friendship with you. Know that I’m doing my best to love well and be authentic and caring. Know that I want to be better, and you’re helping me do that.


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