“I feel like I am never anyone’s first choice.”
Those words broke my heart. Not only because they came from the mouth of my own child, but because they were words that often echo in my own heart as well. Friendships can be hard to navigate. I thought by the time I was 40 that it would be simple and straightforward, not like the precarious friendships of middle school. Maturity and age do help, but it turns out that the trials that make friendships tricky are still there, it’s just looks different.
With the fast pace of life and the jammed-packed schedules of families, it’s easy to assume that everyone is just busy. But then you hear of other women getting together and you wonder, “what about me?” You may get asked occasionally, but usually it’s because everyone else was unavailable. You’re never the first choice. You’re on the B list.
There is an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is competing with a step-mother for the first spot on a certain woman’s speed dial. Certain actions and words puts them in this woman’s good graces and therefore, #1 spot on the phone list. There’s jockeying and threats that go on between Jerry and the stepmom and a general unease that they know at any moment they could lose that spot to each other….or to another.
We can laugh through the silliness of the whole thing. I mean, who really cares if you are #1 on someone’s speed dial? And, to be honest, how many people these days even know what speed dial is? But, if we take a more serious look at it, when the laughter dies down, we realize that we may have fought, though inwardly, with a very similar kind of feeling.
Because you have never been #1 on anyone’s speed dial.
Many people can point out friendships that were pivotal for their young years. Those best friends who, when they had great news to share, were the first person they wanted to tell. Friends that they knew always had their back. Those besties that, if you found one, you always found the other. Either you were one of those, and didn’t realize how great you had it, or you were one who was watching from the sideline, wondering what you were doing wrong – the B-list friends.
The B-list friends were those who you would call your friends, but not best friends. They were nice and polite. They were good for an occasional sleepover or a birthday party. If you look at snapshots of a group hanging out in the bleachers, they were 2 rows above, a slight smile, trying to not look too awkward or out of place.
There are a lot of things about school that are far, far in the past, praise the Lord. But, shouldn’t mid-life friendships be easier? It seems we’re still hanging out in the back row, trying not to look awkward.
Because when the good news comes, we’re not #1 on the speed dial. We aren’t the first person anyone thinks of when they want to share good news. We aren’t the person that someone is calling because they finally have a free morning and they want to catch up. We aren’t the shoulder that someone is looking for when they need a good cry. But, we really would like to be.
This is a reality for many. It can feel isolating, as if you are the only one. As if everyone is hanging out without you.
What do we do? Do we wallow in self pity? Complain to our spouse? Scroll social media and feed our insecurities? Those are all natural responses that will breed only jealousy and contempt.
As I sat on the couch, trying to come up with the words to comfort my daughter after she uttered those jarring words above, I honestly felt at a loss. Because I needed comforting words spoken to me, too.
So, I started with the first response I have whenever I’m stuck on how to act and what to do: follow Jesus’s example.
- If you want a friend, you need to be a friend. Jesus approached His friendships as a servant. He made Himself available to help others. Offer to make a meal for someone who’s struggling. Remember birthdays and send cards or texts. When you ask someone, “how’re you doing?” mean it and wait and listen for the answer. These aren’t done to manipulate people into liking you, but rather to show genuine love and caring for other human beings.
- Make a “U”, not an “O.” Be inclusive. If you happen to be standing with a group of people, be sure to leave room for more. Look around outside your circle and see if there is someone standing alone. Invite them in. They may refuse, but most appreciate the invite nonetheless. Though Jesus had his 12 disciples, He never turned away someone who wanted to be a part. In fact, He was constantly inviting.
- Be the initiator. We can wait around for someone to reach out to us, but in reality, there are a lot of others out there waiting for the same thing. It may take some courage and even a few false starts, but boldness in Christ’s grace has broken down many doors. If God has placed someone on your heart or mind, don’t hesitate. Offer the hand of friendship, praying as you go, seeking God’s glory in the relationship. Jesus invited many to be fishers of men for the Kingdom. We can’t ask people to follow us, we don’t have the glorified position or authority, but we can invite others into our lives, share the Light with them, and encourage them to walk after Jesus as well.
- Pray. Though this is listed last, it doesn’t mean it should be the last resort. If you are feeling lonely, left out, or forgotten, take it to Jesus first. He understands all those feelings because He has been there Himself. Ask God to reveal to you why you feel this way. Is your loneliness misplaced? Perhaps your eyes need opened to the friendships right in front of you that you aren’t even aware of. Pray that you may have a heart for those that also ache for friendship and that He would be the One to first fill that need in you so that you can go out and be a friend to others.
Father, I know you have made us for community. Our hearts long to be included, accepted, and loved by others. Help me to not misplace this desire. I pray that I long to be included, accepted, and loved by You first before all others. Give me a heart for the hurting and open my eyes to the needs of others around me. I know in order to have friends, I need to be a friend. Give me opportunities to be a friend to others. May it be a way for me to shine Your light and give you glory.