Photo Credit: Heartlight
Just last night I was confronted again with one of the tolls of the COVID epidemic. That toll being a physical isolation that has grown into a lingering social isolation. A friend texted me about her sense of feeling disconnected, even unseen, in the midst of her church community, of all places. She is reaching out but has not yet found her people. I tried to encourage her to keep reaching out and she would eventually find those friends, that connection for which she is longing. This isolation, this loneliness, is something I, too, was fighting against and occasionally successful.
She told me this had to be my next blog (title) and so it is…although I don’t have answers…but will share what I’m learning from my own journey and from wise others.
Writer, speaker, and mom Kari Kampakis wrote a fascinating post on Instagram and Facebook. It was titled: “What Middle School Girls Should Know About Friendship”. She wrote to girls but the lessons are redeeming for all of us, especially in this world that’s become COVID-isolated.
“Friendships change.” Following you will find Kampakis’ 10 thoughts (abbreviated from her blog) on the struggle – written for middle school girls but applicable to any of us. Especially as we face loneliness and isolation and want to either jump-start or strengthen our friendships:
1. It’s normal for friendships to evolve and change.
2. Everything will be okay. – Be patient, pray for good friends, and pray to be a good friend.
3. Rather than focus on finding the right friends, concentrate on being the right friend. – When you treat people well, you’ll attract friends who treat you well too. By holding yourself to high standards, becoming the friend you wish to find, and choosing to be an encourager rather than a critic, you set yourself up for positive and long-lasting relationships.
4. Even when you find your “people”, always leave room at the table to invite someone new in. – Kampakis lamented: “One regret I have from high school and college is not reaching out more beyond my circle and letting God open the door to unexpected blessings.”
5. Love your friends well, but keep a loose grip. Give them space to explore new friendships and explore new friendships yourself.
6.Remember that everyone is learning and gradually maturing. Just because you don’t click with someone now doesn’t mean you won’t click later.
7. The biggest friendship killers are jealousy, comparison, insecurity, and fear – fear of rejection, fear of being left out, and fear of being alone. Acting on these emotions can turn you into someone you’re not. – By being aware of your negative emotions yet learning the self-control to not act on them.
8. Form your own opinions about people, and don’t believe everything you hear. – Treat everyone like a friend until they give you a good reason not to, and when possible, give people the benefit of the doubt.
9. Know the difference between committed friends and casual friends. – Committed friends are the kind you carry through life. They have your back and will stand in your corner even if they’re your last friends standing. Casual friends are the kind you have for a season of life, maybe a few seasons.
10. Be kind, and keep in mind that kindness is more important than popularity.
Photo Credit: Kari Kampakis
Those 10 points were written for middle schoolers. It was a great reminder to me of the sweet simplicity of pursuing friendship. Both in rekindling neglected relationships and sparking new ones.
The world won’t all of a sudden become warm and welcoming…but I am ready to stretch again. It feels almost like a hungry bear coming out of a long hibernation. It’s possible to shake off the sleep of shallow relationships. To be more present with people – not just on my terms but open to enter into their space…both heart and head.
Even if it’s one person at a time.
Photo Credit: Heartlight
Life does not stand still for us. I have friends and family that are dear to me and yet we rarely see each other. Do we think that is going to happen somewhere down the road? Magically? There’s a place for urgency in dealing with the habitual loneliness we have come to know in recent months. My friend above is taking steps as am I. Cautiously, awkwardly…but occasionally successfully.
How about you? What’s your story? [Comment below.]
[Sidebar: If you’ve read this whole piece and wondered what’s the issue because you have great friendships – current and satisfying – maybe see Kampakis’ #4 again. “Leave room at the table for someone new.” Don’t circle the wagons. If you are basking in the experience of an inner circle, turn around – someone who may need you, or you them, may be just outside. Invite her in.. New friendships can be costly but the benefits are worth the expense and the risk. *]
Photo Credit: Heartlight