From the Outside Looking In

I’ve recently been with a group of people who are all pretty close. They laugh about inside jokes, make comments in reference to previous conversations, and have group phrases and words; you can tell they are a tight group. And I’m keenly aware when I am with all of them that I am on the outside. I’ve struggled to process these feelings of isolation because I’m friends with several people in the group. But I don’t even think they realize that when they are together how their interactions affect the additional people around them. I certainly don’t blame them. Sometimes when you’re hanging around with people you are comfortable with, you sort of forget that others might not feel the same way.

In the midst of this, I also have another close friend with whom I feel disconnected. Our regular conversations have become occasional over the past couple weeks. I understand that life gets busy, but again, I’ve felt like an outsider.

As I talked with my husband tonight about these two instances, I told him that God must be trying to teach me something. In my mind, it’s a little too coincidental that I’m struggling with basically the same issue in two different parts of my life.

While weeding our back porch tonight, I prayed for God to show me what I’m supposed to learn from this. As I reflected on my feelings and struggles, a scene came to mind: a couple weeks ago, two new girls joined my weekly play date with some friends. I distinctly remember noticing at one point that the two new girls (who knew each other) were talking, and the rest of us girls were having a different conversation. I briefly thought about drawing them into our conversation, but then decided not to interrupt them.

A second scene came to mind just after that. Although it was generic, I realized it plays out frequently in my life. At church – during our greeting time, or before or after the service – I often rush to visit with my friends, rather than seek out new people I do not know. If I do welcome a newcomer, I make idle chit-chat until I have fulfilled my obligatory 1-minute introductions, and then rush off to visit with my friends.

I felt convicted about my own actions. I talk about wanting community and creating a safe space for people to be real with one another, and yet I often focus only on myself and my desires. I frown upon groups who practice exclusivity, and yet I subconsciously create that in my own circles without even realizing it. While it is indeed good to connect with those whom I love and care about, am I doing it at the expense of someone else? I can always catch up with my friends through other means or at other times.

I want to be more aware of those around me, how I interact with them, and how they feel when they are with me – with or without my friends present. Kingsley, in his book Be Last says this: “I’m becoming last so that someone else can experience a blessing.” Oh, how I continue to deal with this issue of selfishness!

So I’m wondering, how do you practice pulling people in rather than letting them remain on the outside?



  1. Joel Ruark

    I certainly understand the selfishness part … selfish people, unite! 🙂 We should start a support group (Well, I guess Jesus did that already, I think it’s called the “church” or something like that — darn it — I thought I was on to something). I was thinking as I was reading this, Tina, about how our call as Christians is essentially the very thing about which you’re talking. Christ calls us to invite people in: into our lives, into our hearts, into our churches, into relationship with the risen Jesus. That’s cool. I think you’re really onto something…

  2. michelle

    i’ve been living on the outside at church and work for the last year. it sucks and drains the confidence out of me.
    no answers for you……i’m still trying to work my way in. maybe that is the problem. once we are in we are so relieved and comfortable that we don’t want to start over.

  3. spaghettipie

    Joel – Glad you stopped by. As I thought about this post some more, I realized that more and more I’m learning the depths of what it means to practice hospitality. And all this time I thought it was just about having people over!

    M – I definitely think that’s part of it. I remember my senior year of college making the conscious decision that I was not going to make any new friends and devote my time to my existing friends. If a new friend fell into my lap, I wouldn’t turn her (or him) away . . . but I was no longer going to make the effort to befriend people. I realize now this “promise” has had a more profound effect on my life and thinking than I ever realized.

  4. Good thoughts.

    I don’t know that I have an answer either. Because I’ve moved so many times, I’ve never felt completely “part of” the groups around me. I’m very conscious not to intrude on their groups. I don’t want to be viewed as a leech or someone who’s trying to take the place of another. This is not to say I don’t have close friends! I do! But I always assume they have other friends with whom they are closer. This is good because it allows me to reach out to newcomers while I give my friends the space to interact with their other friends. Does that make sense?

  5. I am a friend of Krista’s and visit your blog often. I had to post on this touchy subject b/c you always make me think about things. This is a very hard question…I am one of those people who have been left out of groups so now when I am in a group of people (especially in my own home), I make sure I include everyone. Have interesting questions for everyone to answer…have everyone tell how they know each other…etc. It is something to always think about and wonder how I can be a friend like Jesus would be. Thanks so much for your inspirational posts.

  6. SP

    it is very difficult to step out of what makes us comfortable. And, as your post points out, it comes down to either pride or fear. That’s why we dont cross the room to talk to those who we aren’t comfortable around. We all have THAT coworker or THAT neighbor or THAT relative that we would rather just ignore. I’m asking God to open doors to reach those people — and usually its just a matter of me doing something.

    Great post

    david rupert

  7. Such a great post. Thank you for the reminder to be aware of others who may not feel comfortable, or included. I’ve been in that situation before and I always want to be sensitive to that. Thanks!

  8. spaghettipie

    T – Totally makes sense to me, and I love that you are able to release your friends in that way. I often suffer jealous feelings when I think about my close friends being better friends with someone else . . . but wait, that’s a whole other post.

    D – I am so glad you stopped by, and you couldn’t have been referred by a sweeter friend. I love the idea of having questions for everyone to answer. I do that sometimes when mixed groups of friends are over, and it does indeed always work well.

    DR – Thanks for stopping in! I love going over to read your blog as well.

    “and usually its just a matter of me doing something.” – such a good point. I think God gives us opportunities all the time to draw people in; we just need to be aware and do something.

    G – When you’ve felt it yourself, you become more acutely aware of it happening to others. Problem for me is when I forget what it feels like.

  9. Oh how painful these moments of self-discovery sometimes are. Mostly I admire that you’ve shared and that you paid attention to the pain as a signal to attend to things.

  10. I’ve been peeking in at this dialog, and I’m not sure what to say, except that I find myself needing social interaction. So much so, that I cannot walk through the halls at work or church without tugging a ponytail or patting someone on the back or shouting “Wazaaaaaap!” When I see a group that tends to be secluded, I can’t resist the urge to pounce on someone with a greeting or amusing comment. (Well, I amuse myself anyway!) The point is, I want to make sure that community is realized, and that loners or people who perceive themselves as outcasts get a type of warm embrace.

    As for me, I rarely feel left out. Not that I am included by everyone… maybe I’m just too busy to notice or something.

  11. spaghettipie

    LL – I am quickly learning that things happen for a reason.
    C – Thanks for stopping by! It’s easy to look externally for answers, I think. That’s the tangible stuff.
    Craver-Crave – I can so picture you acting in the capacity of official greeter! I love your heart for community, and I hope that I can do better to embody that same passion in the places I go.

  12. Sometimes? Sometimes people don’t want to be included. Or dragged into a conversation with people they don’t know.

    Sometimes when I’m at a function, I want to hang out and talk to someone I have not seen in a while, not talk to people I don’t know and will never see again. Or don’t really care all that much about.

    I especially dislike going to a church for the first time and getting all fawned all over for being a guest or a new person or whatever. Be excited because it’s me, Mike, not Some New Guy.

    And yes, I get that they don’t know me and how can they get to know me if I don’t let them. I understand that, and it’s something that _I_ have to work on, you (and I do not mean you Mrs. Spaghettipie, I mean you as in “someone who is not me”) don’t need to work on it for me, as that generally just makes me not want to go back because it’s uncomfortable.

    Also there is usually hugging involved and I don’t like to get hugged by strangers (unless they are cute, but then that brings up a whole ‘nother set of uncomfortable/awkward-in-social-situation issues). It’s not like I’m afraid of germs or anything, and I don’t mind being hugged by people I know, it’s just, I don’t know, it’s my personal space and someone is just barging in without making sure that it’s cool to do so first. I have zero problem with people I know hugging, well aside from the usual “dude, shake my hand don’t hug me” thing most guys have, but it seems rude and a little uncomfortable when people I don’t know do it.

    Of course I’m rather anti-social and have difficulty speaking to people I don’t know, so that could just be me 🙂

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