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?