How to Deal with Shallow Friendships

Thursday, July 26, 2018

It took nine years but I’m finally confident in my children’s swimming abilities. Before this summer, shallow waters were the safest. When we go to the beach, we remind them to stay in the shallow part. First of all, it’s easier for us to get to them if they don’t go deeper. It is also easier for them, who are still small and who need guidance navigating all bodies of water.

Friendships work the same way. There’s nothing wrong with shallow friendships. I believe that most people can only support a certain amount of deep friendships. Dunbar zeroed this amount to be 150 people.

Think about your relationship circle for a minute. In my case, my primary relationship commitment is with Zeke and our kids. Outside of this circle is my extended family. Outside of that circle are friends who don’t need to read my social media updates to know how I’m doing. We make the effort to communicate so that we stay in touch. We are committed to each other because our friendship is valuable. Outside of that circle are friends I see all the time. We know details on each other’s lives but we don’t go much deeper than that. Do you see where I’m doing with that? We can honestly support a limited amount of friendships, no matter what our social media accounts say.

Each friendship circle has its importance. My biggest friendship mistake happens when I assign great value to a shallow friendship. I've never been good at assigning value to things.

When I was in North Carolina, I had an unsuccessful yard sale. I separated every item I wanted to sell, I organized it nicely the day before and I was ready to go on Saturday morning. A few people walked by but I didn’t sell anything. The problem? One was the weather. The other, my prices. I priced my items too high. If the weather was warmer and the prices lower, that yard sale would have been a success. I created the habit of treating friendships the same way. I neglected both the weather and value.

When it comes to weather, the Bible says in Proverbs 17:17 that a friend loves at all times. I have friends who only love me when it’s convenient for them. They only contact me when they need something from me. My mistake was assigning great value to these friendships.

I’m only responsible for my behavior, therefore, I’m determined to place the appropriate value to these friendships.

The friends who only look for me when they have a need, get my understanding. Understanding because their behavior is predictable. Understanding because the relationship will not get any deeper than it is. Understanding because I know I have sisters who love me at all times.

The second part of Proverbs 17:17 tells us that a brother is born for adversity. These are the friends who are part of my inner friendship circle. They are committed to our friendship. They hear my heart. They look for me just because. They get a nudge from God and they text me asking me, “how can I pray for you?” They are me during my time of adversity, they just don't hear about it afterward. Our bond deepens as we continue to invest in a friendship that increases in value.

My mistake was forgetting that such friends exist. In the past, I’ve been so upset with shallow friendships that I neglected to remember that God graciously gave me sisters for adversity - and for ordinary times as well.

It’s taken a while but I am confidently navigating the waters of friendship. Giving understanding to shallow friends has been wise. Embracing sisters who were born for adversity has been a joy. Knowing the difference, life-saving.

More in this Series:
How to deal with Unfulfilled Dreams
How to deal with those who Mistreat You

More Friendship Posts:
Dissolving Friendships
How to maintain a Friendship when you're Busy
The open arm friendship
The closed door of friendship