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4 Things We All Want in Friendship (Part 1)

Updated: Aug 27, 2023



A while back, I had a conversation with a friend, and I told her that I did not know a single one of our peers that have felt more deeply connected as they have gotten older. After we all finished college, everyone seemed to get a lot lonelier. If I had to guess, this isn’t true for my people only, but for a lot of people.


In my own college years (18-22), I managed to really cultivate a tight-knit community. I believed, during that time, I had become a professional at friendships. However, since then, I have had my own friendship woes and confusions, especially after I moved from my home-state of Ohio to a state about 18 hours south, Texas.


As a person who once thought they were a professional in friendship and has since learned she is not, I offer this piece from my musings and searches into the depths of friendship, a topic I love so dearly. Friendship is a great gift. It is a necessity, really, so I want to share with you four things I think we all look for in friendship. I believe they will not only help you make good friends, but also help you be a better friend.


I even made it easy for you to remember, friends. They all start with an S


1. Significance


Significance is our need to feel important, noticed, and irreplaceable, and to take up space in our relationships and our world. I once heard a quote that essentially said that the opposite of love is not hate, rather, it is indifference. Some have called this indifference passive rejection. It is essentially actions and attitudes (or lack thereof,) that communicate:


"I do not plan to get to know you, even if I see you."

"I am uninterested in you."

"You will be fine on your own. You don't need me."

"I am too busy for you."

"I like the way things are. I don't want to change things for you."

"I am too tired to invest in anyone else."


Now, I always want to let some people off the hook. I know there are times in our lives that we truly do not have the bandwidth to invest in more people. I know we can only maintain and cultivate a certain amount of relationships. I encourage you to just take the time to ask yourself if these reasons apply to you for not investing in new people, or maybe, deep down, you know that you have lived with indifference towards others.


So, what does it look like to treat others with significance? How do we know if we are being treated with significance in our own relationships?


Here are a few things to consider:


A place to use our strengths


In order for people to feel a sense of significance/importance, they need to contribute. If people are robbed of the ability to add value, they get depressed. They will begin to say things like, "I feel like a burden to you." Despite our reassurance, if we do not give them the opportunity to exercise their strengths, this feeling of being burdensome doesn't really go away. When one party feels like a burden within the relationship, it makes a very shaky foundation for a friendship. On the other hand, this can work in reverse. Sometimes people know that they can contribute more to the relationship and actually feel shutdown or passed-over by us instead. It feels like their strengths are being ignored or disrespected. This causes resentment to surface.


Our strengths make us feel good about ourselves. When we are able to use them and feel valued for it, a bond is formed. This is why allowing others to use their strengths deepens a relationship. Ask your wise friend for advice. Ask your excellent-cook friend for their favorite recipe. Ask your movie-junkie friend for a suggestion. 


How are you at allowing your friends to manifest their strengths in their relationship with you?


Questions to ask yourself:


- Am I aware of my friends strengths? Can I name them?

- Is there any way that I am intentionally or unintentionally not allowing my friends to use their strengths?

- How can I put my friend in a position to use or manifest their strengths?


A place to see our individuality. 


Another way we feel important or noticed is by being recognized for our uniqueness. We are all deeply similar, while also remaining incredibly unique. None of us want to feel like a placeholder. We do not want our role to be easily replaced by another person. Here is the good news: it can't be.


We are all deeply similar, while also remaining incredibly unique.

Do you know that? That you are not easily replaceable? Do you know that about your friends? While each of our stand-alone qualities can feel very common, the mixture of all of our qualities together cannot be duplicated. There is not a single other person out there who can replace you.


While each of our stand-alone qualities can feel very common, the mixture of all of our qualities together cannot be duplicated. There is not a single other person out there who can replace you.

To honor our friendships, we need to acknowledge this fact: our friends are special. 


Questions to ask yourself:


- What are some of the quirks and mannerisms that your friends have?

- What is a unique perspective your friend holds?

- What are the specific qualities you appreciate about your friend?


2. Similarity


As I write this, the first thing that comes to mind is those who will object. They will say, "I love people who are different than me!" And that may be true. It may be in alignment with your values to learn from people who are different than you. You might also be interested in those who are gifted where you are not, however, to develop a deep friendship, I believe we need similarity, not similarity in all areas, but some areas.


Lack of similarity with those in our life can create a feeling of isolation. We may feel seen, (significant), but we do not feel understood. Being seen has an important role in our life but so does being understood. Being deeply understood/identified with, is what alleviates the feeling of being alone.


Lack of similarity with those in our life can create a feeling of isolation. We may feel seen, (significant), but we do not feel understood.

We are all familiar with the feeling of being surrounded by people, yet feeling oh so very alone.


C.S. Lewis says it well when he says, "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one."”


Or another one by him, "What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth."


"What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth." - C.S. Lewis

I will admit, I have friends who are very different in many ways to me, but we have some of the same "truths" in common and these are the solid foundation of our friendship. Whether it is our belief to hear all people out in respect or our love for the same kinds of books, these commonalities are what we stand on when disagreement or differences arise. The deeper and more substantial the truths, the steadier the relationship. However, the more shallow the truths, the friendship could be very shaky when going through a season where it has to be tested.


Here is a way of thinking about it:


Imagine trying to balance on a beam. The more shallow the shared beliefs/truths, the thinner the beam. Now, imagine trying to balance on that. Do you think you might tip over and fall off?


On the other hand, imagine a beam that became wider with each substantial, shared belief among a set of friends. How would you like to balance on this one? As someone with poor balance, I like my odds a lot better in this scenario.


Similarity is essential for us to feel connected and confident in the quality of our friendship. I know what it is like to be so desperate for friendship, ignoring that similarity part of the friendship equation. Yet, I always wondered why I would leave a hangout to return home feeling so empty. It confused me. I really had underestimated the importance of similarity in a friendship.


Maybe you can relate.


Questions to ask yourself:


- Are my core friendships with people who are similar to me or different than me?

- Where can I look to find friends that are similar to me?

- Are there parts of my personality that I am diluting that is preventing me from meeting like-minded people?


Over the next week, I encourage you to ask yourself the questions that I have provided for you in this blog. Taking the time to reflect on these questions may bring some new insights into how you can deepen current friendships or it may spark new ideas on how to go about finding more friends. It may illuminate why some relationships feel very close and while others feel deeply disconnected despite the time and effort you put into them.


If you find this blog to be helpful, stay tuned for part 2 next week!

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