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Six Reasons Your Friendships Are Superficial (And What You Should Do About It)

Me and my best friend, Amy

Me and my best friend, Amy

Working Friends vs. True Friends

What most people label as friendship can more accurately be labeled as “working relationships”. These are the people we naturally befriend because we are ‘working’ alongside them—either literally, at work, or in other aspects of our lives like church, school, or sporting events (your child’s baseball practice for example).

These superficial relationships have become a substitute for deeper and more meaningful friendships that would extend beyond the walls of these social conventions. But who could blame us? There is little time outside of these regularly scheduled activities to ‘poke’ our friends on Facebook, let alone poke them in person.

Some may argue that these ‘working relationships’ a.k.a. ‘friendships’ are enough. But what happens when your kids switch baseball teams, your husband gets relocated, or you lose your job? More often than not, these ‘friendships’ fizzle out before your last paycheck comes in the mail and you’re left wondering, “Was it something I said?”

Before you go brushing up on your watercooler etiquette, rest assured, it’s not your communication at these places that needs work, but your communication outside of these institutions that has left you standing alone when the day is done.

Deep relationships aren’t built in meetings, behind a desk, or on the sidelines. They are built when we take our relationships outside of those places to find out who those people really are. When we do, we are blessed with the kind of friends that last forever. Below is a list of six reasons we have chosen to substitute true friends for working friends, followed by a list of six reasons why we shouldn’t.

Six Reasons We Default to Working Friends

1. We have a try-before-you-buy economy.

When we apply this economic philosophy to human relationships, we end up emotionally bankrupt. Rather than choosing our friends, we test-drive people like products. At the first sign of a manufacturing error, we are ready to make a return before we end up stuck with something we don’t want. The problem with this approach is that everyone will eventually let you down, but if you choose to stick with someone for the long haul, they will eventually be there to pick you back up.

2. We have a fear of commitment.

Awww, those three little words every girl wants to hear; not. Men aren’t the only ones guilty of this crime. People in general fear getting stuck in something they can’t get out of. Consider this ‘friendship claustrophobia.’ “Help! I’m trapped! I asked her out for lunch and now she won’t stop calling me!” Sound familiar? Our same fear of commitment to volunteer for next summer’s V.B.S. (Vacation Bible School) is affecting our friendships too.

3. We’ll sign up for anything as long as it’s obligation-free.

I’ll accept your friend request as long as I can delete it too. I’ll sign up for your committee but if my dog sneezes, a weed pops up in my yard, or something good comes on t.v., don’t expect me to show up. I’ll take free samples; just don’t expect me to buy the product when I’m done tasting the goods. We have been trained to keep one foot out the door as a form of consumer-self-preservation that is now shutting the door on long-term relationships.

4. We don't have time.

Unless you are a member of The Rolling Stones, time is not on your side. The only time we have is the time we make. If you want to make long-lasting friendships, make time for them. We are overworked, overspent, and in over our heads with activities ranging from Brownies to Bunko. There is family time, couple time, and me time, yet few people set aside one-on-one time for friends. Even if your friend seems like an open book, she is unlikely to bare her sole at your Tupperware party. If you want to take that friendship to the next level, set aside some time for just the two of you.

5. We don’t like to get involved.

Relationships are messy and complicated. Sometimes the less we know, the better. If we get too involved we may find ourselves feeling semi-obligated to help unpack other people’s baggage, and all this time we’ve been trying to avoid our own. If you want to be involved with the good stuff (like annual ski trips to your buddy’s snow cabin), you will have to be involved with the not-so-good stuff too (like dealing with your gal pal’s mood swings once a month).

6. We are not invested.

Making an investment involves two words that strike fear in the hearts of people everywhere: risk and sacrifice.

It never ceases to amaze me when a live audience takes a poll to show how many people are financially investing in their future. The show’s hosts will ask the audience who is setting aside a portion of their income to go towards their retirement, to which the audience responds with relatively few people doing something, if anything to invest in their future. This same pattern of living is reflected in our relationships. Sacrifice is willing to give up something good for something better. If we want deep and meaningful relationships we will have to sacrifice some time, energy, and possibly money (if you decide to pay for your friend’s coffee the next time you meet at Starbucks), but in return we will get a friendship that may last a lifetime.

Six Reasons We Should Develop True Friendships

1. True friends are there for the long haul.

When we take the time to develop our relationships outside of work, church, and sporting events, we create friendships that last even when those activities in our lives pass. Long-term friends don’t just know our history, but help us make it. These friends help remind us of where we came from, because they’ve been there all along. If you want to make a lifetime friend, take time out of your life to let your friends know how special they are to you now.

2. They keep us humble.

The best kinds of friends are those who know our deepest darkest secrets, and like us anyway. These kinds of friends humble us because they have seen our ups, downs, and everything in the middle. While the rest of the world may be buying our act, our best friends know us better.

3. They teach us grace.

Amazing grace, how sweet it is,” and even sweeter are the friends who extend it to us. Long-lasting friendships must have an abundance of grace to cover over the weaknesses that inevitably show up in every person involved in a relationship. I always tell my best friends that they are the most gracious people I know because they would have to be, to put up with me for this long.

4. They allow us to trust.

The foundation of every great relationship is trust. The benefit of developing our relationships into long-lasting friendships is the trust we establish in that relationship over time. The longer and better we know a person, the more we can trust them as we observe patterns in their behavior over time. We must trust a person in order to share our struggles, confess our weaknesses, and ask for help.

5. They offer dependability.

You may be friendly with your local Walmart greeter, but that doesn’t make you friends. Our best friends are dependable. We know they will be there to help in our time of need and we feel comfortable calling in a favor when the time comes. Chances are that the guy who bags your groceries is not going to pick you up from the auto shop while your car is getting fixed. These tasks are reserved for the kinds of friends you have invested in before your car broke down.

6. They allow us to be known.

Deeper, long-lasting friendships offer us the beauty of being known. These kinds of friends don’t just know us, but they understand who we are, what we are thinking, and how we are feeling before we even say a word. They don’t just look at us, they see into us, changing the way we see ourselves for the better.

The Investment Is Worth It

Superficial relationships aren’t wrong if they are enough, but deep relationships are better. As time passes by, and people seem to get busier and busier, working relationships have become a growing trend like Botox and false eye-lashes. They are a poor substitute for the long-term benefits of lifetime friends which can only be developed when we take time outside of our daily routines to really get to know the people we call friends.

Developing our relationships with the people we choose as friends will be time-consuming, uncomfortable, and challenging but worth it in the end because people are worth the while. My friends are my friends not because they entertain me, or perform a specific function, or do what I want them to do when I want them to do it. My friends are the people I chose to love, for better or worse, unconditionally.

Unconditional love is the greatest form of love we can offer someone and although few are willing to give it, all desire to receive it. Unconditional love is the only kind of love that can make a relationship last.