With the advent of social media we are all connected in a way we have never been. With Facebook, I can know what all of my friends have for lunch, see their best vacation moments, and watch their love life unfold... or implode. These mediums give us more than a peek into each others lives. Sometimes we see way more than we want or should. But one thing social media cannot do is build trust.
I have been blessed to gain new acquaintances and even true friends on Facebook. These positives make it a true blessing, even though I am familiar with the pitfalls of the platform. There is much the internet can do for relationships, but there are still limitations. Let's face it... arrogant people are still arrogant on Facebook. Liars are still liars. Cheaters are still cheaters. Bullies are still bullies. Fake people are still fake. Sometimes these things become more obvious... other times, not so much.
Some think that people are different on social media. But it has been said that people do not become different on Facebook, they can just portray themselves differently. Sometimes they portray themselves better than they are, and other times less desirable. (I still haven't figured out why someone would try to be worse on FB than they are in real life.) Anyway, one thing that doesn't change is, it is difficult to navigate the waters of trust and friendship online, especially because text communication does not give you a full range of expression.
But this difficulty is true in the 'real world.' How many times have you thought... "I'm just not going to give so much of myself anymore. I always get burned in relationships. I can't trust people, so I am going to shut it down." Now some people are not very giving. They would be glad to be a loner all the time without risking themselves in a relationship. But if you are like me, you've over-extended yourself at times in order to share the love of community, only to be taken advantage of or find a knife in your back. What should we do? What can we do if we want to love safely?
Here are 4 things I have incorporated in my life to help me stay healthy in a world where I have a tendency to over-friend myself...
1 - FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION - You can't be the same great friend to everyone. You can only really be open with people you feel you can pour into to a successful end. I can be nice to most everyone, but I can only be wide open with a few. The ones you are just nice to may think you are fake. That probably doesn't matter much as they are probably poisonous anyway.
2 - MANAGE YOUR OPENNESS - You should manage your openness with those you truly connect with. While people who overextend themselves in friendship may wear their heart on their sleeve, they can't be everything to everyone. Pour into your friends or those you feel led to, but don't pour everything into everyone. In saving the best of you for the few who are truly friends, you are adding value to those true relationships.
3 - BE A RECEPTACLE - Make sure you draw strength from mentors or true friends. This is key. You can't give what you don't have. And you can't just create everything you need. We were made for community. We give and receive in that context. Someone who only gives will eventually run out. That's just the reality. If you don't allow yourself to receive from others, you limit your ability to give to others. A receptacle is a place from where you can get power. But the receptacle does not create its own power. It comes from somewhere else. A receptacle that does not have power coming in is just a hole in the wall.
4 - HAVE HONEST EXPECTATIONS - You need to take it all in stride. It is impossible to live at the extremes of giving and receiving, and unhealthy to try. Enjoy the wins, and let the losses go. Don't carry what you are supposed to let go. This is extremely difficult. It takes time to realize who is a real friend and who is not. Along the way you will make mistakes... in both directions. You will find that some people aren't the friend you thought, and that others were beautiful surprises.
But as Christians, aren't we just supposed to go everywhere giving 100% of ourselves to everyone, loving and trusting every single person? Well, no. Early in Jesus' ministry we find this phrase...
"While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many trusted in His name when they saw the signs He was doing. Jesus, however, would not entrust Himself to them, since He knew them all and because He did not need anyone to testify about man; for He Himself knew what was in man." (John 2:23-25)
How strange. Jesus loved everyone well, but apparently He didn't trust everyone completely. This isn't to say that Jesus was always suspicious of people and gave up on relationships. Years later, His closest friends would betray and deny Him. But He obviously managed the impact of relationships. This may be a good lesson for us. If Jesus was wise enough to manage His relationships, perhaps we should do the same.
In the Psalms we find great wisdom and comfort regarding various areas of life. One of the writers says..
I called to the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me and put me in a spacious place.
The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
The Lord is my helper, Therefore, I will look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in nobles.
This passage is not telling us to dismiss the idea of friendship. Proverbs 18:24 tells us... "A man with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother."
We should love everyone. We should seek out deep friendships that are reciprocal. We should sacrifice ourselves (even beyond what is reasonable) when we are led. But we should be wise in our relationships as we are in our finances and sharing of our gifts. You should know your own limits, and the limits of others in your life. It may seem safe to only love those who love you, but it isn't significant to do that. At the same time, it isn't good stewardship to cast pearls before swine.
Today you will have the opportunity to love. Love well. You will have to make some choices about who you can commit yourself to on various levels. Choose well. Be a good friend, and remember that being a good friend will take work and hard decisions. You can't be everyone's best friend anymore than everyone can be your best friend. It just isn't possible. But that doesn't mean you can't be the best you you need to be to everyone who comes across your path.