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I can still see us, sitting in a circle in a living room. I think it was my living room, but it could’ve been someone else’s. We had just begun meeting outside of church for a women’s Bible study, and our first book was a slightly cheesy one about friendship.

Our activity for the evening was to write down something kind about someone else in the group. Perhaps we drew names or were assigned the person across the circle; I don’t remember that part. What I remember so clearly is that, while most of us stayed with generic compliments, one of the girls wrote plainly that she really liked me and wanted to get to know me better.

Just like that. She said she liked me. And wanted to get to know me better.

I was overwhelmed. Who does that?! Really, I could not recall another person ever so boldly expressing an interest in me. Just like that.

I thought about that Bible study – and the subsequent friendship that was born after that conversation – a couple weekends ago when I traveled to a retreat with several writer friends. I only get the opportunity to see these women once or twice a year, and though I look forward to our annual trip for months, I almost always come home with some bruised feelings.

In years past I’ve often found myself hanging back at those gatherings – at least mentally, holding my breath and hoping, waiting for people to pursue me. Because if they really liked me, if they really thought I was funny or kind or interesting or worthwhile, well, they’d make a point to find me and talk to me. Right?

*sigh*

This is why conferences make me feel insecure. This is why reunions are never as fun as I imagine. And this is why weekend getaways are never as sweet and good for my heart as I anticipate. Because I’m always waiting around for other people to know what I need – even though I’m not willing to ask.

Well, not anymore. This year I decided I’d had enough of that!

I realized I needed to be more like my Bible study friend and less like, well, me. It wasn’t doing myself – or my friends – any good to expect them to initiate conversations and pursue a friendship with me every single time! After all, how could a friend possibly know I wanted to spend time with her if I didn’t tell her that? And how was it fair for me to expect her to know anyway – and then assume the worst of her when she didn’t?

This year, I went to my retreat determined to be brave and bold. I went determined to be a friend. I decided to take responsibility for these friendships that are so important to me, to reach out to my friends rather than waiting for them to do it for me. It was hard – but it wasn’t. I simply asked friends to meet up, to sit together, to eat with me or to walk with me. I joined in conversations or outings without an engraved invitation.

And – just like that – I had an amazing time catching up with my old friends, making amazing new friends and creating memories with all of them.

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Luke 6:31

As I thought about the difference in this year’s retreat on my way home, I realized that the difference was not the lodging arrangements or the particular women who were with me. The difference was my heart – and my willingness, for the first time in a long time, to be a friend. It finally occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t the only woman in that group – or any group, actually – to feel alone or left out, to be wishing for someone to reach out, hoping someone else would start a conversation. I understood that in protecting myself, I was hurting myself. Even worse, I was possibly hurting someone else, someone else who longed to be reached for or pursued.

And I realized how often I go into a situation like this with a hard heart, a scared heart. I expect other people to come to me, to see what I need, to always seek me out. I know it’s a habit borne of insecurity and relationship wounds. But holding on to those expectations – and, even worse, assumptions that my friends were uncaring or uninterested – only caused deeper wounds and meant that I missed out on connections and true community.

Putting myself on the line by saying, “I’d like to spend time with you,” was hard. Anytime we admit our need, our desire for relationship, we’re opening ourselves up to rejection and pain. But this time the risk was completely worth it – both in the connections I made that weekend and the lesson I learned along the way.

Do you ever have trouble pursuing friendships? Has anyone ever pursued your friendship?

What would it look like for you to be brave this week, to reach out to a friend instead of waiting for her to reach out to you?

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  1. 1
    Kristen says:

    Thank you Mary for sharing this wonderfully eye opening, heart grabbing post this morning! You spoke right to a place in my heart I did not realize was there. I, too have hidden my heart and really held back emotionally in every relationship in my life and I’m not really sure why, I guess from past hurts. But, I prayerfully am asking God to help me to approach the relationships He has given me with an open mind and an open heart because He made us to need each other. We all long for relationship… And we all need each other!

  2. 3

    Mary,
    I guess because I have a vivid imagination, I am good at concocting reasons why friends don’t contact me: they have other more interesting friends to spend time with; I’m not that funny or fun to be around…you get the point. Usually my concocted ideas are far from the truth. We all long to be pursued, but the only being who pursues us perfectly is Christ himself. Only He will pursue us like we want to be pursued. So, I have found that lowering my expectations of others; giving up my assumed or concocted ideas and like you said pursuing others the way I would like to be pursued works out far better for me. When I reach out I am touching that lonely place in others hearts. As you so beautifully pointed out, pursuing others the way we would like to be pursued is not only Biblical it is a far better way of living. Thank you for this wonderful encouragement this morning!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • 4

      Oh Bev, thank you for taking this lesson one step further for us. YES, you’re so right – Jesus is the one (the only one!) who will pursue the way our hearts desire. I’m so thankful for that reminder!

  3. 5

    Thank you for this gift this morning. I had been extremely close to a friend, who got re- married, moved away and despite my efforts to stay connected, never felt like she reciprocated. Just yesterday I received a text from her. About a situation I’m dealing with. Honestly, my first thought was, are you kidding me? I thought that I out that friendship on the shelf, along with mere acquaintances. Now, after this blog post, maybe The Lord does want us to reconnect, in a new kind if long distance friendship. Yes, it is hard to be the pursuer and sometimes I just give up. God has brought 2 new friendships into my life recently, but I don’t need to shut out the past. Thank you!

    • 6

      Oooh, Pam, that’s hard. I’ve been in those shoes, too – where you reach out over and over, and the other person just never reciprocates. What a blessing that your friend has reached back finally! I pray you can reconnect with her in a new, meaningful way.

  4. 7

    I am off to a family reunion this weekend and, thanks to your words, I will go into it with a different attitude. Thanks.

  5. 8

    Oh, this is so good. Friendships have been my biggest struggle and heartache this year. Today also happens to be the day my church’s young adult group meets, in which I dread and wake up anxious because of my struggles with friendships. Thank you for this very timely reminder to take the focus off myself and to continue to reach out to those around me.

    • 9

      I was inspired by a post that Jennifer Dukes Lee wrote about Sally Haukas last week. Sally said she tries to walk into a room saying, “There you are!” instead of “Here I am!” That message has challenged me so much when I think about going to any community group. I pray you can reach out to someone today at your church’s gathering, Stephanie (and that I can do the same here!)!

  6. 10

    This is absolutely what I needed to read this morning. Thank you for your transparency and willingness to write out what is so difficult to put into words sometimes!

  7. 12

    My daughter is in nursing school, and we were discussing this the other day. She was complaining about “groups” and how people act. I told her it’s my firm belief that everyone just wants to find their place…people long to share life with friends. And whether you’re in high school or college or nursing school or a mommy group…even a small group at church…women are trying to find their place. Thank you for this reminder that part of the responsibility for that lies with US…a changed attitude, and the courage to make the first step.

    • 13

      Wise counsel, Marty – we DO have a responsibility and can’t simply blame others. But oh, that’s so hard!! Love hearing how you encouraged your daughter; thank you for sharing that!

  8. 14

    Hey Mary,
    Not that I was glad you were scared or anything, but it encouraged me to hear you share your story about the conference. I’d like to go to a writers’ conference soon but I haven’t done so yet, for the very same reason. Maybe I can work up the courage to go. Regardless, it’s good to hear that someone else has struggled with that. :) Thanks for sharing.

    • 15

      I’ve been going to blogging/writing conferences for several years now – and I’m scared before every single one. :) And, actually, I think we are in the majority since writers tend to be more internal and sensitive than the general population! But just imagine if we all dug up the courage to go – and then to reach out just one time. I believe in you, Jamie – and I hope you go to that conference!!

  9. 16
    Carrie Smith says:

    Um, yeah, this is me. I used to be ‘let down’ by my friends who couldn’t see behind my smile, yet when someone would ask or make an opening for deeper conversation, I often wouldn’t take it because I was scared.

    I have gotten better, but it is still a process. It helps to be reminded that I’m not the only one who gets stuck ‘in my head’ sometimes. :) I am learning to simply be present in moments with others and to more intentionally reach out when I feel I need someone to talk with.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • 17

      Yes, Carrie, that’s exactly it! I act like everything’s “fine” and then get upset when others don’t realize that nothing is fine! It doesn’t make sense at all…yet how long have I done it? You’re right – this IS a process. Thank you for sharing; it’s encouraging to know I’m not alone in it. :)

  10. 18

    Love this, Mary. So honest. so real. Even those of us who appear to be extroverts can really hold back in a roomful of people that we want very much to like us. You’ve offered some great advice, which I intend to put into practice at next summer’s gathering!

    • 19

      Thanks, Liz. That’s what it boils down to, isn’t it? We just want someone to like us. (Also – I can’t wait to put this into practice with you next summer!)

  11. 20
    Melissa says:

    WOW!!! THIS IS ME!!! Thank you for the willingness to share your heart with women who are possibly going through the same motions. I see lots of women around sharing their lives and families together in book clubs, weekends away, retreats and wonder why I do not have the same thing. Maybe, just maybe because I need to be the initiator. Women need each other. My greatest fear is rejection and failure. Thank you again for sharing and encouraging those like me. I appreciate your heart!!!

    • 21

      Hi, Melissa, I’m so glad this resonated with you! One more thing I’d say is that those women you see sharing their lives in clubs and weekends and retreats might be feeling the same way you do – even though they’re at those events. I’ve attended plenty of events (even ones I planned myself, even ones I posted photos about later) where I felt alone and disappointed. Realizing that there might just be a lot of us feeling anxiety of one sort or another, despite how we look on the outside, was big for me. And I’m praying I don’t forget that the next time I’m with a group of women! Praying, too, that you find the courage to reach out soon!

  12. 22

    I’ve thought about this before, and I’ve tried this before. But what happens when they don’t return the favor, despite claiming to really like hanging-out. What happens when you yourself get exhausted just by being the only one who initiates. I know, it probably goes along the lines of letting that friendship go, but what I’ve found is that it leaves you lonely when you let them go.

    • 23
      Stephanie says:

      Hi Tina,
      I had/have the same problem. I always seem to attract the friends that treat me like trash or don’t even try to understand me. I went through a trying time about 10 years ago when my husband had a massive stroke, I was explaining it all to one of my closest friends and she said, yes her Christmas was crappy too due to her mother-in-law treating her bad… I didn’t know how to “break up” with a friend, I just knew that I couldn’t be around all that bad negativiity and stuff. So, I took the cowards way out and just never contacted her again. I wish I had done it differently. But the one thing that I learned was I had to look at ME. I had to see what I was reflecting back to attract these selfish(I don’t like that word) friends. When I started acting like I wanted to be treated, even to strangers I didn’t know, my friendships changed. Now I have 3 girlfriends that I can completely rely upon. My circle of friends is very small, but right now that is all I need. I guess what I am trying to say is make sure that the people you are pursuing are worth it. Do they make you feel valued? Are they there for you when you need a shoulder or need to be lifted out from the shadows that you fall in? These are the questions that I asked myself and just slowly removed myself from the ones that weren’t. It was extremely hard, and I made sure that there was no reciprocation first, that they couldn’t get any deeper with me, and that is fine. I wish you well and hope that you can find those friends that can connect and treat you like one of their own. Have a great day.

    • 24

      Tina, I don’t have a great answer for you. Because I don’t know. I’ve been in those situations, too; I’ve been hurt like that and tired like that, too. It’s hard. One thing I’ve been thinking about recently, though, is what kind of people I’m choosing as friends. My counselor pointed out the difference between someone you have chemistry with and someone who will actually care for you. (He was much more eloquent; I’m probably getting the words all wrong. But the point is the same!) I haven’t figured this one out yet. I still get hurt when I try and try and try with someone and get nowhere. Friendship is hard!

  13. 25

    I think part of the problem is that Facebook, email etc. is making people lonelier. Just because someone has written you on FB then that person thinks they have done al they need to do to be your friend. I have read more Christian articles as well as secular articles on this topic of all this technology is really separating people because people don’t have real conversations on social media. I recently was tired of never hearing anything from my friends about getting together. Many of them, sadly, have gone through very tough times this past year and I have been there for them. So I recently had a barbecue but did NOT use Evite, I used real invitations. Almost everyone came and everyone had a good time and I got two thank you’s in the mail. I think people don’t remember how much fun it is to physically get together anymore. It was nice that I reached out and they came. But I know that there is a possibility of something serious coming up in my life and I can’t think of one of these friends who will volunteer to be there with me during that time. They are all great people and I have them over on holidays (especially those who don’t have families) but it is sad that I (unless a miracle occurs) know there is no one I can ask to help me out during this time. It is not something that I am angry over, sad, yes but it is just a fact. It does not mean they don’t like me and they won’t pray if this situation arises, but it is still sad that people today don’t realize the importance of physically being with someone. Don’t get me wrong, I do like FB for things like keeping in touch with people far away (like Australia) or even sites like this. Anyhow, I am going to continue reaching out to people and inviting them over like I have and in the meantime I am going to pray for a miracle that God does move on someone to be there for me when I need to have someone nearby.

  14. 27

    Oddly, I wrote on my blog about my devotional last night out of Proverbs 18. Sometimes I am just like Oscar the Grouch and would like to stay in my trash can! http://www.barbiecrafts.com/2014/07/which-sesame-street-character-are-you.html

  15. 29

    Good / Great thoughts… on my mind a lot lately, as we are joining a new Church.
    Having been very involved in our last Church & knowing everyone, to knowing no one & feeling like they are not very friendly. The only folks that speak to us are the that we have made the effort with. So there is my lesson…to make that effort to introduce ourselves & look for those opportunities
    Thanks for sharing

  16. 31

    My toes are stepped on! But I’m so glad they are – you have totally described me to a “t”. I let my insecurity rule rather than being brave and reaching out. Definitely from past hurts, but its also definitely time to move past them and go on living. Thank you for this gentle nudge this morning!

    • 32

      Sorry to step on your toes, Andrea! If it’s any consolation, I’ll be stepping on my own toes when I remind myself of this post before my next conference or retreat. ;)

  17. 33

    No, I don’t have trouble pursuing friendships and I do have people wanting to be my friend.
    At sixteen years of age, my best friend left for the Philippines. Her father who was Head of the Belgium Embassy was posted there.
    We did lots of stuff together. Even Mass on Sundays with our parents. It was fun. We’d go up to the top of the hill and cry out. We had a hidey hole just under her house cos it was at the mountain side, we hid under the house.
    When she left I just felt I never wanted to be hurt again. She came back but it was never the same as we were both young. And young mothers and lost contact with each other. I’m still looking for her and she has not joined our school listings all these years.
    I made friends afterwards but I’m careful. Been careful ever since.
    That experience made me lose trust in friendships.
    Saying this though, I’ve made lots of friends. At a distance. I would rather protect myself.
    So, I love Bette Middler’s song, From A Distance.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neTV1CkDx6E
    I’m learning.
    Are we ever too old to learn. I don’t think so. I’m game to learn until I see JESUS Face to face.
    Nice. Thanks for this teaching.
    :)

  18. 34
    Carol Mccarthy says:

    I found this blog a few days ago, and felt the need to respond today. I wasn’t aware of this in myself until a women’s Bible Study class–Deuteronomy/Beth Moore. I want to have friends, I try to have friends, but I really cant say I’m close to abyone. Beth Moore asked the question how much do you trust others on a scale of 1 to 10 and I said 8-9 (1 is most trust, 10 is least). I got hit with a big dose of reality. I still have wounds from my childhood: alcoholism, divorce. I am an introvert, yet I want to be with people now.

    • 35

      Welcome to the (in)courage community, Carol! I think the first step in this thing is understanding what we’re doing and how we need to be different. Praying God can give you the courage to reach out to someone and make a true heart connection.

  19. 36

    Mary, this line right here is lodged in my heart, because it is true of me, too: “I understood that in protecting myself, I was hurting myself.” Oh, how true! Sometimes, that stepping out is the terrifyingly healthy thing I do. This was a timely post and I’m inspired by your bravery to Do Differently!

  20. 38

    Yes, I am an introvert as well. I suffer with social anxiety and since I do, I always have a hard time making friends.

    Off and on over the years, I have prayed for friends or even just one friend. I long for someone to come along beside me as I struggle through this life. However, I am not the type of person to approach someone else. I am that person in the back that is just wishing for someone to seek me out. I do not need to be included in big gatherings, but just to have one person approach me would be amazing.

    This post was meant for me today. I felt it as though the Lord was saying, “okay Leigha, this one was written just for you, so pay attention.”

    I am not the brave person that can easily seek others out. This is an area I have struggled with my whole life. Thank you for your words.

    Leigha

    • 39

      You may not feel brave, Leigha, but your God will give you strength and courage. Especially if you feel Him nudging you in this direction. Praying you find that courage to reach out to someone soon.

    • 40

      I am the same way.

    • 41

      Hi Leigha,

      I feel like your comment is me talking :) That is exactly how I am. I have also prayed prayers that God would send me a friend in life who I could talk to about anything and not be afraid to share what’s on my heart with them.

      I will be at a new place this fall, and a new school, and will have to find a new church.. Meeting new people is scary to me because I am afraid about not fitting in and not saying or doing the right things.

      Like you, I am not the type of person who will just go up to someone and start a conversation. I am much more comfortable waiting for someone to come to me, but when no one comes, I start to doubt my worth, and I don’t feel important. I feel invisible…it just hurts so much.

      But I shouldn’t be feeling this way because that is just selfish of me. The world doesn’t center around me. And like Mary said in her article, I just need to be the one to take the initiative instead of waiting. If I want close friends who love and support me, and hold me accountable, and friends who I can talk to about anything, then I need to be that kind of a friend first.

      I am such an introvert and so insecure, so I know this will be a challenge for me to reach out to others before they make a move, but it is something I am praying I will be able to do at this new place, this new school, and this new church. (My goal is to meet as many people as I can in the first 6 weeks and then to deepen those relationships through selfless acts of love, support, and encouragement). But, the only things is that I don’t know how to just go up to people and be that outgoing… i don’t know what I would say or what I would do. I am not sure I know how to be bold when it comes to developing friendships.

  21. 42

    “I understood that by protecting myself, I was hurting myself” so good to point out. Learning I have been selfish at times in my friendships – I ultimately gain more out of the relationship/ friendship when I seek others out! I love that “there you are” thinking in lieu of “here I am” phrase that JDL has shared too! Thank you so much for your words!

  22. 43

    I loved getting to know you and see? Now we’re BFF’s. So there’s that. Thank you for putting yourself out there and being a friend. You’re the best.

  23. 45

    I love you so much. the end.

  24. 47

    Mary, girl, you made me so uncomfortable reading this, in a good way :-) I felt God put his finger and hand on somethings in my heart regarding friendship and previous hurts. There’s been two different times were “my friends” blew up on me and said some hurtful things. And that has caused me to approach new friendships very carefully. Hoping to be brave and bold like you. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    • 48

      Oh, Chavos, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable!! But…then again…I kind of made myself uncomfortable by talking about this, because now I’m going to have no excuse for not being brave the next time, too! ;)

  25. 49

    I just went thru this ordeal of being hurt by friends, a support group no less, however, what I have
    realized, is that I can’t expect people to be mind readers, because of our hurts, fears, hangups from
    childhood, it has an incredible effect on how we handle relationships as adults. If I distance myself
    I am really only hurting myself. We are all just human and we will make mistakes, it doesn’t mean
    that they don’t care about us. The only person that can truly fulfill all that I need is Christ. He won’t leave me, or EVER abandon me. I turned to him to heal my emptiness and to heal my pain and guess what??? I felt so much better and no longer felt hurt and angry from my friends, I will reach out
    to let them know I felt unloved by them not asking ,”How I am doing” and If they snub me, than I will know that they really don’t care, but that’s OK, because I know who loves me unconditionally my GOD, He is the true answer to our loneliness. Blessings to everyone.

  26. 50

    This speaks to the ache in my heart. I used to leave “church” events in tears because no one had talked to me. Then I stopped going saying I was too tired after work or because I wanted to spend time with my kiddo instead. But deep down inside I know I need to have friends. I’ve been out of high school for 14 years but I don’t think I’ve had close friends since that time. We all went our own separate ways after school. And I kept piling on excuses as to why I couldn’t be more open with others in college. But my brave thing now will be to ask another mom I know and would like to get to know better if we could walk in the mornings before work. Praying for the courage to do it!

  27. 51
    Michele says:

    Mary, I hope you read all of the responses, because even though it is bedtime and I have only just now read your post, I want to thank you. Your words resonate with me today, and realizing that I am not the only on wanting to be pursued is so freeing. I can bless some one else, and be blessed in the process. You put so much truth in your words today, may God continue to speak through you!

  28. 52

    Great post! I am totally in agreement that we have to step out and be brave. I had a similar experience in that a gal I met said “I want to be your friend.” I wrote about it last year: http://openheartedpower.com/2013/10/26/friendship/

  29. 53

    Oh Mary! I’m the same way… And your wise “remedy” is so true! I’m so glad you had a great time… Proof that this change really works!
    (I really resonated with Bev’s statement too.)

  30. 54

    Thank you for this, Mary. Your words are always so uplifting and real. I’m going to my first Declare Conference next week and I’m feeling a strong case of the butterflies along with the question “what are you seriously doing, Jennifer” on repeat in my mind. I’m taking a deep breath and reminding myself Who’s in control of this. Luke 6:31 is an excellent reminder for me. Thank you again!

  31. 55

    Oh boy do I understand this. This has been me my entire adult life. But I’m working on it.

  32. 56

    I appreciate the advice, “There you are, instead of here I am”. I will certainly keep it in mind and try to put it into practice. Generally I seek to reach out although I have felt the pain of rejection terribly.

  33. 57
    Martha Urquia says:

    Dear Mary,
    Your words are heaven-sent today! Thank you so very much!! I have always had many friends, no problem reaching out to them or they to me…. My problem is with one of my daughters and I’ve been praying for guidance, just this morning I was asking the Lord for help and when I read your words, there was the answer!! May God continue blessing you and your work!
    Fondly,
    Martha

  34. 58
    Beth Williams says:

    Mary,

    You hit the nail on the head. “How can we expect others to read our minds”? We need to get out and talk to people. Ask them over for coffee or just see how they are doing.

    Our pastor spoke on this last weekend. It was James 2:14-26. He was speaking on faith and deeds. We need to put our faith into action. If we want friends then we must first be a friend to someone. This week I sent a nice card to a fellow church goer who is going through brain cancer and was not able to be at church Sunday. I know this will lift her spirits up. Plan on send more cards out and telling people I’m thinking of them and loving them as Jesus would!

    Blessings to everyone :)

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