Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Do you have any deeply rewarding friendships? Could you call a friend at 4 a.m. with the expectation that they would wake up, talk to you, and perhaps meet you somewhere? Would you even feel welcomed to? How many of these friendships do you have? My guess is very few, if any.

I think many in our generation have attempted to maintain only fickle relationships, and I think some have attempted to insulate their lives completely. We have developed a habit of accumulating 'party friends'; shallow friendships that are mostly based around weekend festivities. Sometimes it's to the point where we feel awkward around those friends if we are not actively doing something. It seems we have this insatiable need to be constantly distracted and entertained, and as a result there seems to be an overwhelming sense of loneliness in people our age. Why is it that in our society we choose to stay so isolated, so guarded? Is it the fear of being known for who we really are? The fear of responsibility and commitment? The fear of vulnerability and failure? It might be a combination of all of those things, but fear seems to be the constant theme.

You may have friends who make plans and then break them, their words about as fickle as the passing moment in which they spoke them. How many friends out of insecurity and fear of disappointment make multiple plans with multiple people in one night, and in some lame effort to appease everyone they end up making the majority of their friends resent them? Sound familiar?

You may have friends who call you only when they need something. Or friends that refuse to hang out with you if all it means is just 'hanging out.' There has to be a common goal to battle the inevitable awkwardness. The awkwardness that we are all so fearful of.

I can tell you this; when my close friends tell me they are going to do something with me, they usually do it. I suppose this is why they have rewarding relationships with other people as well. My friends whose words lack integrity seem to suffer in all of their relationships. They are always wanting more out of life, never being deeply satisfied or deeply known. They tend to move from friend to friend, or from new thing to new thing, searching for what they would most likely be rewarded with had they practiced relational integrity in the first place. They end up living on the empty carbs, or the 'pixie sticks' of life, bouncing from one sugar high to another, never really satiating their appetite. You can't live on candy, at some point you have to have something meaningful.

Humans are born with a deep need for community. Even if you don't believe in the Bible; where Adam, while in paradise, felt empty and longed for a friend until God gave him Eve. Even if you don't believe all that stuff, you should believe that ever since you were a baby you needed attention and affection from your mother, and as you grew you needed attention and care from your parents, and as you got older you longed to be accepted into social groups at school, to be asked to play with the 'cool' kids... to be known in some way, to be liked by somebody. And as you got even older, you longed for a soul mate, somebody to know you intimately, down to the core. Someone to love you despite all your faults. Even if you don't believe in the Adam and Eve story, it's still a great metaphor... Adam had all he wanted, but he was lonely, like most people are who have a lot of stuff and nobody to share it with. This is human nature... so why are we so afraid of it?

A few months ago there was a snow storm in Seattle. I think they called it Ice Storm 2008 on the news or something clever like that. As a result, snow and ice had covered all the roads for about a week straight. I was amazed at what happened during that time. Complete strangers started talking to each other, apparently bonding over the thing they had in common: the weather conditions which had affected every ones lives.

One of these nights Kristie and I went to watch a musical at the 5th Avenue Theatre. We took the bus there, which arrived a bit late because of the snow. The bus driver, a boisterous lady, was very loudly and comically speaking of her fear of crashing the bus or getting it stuck in the snow. She told us how he wanted to get home quickly because she was already late to see her grand-daughter. She started opening up and explaining personal details about her life, and so did the people around us. We all started talking, apparently bonding over the common fear of the road conditions. People started chuckling and smiling at each other, looking at each other as humans instead of strangers or potential threats. It was remarkable. If you've been on a city bus, then you know that bus etiquette is much like elevator etiquette: avoid eye contact, be quiet, mind your own business etc. It's that whole I-don't-want-to-be-here-awkwardly-packed-in-this-machine-with-a-bunch-of-strangers-so-lets-make-this-as-painless-as-possible vibe. Suddenly, because of this thing, this fear that we had in common, people started empathizing with each other. Guards were dropped, prejudice was thrown out, and people started treating each other as people.

Imagine if we chose to look past the different exteriors of people, if we chose to give them the benefit of the doubt, if we chose to ignore these unspoken rules on a daily basis. Imagine if we believed in the humanity of strangers. Every time I've experienced someone casually breaking the silence it has generally brought smiles, eased the mood a bit, and allowed me to feel more comfortable. The point is, it's true that we all want community, yet we are fearful to step out and create it. Even on a shallow level we want to find things in common with others, but instead we act against it and for no particular reason. In the same way, I think the folks who deep down desperately long for rewarding friendships can sometimes be the ones who are doing everything they can to keep people at a safe distance.

So, be friendly and brave, and stop being afraid of community... its only natural.


  1. Wow...riding the bus...was this before or after that tour bus went through the guard rail and almost fell onto I-5?

    I definitely felt the kinship throughout Ice Storm 2008. I live in Renton and my car was pretty much trapped in our apartment complex parking lot...and so I was house bound. I loved seeing all the news stories about strangers helping people get their cars unstuck or shoveling snow off their neighbors roofs. When the cabin fever got to me I walked to the grocery store and Blockbuster and everyone seemed so relaxed. No one was rushing around...because there was no where to rush to. I had a wonderful conversation with a lady who works at the grocery store across the street. She told me about her kids and her husband...all because I marveled that she had come to work and wondered how she was going to get home.

    I wish I had a good friend that I could call at 4am and they would come meet me somewhere. It's actually a subject that I've been thinking about for awhile. When you get to the age where you feel like you've outgrown your 'party' friends, but don't yet feel accomplished enough yet to hang out with the 'suit and tie' crowd, who do you turn to? When you grow up moving from town to town and consequently school to school, like I did, you don't have those forever friends. When you didn't go to college, and don't work a normal job (I'm a nanny) where do you have the opportunity to make friends? My boyfriend isn't really into the bar scene, and so neither am I. Although would a bar be a good place to meet friends? I guess there's a chance they might still be up at 4am :)

    Anyway this was a ridiculously long comment...sorry!

  2. wow dude, that is so good. I've experienced experiences like that in my own life as well, and it is great to have deep, meaningful conversations with people, whether i know them or not. One thing I kept thinking as I read your thread was how important honesty is when relating to aquaintances. Whether being honest about who I truely am, or what I believe or love or whatever. Even things like accountability. Life is hard, and having friends who know my imperfect side, which is the real me -under the mask, and what i struggle with, is one of the best things in the world. But how often am i transparent? Or willing to reach out to someone i dont know, for both of our good. Especially when I could share the Gospel.. the most important thing ever. How many times do I let that oppertunity to give the message hope, justification and life pass by?

    anyway, thanks so much Matt! I love the blog, and the music! God bless!

  3. Truth. The difficulty, for me at least, comes from repeated attacks/letdowns from those one would consider a close friend; the one you'd call at any hour of the night. When one realizes it was all a show, a project, a lie, multiple times, I think naturally defense mechanisms become one's nature instead of pursuing community. It shifts to a 'let the community pursue me' mentality, which can further the loneliness, isolation, and depression. Thankfully as a Christian I have that close friendship, and that deep longing is fulfilled. Unfortunately, I still sometimes tend to seek this relationship out with people and am sorely let down, which is probably why Ps 118:8 still rings true.

  4. Additionally, I feel the digital age has killed the definition of community. When we began handling deep topics and personal issues via e-mail, SMS, facebook messages, etc. on a consistant basis, it begins to lessen the value of face-to-face conversation. I am not saying this methods of communication are inherently bad or the root of our problem, in fact there are some times when an email or a handwritten letter is a wiser choice, just that as these methods become the predominant form of communication, we begin to embrace the danger of true social isolation.

  5. True... the world has never experienced communication as easy an inconsequential as it does now.

  6. For those of us who have trouble expressing ourselves, sometimes the only way to say what we need to say is in the somewhat anonymous world of the internet.

  7. What did those who have trouble expressing themselves do before the internet? I guess hand wrote letters. Most times when you can push yourself to express your feelings face to face, you are able to have a two way discussion allowing the other party to express their feelings in return. The communication ends up being much more thorough than it could ever be via the veil of a medium. Though it is really difficult, I always feel much better when I express something in person - its good to see/hear someone's reaction to your thoughts, and of course, it's always beneficial to hear someone's tone (which is usually lost in writing). Sometimes the medium gives us the opportunity to say something we wouldn't be brave enough to say to someone's face - and in my opinion, if you aren't brave enough to express it to their face it probably shouldn't be expressed at all.

  8. "if you aren't brave enough to express it to their face it probably shouldn't be expressed at all"
    Precisely my point. Like i said, there IS a time and place for face-to-face replacement, at the writer's own discretion and leadings concerning knowledge of the party or parties at the receiving end. This matter does not even have to be limited to those difficult conversations that would require an extra ounce or two of bravery to conduct. The overall thrust of my comment was that in general, those who feel lonely and friendless, but end up sitting home alone at a computer chatting, etc. tend experience an increase in loneliness in that there is never real interaction with other people.

  9. Amazing... I know a lot about friends who make lots of plans and say yes to everything but when they come to carrying out these plans they end up making me dislike them for it. I wish it were as easy as when said in the Bible "Let your yes mean yes and let your no mean no" I'm not sure where it is in there, Im thinking James? I could be wrong though. Your blog is awesome to read.

  10. Ah camaraderie in adversity... Replace Ice Storm with Firestorm and it has the same effect. It's quite a cruel irony that things trying to tear us apart band us together.