#WorthRevisit: Murky Waters of Friendship

These thoughts have been weighing heavily on my heart for the past couple months. I’ve been specifically wrestling with the concept of culling my personal social media accounts – taking “friendships” on social media down to just family and super-close friends. Yet, I know there will be some people who struggle to understand. And, that is what stops me – for fear of not offending or hurting another person’s feelings.

So, I’m linking up with #WorthRevisit crew over at Reconciled to You and Theologyisaverb as I continue to ponder these thoughts on friendship.

Murky Waters of Friendship

Once upon a time, I had a community organization and development class in my Masters program which touched on types of friendships. The professor had argued that there were two types of friends/friendships, based loosely on Max Weber, based even more loosely on Ferdinand Toennies’ sociological types of groups in society:

1.) Gemeinschaft friendships are those that become your bosom friends, to steal a phrase from Anne Shirley. The ones that you see eye to eye on, the ones that stick with you through thick and thin, and ultimately the ones you refer to as family, even if your own family members have drifted away. These friendships are also typically the friendships that become lifelong. In current civilian communities, typically these are the people you find you drift toward when you move to a new city/state, and settle into a habit of getting married, raising a family, and retiring with, as everyone is very comfortable with each other.

2.) Gesellschaft friendships are the second type of friends. These are the friends for the season in life in which you find yourself. They come into your life, and some exit sooner and in a more spectacular fashion, and others exit slowly throughout your time together. These are the transient friendships, and it is usually a single common bond, or very view common bonds, that hold you together, and when that common thread has unravelled, then all that is left is a shell of a friendship. In current military communities, typically these are the majority of friends that you will meet and develop, allowing for varying degrees of strength in the friendship.

Several times recently, this specific lesson from school keeps coming back to me.

I have been known to be a very private person, allowing very few people into my physical home. I refer to my home as my “safe place,” where I can be myself without judgment, reproach, fear, or worry. My husband (lucky him) knows every facet of who I am, and (thankfully for me) loves me anyway. He accepts all of me for the person I am. While he does, at times, challenge me to grow as an individual and person, I think that is inherent in any true relationship – you challenge the other person to be the best version of themselves that they can become… It’s as though you recognize their potential before they recognize it in themselves.

Because of the sacredness of my home – a place where we are attempting to raise our family, I don’t allow “just anyone,” into my home. Everyone starts out as a potential “Gesellschaft” friend, but only those which I place in the “Gemeinschaft” category are invited into my home, to break bread and spend time in my sacred place.

In the past, these decisions have come back to haunt me. While I was under the impression I had a “gemeinschaft friend,” it turns out I was to this other person, a “gesellschaft friend.”

And, that realization hurts.

Recently, I have spent time reflecting on the friendships I have had in my past – ones that maybe I held as “gesellschaft friends,” when they thought we were more. Others that felt we were “gemeinschaft friends,” when I’ve only seen them as a “friend for a season.”

Social media makes it even more difficult to wade through the murky waters of friendships and acquaintanceships. I love being able to stay in touch with so many different people I meet, but sometimes I don’t want to share every single story or cute picture with every person. I love being able to share various pictures and stories with so many people in a one-shot blast.

However, when you realize that your friendships “for a season” are over, it makes it more difficult to just “unfriend” them on social media without hurting the other person’s feelings, even when it isn’t about any personal decision, but rather about you recognizing the friendship’s season has run its course.

As I consider all these ideas, I naturally worry for my children. How does a parent teach their children the concept of “treat others as you would like to be treated,” and, “be kind to everyone – extend your hand in friendship to all,” knowing that there will come a day when they are let down, and are hurting? How does a parent, struggling to ascertain why she needs to continue to reach out to build friendships, when she’d rather just stay comfortably in the company of her friends who have become family, impart the importance of both lifelong friends and “for a season,” friends?

And, as I reflect on these concepts, I also wonder – knowing we have a move approaching, how do I continue to reach out, build friendships every time I move, without becoming jaded and viewing all potential friendships as ones in which I’m using them for their company until we move? I have grown weary of befriending people, to just have the hurt when I realize I thought they were a closer friend than they were in reality.

As an adult, I have found comfort in the words from Casting Crown’s song, “Just Be Held”:

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place…

I find comfort in knowing that God has a purpose – for all my friendships, both lifelong and ones that come into my life for a season. I hope that those to whom I have disappointed as a friend in the past can also reflect on the positivity of why we were placed in each others’ lives, regardless of whether or not we know. There are ends to friendships that I did not handle well, and looking back, wish I could take the “ending” back; however, with age comes maturity, and I have to keep reminding myself that every person in my life is there for a reason, for however long God determines. He is ultimately in control, and He will ultimately be the one to “hold my heart,” just as He will to everyone’s heart.

11 thoughts on “#WorthRevisit: Murky Waters of Friendship

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I didn’t know how badly I needed to hear these words…
    I can relate to hesitating to befriend more people, especially in the military world.
    I lost a lot of “friends” when I got married and moved out of my home area. It was somewhat expected because I knew that most of the other nineteen year olds I was spending time with would not be lifelong friends. However, I feel like a lot of my “Gemeinschaft” friendships are drifting into “Gesellschaft” friendships. One of my closest friends from back home has been making a lot of poor life decisions lately (things that go against my Catholic views), and it has been hard for me to stand by her. When we lived in military housing, there was a group of gals that I hung out with on an almost daily basis- even if it was only for a few minutes. About four months ago, we moved closer to base, which put me about 20 minutes away from them. After the move, they suddenly became very busy. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the business of taking care of your family and I respect that… but it hurts to know that individuals you considered close enough to be family for over a year are suddenly way to busy to even reply to your text messages. 🙁

    1. My heart hurts for you – because I know the struggle intimately. I feel as though no matter what stage of life we are in, there may always be that door which opens up a friend from “Gemeinschaft” to “Gesellschaft.” But, I also recognize there’s the ability for the door to open the other direction, too!

      Putting yourself out there time and again is so hard, but in the words of a wise woman I know (okay, paraphrasing words), “If you don’t put yourself out there, you will be missing out on possibly a very beautiful friendship and beautiful lessons and love learned. You’ll never know if you don’t try.”

      And, after I move and start making new friendships (regardless of which camp), I usually do a paring of FB friends – it’s nothing personal, but I’m afraid it has been taken personally by people throughout the years. Social media is such a sticky wicket!

  2. A lot of people on social media friend you so that the numbers show they have 60 friends or 60,000 friends. But what IS a friend? There are all acquaintances in life and then there are those who would lay down their life for you- those who will be there when and if you need them. There are friends who bring hearts and flowers to your life and those who bring nothing but a moment in time. In a way you are blessed to be in the military. Many people pass through your life and you become friends of convenience. Your relationship is built with the understanding that you will move on to new friends. That doesn’t mean you forget them. Some of our dearest friends are those we met 30 or 40 years ago. For a time we moved on and in the end reconnected. Those are the friends. We laughed, we cried, we moved, we lost touch. But the one deep bond is our military experience. And they are all coming back around again. We all have that one friendship that we screwed up and remember often. But look to your friends of the present. Forget the past and look forward and nurture the friendships of today. Don’t dwell on the failures. Take and give to each friendship equally. Keep your home boundaries. They are your safety. We had to learn that when we lived in Germany with the Germans- only 22 Americans. We were cautioned about who we brought into our home for OPSEC reasons. We remain that way, but not for the same reasons. It is a place for our young children to feel and be safe. I can control their safety and security here; I cannot in the big world. We are careful who our friends are b/c judgements about us and our unique family hurt. I cannot remember who said this, but a famous person once said “If you die with but one good friend, you have been blessed.”

    1. Thank you so much! You are correct that we are blessed being in the military, but also guarding our homes and lives due to OPSEC purposes (as I blog about my family experiences). But, I dread the day when I actually do have to put down roots and know that the friendships I need to make (for my sanity, for my health, and for my social interaction – and, that of my children) will be long-term, instead of the “every two years” that I currently do!

  3. I hadn’t heard these terms before, but they make sense. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You’re most welcome! I find myself thinking of them, and it’s handy to have a blog post to pull up to remind me which is which. 😂

  4. Social media has made the definition of friendship harder. I have people I do not hardly know want to “friend” me. If I don’t really know them I typically ignore it. I figure it is easier to do that as unfriend them later?

    1. I agree – I usually don’t friend too many people I haven’t met in real life. My standard is, I have to have gotten to know them through groups or friends before I add someone. And, having “unfriended” post- moves twice now, I think I am just going to be more selective in accepting friend requests, since it is a little bittersweet when I unfriend.

      1. I think that is smart. I have been having people from high school era wanting to friend. Haven’t spoke with them since high school so I figure till I see them on a regular basis in person….no go.

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