Growing up in a Christian home, Michael W. Smith was on repeat. In 2018 he sang one of my favorite songs at the funeral President George H.W. Bush, titled "Friends" If you haven't heard it, click the link. If you have heard it before, chances are you are already humming the unshakeable tune. You're welcome. C'mon, let's sing it together as if we are still 13 year old kids in a youth group.
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord's the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
'Cause the welcome will not end
Though it's hard to let you go
In the Father's hands we know
That a lifetime's not too long
To live as friends
I think it's a beautiful song and his early 90's albums were awesome in the Christian community, but I don't think it's necessarily true. Friends are not always friends forever. I don't mean that to sound ominous, hear me out.
Humanity craves connection, intimacy. We need each other. God knows this, but so does Satan. What God intended to be a beautiful harmony of interpersonal growth often turns south, drifting apart as our selfishness, unforgiveness, and pride fracture what was once a marvelous blend of peculiar people centered around the commonality of Christ, but this is not a post about forgiveness. No, it's a post about unreturned affection.
Sometimes you just "click" with someone. You understand each other's humor, passion, and are immediately able to finish their sentences. Other times the friendship takes time to develop, perhaps you even start out on wrong terms but find a mutual respect which blossoms into a David / Jonathan relationship.
Then come the "Why don't they want to be friends?" people. They are people you like, admire, respect, believe in, support and defend, yet your relational deposits are unreciprocated. You aren't stalker-ish, you aren't clingy or invasive, and you aren't overly communicative. You're just you, but you seem to care more than they do. How do you respond to those people?
First, stop tripping. If you have to manipulate to get you'll have to manipulate to keep. Perhaps they just don't "click" with you. I'm not saying you need to unfriend them on social media and give them the cold shoulder. You're not 12. Love, Kindness, Goodness, and Faithfulness are all Fruits of the Spirit and none of them require reciprocation. If you're going to BE a friend, then BE a friend, but to do so with the expectation of something in return is unrealistic, defeating, and will ultimately hurt you and others.
Second, perhaps they see the relationship differently. You want koinonia and they want keep-away-a. You may not know their past, their hurts, their hang-ups. You may not know the wounds they carry which forced them to create impenetrable walls. You may be asking for something they are not emotionally capable of giving. Show some grace and just be available if they call. It may still not be an invitation to the friendship you want, but that's not your motive anyway, right?
Third, understand the leadership gap. In the powerful movie, Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks' character, Captain Miller, made an incredible insight.
Captain Miller: I don’t gripe to *you*, Reiben. I’m a captain. There’s a chain of command. Gripes go up, not down. Always up. You gripe to me, I gripe to my superior officer, so on, so on, and so on. I don’t gripe to you. I don’t gripe in front of you. You should know that as a Ranger.
There is a leadership gap. You may want to be best buddies with your leader but seldom is that possible. That's not to say you can't have a strong relationship. They may believe in you, and you in them. You may be willing to charge hell with a squirt gun for them. Just don't expect to be the one they confide in. Don't expect to be their confidant. They need to keep enough distance to still lead you, unbiased. And you NEED them to lead you unbiased. You're not perfect, you're still growing, and they are your leader for a reason. Support them, hold up their arms, but don't plan on nightly dinners at their house.
Do highly relational leaders exist? Yeah, but they're rare. If you serve a leader like this, enjoy every moment. Soak up their relational investment. Cover their weaknesses and strive to help them succeed. You may leave them one day and find yourself serving a leader who can't even acknowledge you exist when they walk by you.
Finally, sometimes being a good friend is more about your heart posture than their response. Choosing to empty your cup for someone who shows no interest in filling yours is a sign of emotional and relational strength, not co-dependency. It means your cup is being filled elsewhere and kindness to them is simply the overflow. Perhaps you have a great group of friends already, or your time with Father God has aligned your heart with His to the point you are willing to lay down your life for someone who you know little. Either way, chalk it up as a win.
Real, genuine, life-long friendships are hard to find. Contrary to Michael W. Smith, your friends may not be your friends forever. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. Sometimes friends are friends for a season. Life may cause you to drift apart, but it doesn't you won't be there for them the moment they call. That's called maturity. That's called being like Jesus.