Circles of Community
The women in my bible study group refuse to believe that I'm an introvert, but it's true. I'm social and friendly, but spending large amounts of time with people drains me. I learned this the hard way after coming home many nights feeling irritable and empty. It didn't take long to realize that, in order to thrive, I needed to set some boundaries. We're called to be in community; we just weren't made for community with 300 people. But that's exactly what I was trying to do.
Because I also despise small talk, I pursued deep, intimate friendships with anyone who would reciprocate. Here's the problem: unfettered vulnerability isn't appropriate. Brené Brown says we should only share with people who have earned the right to hear our stories. And earning that right takes time.
I used to approach friendship the same way I eat popcorn - shoving as many fistfuls into my mouth as possible. I was gluttonous in my pursuit of community. Now I approach relationships with moderation, and it looks more like concentric circles that progressively get smaller.
The biggest circle is the Social Circle. These aren't the people I call in crisis, but they're still very important. We need people who can contribute to the social aspects of our lives without getting too serious. These might be people I know from writing conferences, walks in the neighborhood, or even across the room at church. There isn't much energy spent on this circle, and that's perfectly okay.
Next is the Friendship Circle. The folks in this circle are the ones I make a concerted effort to spend time with. We hang out, get drinks, share personal things about our lives, and keep in regular contact. I put people in this circle because I know they'll be good for me. Whether they have an encouraging demeanor, a different perspective, or an adventurous spirit, I need these kinds of people in my life. My pursuit of them is targeted and intentional.
Then comes the Intimate Circle. These are the ones who get me on a soul level. These friendships don't require much commitment or intentionality because they just work. They know the unmasked me, full of my history and hang ups, and they love me through the mess. Some of them live down the street and others live across the country. I can count the number of people in this circle on one hand, and that's exactly how it should be.
The last is my Lover Circle. My husband is the only person on this planet who knows it all. No one else gets the level of care and vulnerability that we give to each other. We have secrets that no one else will know, and we share parts of life that no one else will get to experience. He is, quite simply, My Person.
We can live real, honest lives before the world while still having healthy boundaries. There is wisdom in reserving your time for certain people. James 4 says our lives are a vapor, so I don't want to waste it on toxic people. Jim Rohn says we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, which means I'm going to be meticulous about who gets my attention. And it's not just about me! I love people better when I'm not spread thin.
What does community look like for you: deep or wide? How do you set healthy boundaries with the people in your life?