You cannot have deep, cultivating, long-term relationships with everyone. If that statement made you flinch, read on.
Humans are far too complex to get to know them all on a soul level. It’s simply too much. As finite beings, we only have so much capacity. We cannot manage the ins and outs of our own lives in addition to the details of many others. Instead of spreading ourselves thin and wide, we must pick a select few points and go deep (Proverbs 18:24).
While we should be friendly to all, there should only be five or so individuals with whom you enter into a reciprocal relationship. A relationship where advice, counsel, and feedback is mutually given and received. It’s about quality, not quantity.
But five is a literal handful, a tight number if you’re someone who wants to be friends with everyone. How do you discern who to pursue deep relationships with and who to meet up with every once in a while for a tour of the highlights?
#1 — You will be “doing life” with them
There is a reason most friendships start off with an initial connection like work, school, or regular volunteer activities. For your inner circle to know you the best they can, they should be in that kind of daily grind with you. Small talk and cliches find no rooting in much time spent together.
You will know the answers to the “how’s work/school/life” questions because you will be living them together or naturally hearing about them in passing. Thus, conversation time can be spent probing deeper areas of thought or working through areas of struggle.
Some of that day-to-day will happen naturally as you will both be involved in or committed to similar activities, but much more will have to be pursued. Cultivating relationships happen when they are taken out of work and made the primary focus of time spent together. Lunch dates, weekend activities, favorite pastimes, and so on.
“Friends are the people you hang out with once in a while. Best friends are the ones you can barely go a day without seeing.”-Unknown
While there may be people you absolutely love on the other side of town or halfway across the country, your inner circle will be those who are no strangers in your home. You will be so acquainted with their everyday lives you can pretty much guess what they are doing at any given point in time.
#2 — Identify where you want to go in life
Friendship happens when two or more people walk together for the same purpose. There is a direction or something held in common that allows a bond to exist. This can be anything from a hobby to strongly held beliefs, making room for different levels of friendships.
There are some people you cut up with and others with whom you embark on a soul-searching journey. Your inner circle should embody both.
But not just that. You will become like those closest to you (1 Corinthians 15:33), so a primary way of identifying who to let into your inner circle is to determine who you want to be. What do you want to do with your life? Where do you want to go?
“When you have deep friendships with good people, you copy and then absorb some of their best traits.”-David Brooks
On a concrete and abstract level, find others chasing the same goals as you. In the way of a triangle, you and your friend in the bottom corners will grow closer to each other as you pursue the top point.
To you, your closest friends should be a step or more ahead in where you want to go and who you want to be. Their outstriding and friendship will simultaneously challenge and encourage you to become the best you can be.
#3 — They will recharge you
Even self-proclaimed introverts need people to some extent. While large social gatherings might be overwhelming, an inner circle is (1) your kind of people who also enjoy (2) the kinds of things that rejuvenate you— which could be anything from stimulating conversation to some sort of hobby.
An inner circle is made up of people with whom you can do anything and nothing and still have the best time. Work together, be tired together, have fun together. Whatever it is, you could always benefit from their company. This is what I’ve heard called a “battery relationship.”
There are two kinds of relationships: vacuum and battery. A vacuum relationship is when you are giving to the other person, working for the relationship. It takes energy. You might be sitting there like, “I can’t think of any relationships like that.” If that’s your case, then you are probably the vacuum. A battery relationship is when you get together for dinner, you look forward to it all day. You meet up and one hour passes, two hours, three hours. Before you know it, six hours have passed and you’re like, “Oh my goodness! We need to go home!” So you pay the bill, go out to the car, you say, “Well that was fun, we should do it again sometime. Oh, one more thing…” And before you know it another hour has passed.
When it comes to determining your inner circle, pick those you not only “do life” with but want to do life with as you pursue the same destinations in life. We need people if we are to succeed in life and enjoy it, and your inner circle is a primary means of navigation help.
Choose them wisely (as you will become like them) and never give up on them (as they, and you, will fail at times). The lifelong journey you undertake together will not always be smooth sailing, but things are never quite as scary when done with a best friend or two.