“That church has so many cliques.”
“No one said hello to me….again.”
“People are so selfish!”
These are all things I have heard over and over again in my 15 years of being involved in ministry.
I am hoping to encourage you lonely folks out there by giving you a different perspective.
I went to college in Northern California. I became a believer in Junior College and my first goal when I hit the campus at a “real college” was to get plugged in to a church, preferably one full of college students. I found one! They met on campus on Sundays and I couldn’t wait to go.
I walked in eager to have all these people flocking to me to make me feel welcomed. Um… nobody talked to me. I walked in and out without meeting a soul.
I went back. This time my heart was different. This time I would initiate. And that’s ok. Ya know why? They were like a family already. Some of these people had known each other for years and I couldn’t expect to walk in and be on the same level as them.
So, I introduced myself to numerous people. I did the same the next week. Sometimes to the same people who “forgot my name”. So I re-introduced myself a few weeks in a row. I didn’t quit going and get mad at the cliques. I kept pursuing friendship. I kept telling people my name. I kept going to all the things the church had to offer so that my face went from being unfamiliar to familiar. I went from being unknown to known.
But guess what? I still never really felt like I was part of the in-crowd. Nope. And guess what? I think I have a pretty good idea of why and it’s not because there were so many cliques. Nope. It’s because I was controlling and talked about myself too much.
Marriage has a way of helping us to get rid of some of our rough edges. Suddenly many of the character flaws that no one had the guts to tell me had come to the surface because a spouse has to live with those flaws and they are certainly worth confronting.
As a side note, my husband and I are very purposeful in training our children on how to not be annoying. We tell them when certain behaviors and actions are obnoxious. We tell them we want them to be well-liked and have lots of friends. That’s the loving thing to do.
I for one am thankful for the iron sharpening iron aspect of marriage. My controlling, manipulative nature along with the propensity to talk too much was finally confronted and I am able to see more clearly that the cliques I thought existed were actually an illusion. There was a reason that a certain number of friends of mine were part of the “in -crowd”.
When I look back at those friends I notice some things that they had in common: they asked people questions like: “how are you doing?” and they really wanted to know! They listened well. The didn’t dominate. They weren’t restless. They enjoyed each other and served one another. They stuck around through awkward silence and just hung out.
I can’t help but wonder if some people feel lonely because others don’t have the guts to tell them they don’t want to hang out with them.
I know that was me for years and years and I am thankful for the people who have loved me enough to say: “Katie, it’s not them, it’s you.”
One time I ordered a “household meeting” with my roommates in college. We were going to “get it all out on the table” and tell each other what we really thought so that we could be honest. I let one of my roommates go first and she said to me: “Katie, I hate to come to you with my problems because you lecture me and don’t listen.” I did the mature, godly thing any woman who wants to grow would do: I walked out of the room and got into my car and drove off… um, yeah, so clearly I am amazing at receiving criticism.
We would all do well to listen to others’ criticism and seek to change. That’s the way we grow. If we want people to want to be around us we have to be open to growth and change even if the truth of how we need to change is super painful.
So here are some types of women I know drive people away. Sincerely seek the Lord and see if you fit into one or more of these types and ask the Lord to help you change.
Snarky Susie: This woman is always full of sarcasm. Nothing can ever be taken seriously. All of life is a big joke to her.
Faithless Fran: You can never count on Fran for anything. She often says: “I’ll be right back.” She never comes back. She says: “I’ll call you later.” She never calls. She says: “I’ll be there at 10.” She shows up at 11. You never want to count on her for anything including a lasting friendship. (One I have struggled with.)
Prideful Penny: Penny loves to talk about herself. Her achievements. Her strengths. All the amazing things she has accomplished. All the wonderful things others say about her. She is the “me-monster”.
Different Dorothy: Dorothy will let you know ALL of the ways she is like nobody else and how no one can ever really understand her because she is separate from all of us other lame people who just “don’t get it.”
Gossip Gail: You know when Gail comes around that you are going to get an earful about everyone else and all of their secrets. You also know she will be asking you many leading, manipulative questions trying to get the scoop on other people.
Downer Debbie: Life is always in shambles for Debbie. It’s a mess and there is nothing you can say or do that will ever help. Her Eeyore ways drive people away because frankly being around her is depressing.
Dominating Doris: Doris will take over any conversation. No matter what the subject matter she has an opinion and it’s usually the right one (according to her). She will regularly interrupt or turn every conversation around so it lands on her. (This is definitely one of my main struggles).
Selfish Sally: Sally really doesn’t care about you. She has better things to do and thinks your problems are trivial and not worth hearing about. She will regularly surround herself with people who make her feel good about herself because she is the most important thing in her life.
Frowning Fern: Fern always has a stoic face. If it isn’t stoic than it’s scowling and unapproachable. She just doesn’t understand why more people don’t come up to her to talk to her. She of course would never think of going up to others and ask them about how they are doing because she’s too busy being grumpy in the corner.
Introverted Izzy: Izzy gets anxiety when it comes to talking to people. She hates big groups. She feels exhausted by all the noise. Extroverts can’t read her and figure she wants to have nothing to do with them. (p.s. I know this is more of a personality type but just as extroverts have to work hard to keep their mouths shut introverts have to work hard to initiate conversation.)
Rude Rosy: Looking for criticism? Rosy’s your gal. She always has some sort of critical thing to say. She always sees the worst part of others and likes to focus on that and talk about it. When you have an event she will be sure to point out what was lacking and if she comes to your house she will be sure to point out how she would paint or organize things differently. No one has loved her enough to tell her that her idea of “honesty” is really actually rude and it drives people away from her.
Obsessed Olivia: Olivia is obsessed with things. She moves from one obsession to the next and will talk your ear off about it whether you want to hear it or not. Maybe it’s vaccines. Maybe it’s a new way of eating. Maybe a conspiracy. She doesn’t take social cues by everyone in the room that no one is listening and bored out of their mind. (Another struggle of mine…)
Do you see yourself in any of these ladies? Don’t run from that! Embrace it and ask the Lord to show you (or maybe a loving friend show you) how you can change.
Loneliness doesn’t have to be a lifestyle for you (unless you want it that way… I really think some people actually prefer to be alone).
Remember to look for ways to serve those in your local church body.
When you show up don’t think: “Here I am, who’s going to say hi to me? Who’s going to ask me how I’m doing? Who’s going to take an interest in me? Who’s going to minister to me?”
Instead think: “There you are! How can I serve you? How can I minister to you? How are you doing?”
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10
One more thing. Even though I stand by all of this I do think people should be friendly, especially at church. As a pastor’s wife I often tell people: “View the church as your home. You would never have people walk into your house and ignore them. Make them feel at home.”