Surrounded by a sea of people, voices shouting over yours — how do you find the one who will really listen?
The stinging thought of being supported in times of loneliness can weigh us down, but the true meaning is often overlooked. Learning about the healthy arms of comfort versus false security is pivotal for our generation of emotional manipulators.
In terms of safe environments, as well as constricting ones, our view of ourselves relies heavily on the people around us. The age of technology has diluted the understanding of fellowship and community, leaving boundaries and pure intentions in the dust.
People pretend to give you their affection and attention, but pull away at the last second or cancel plans repeatedly. Getting stepped on by selfishness discourages us from reaching out to the ones who will give us what we’re looking for.
Unfortunately, human nature does not readily include patience, leaving relationships in a standpoint or stagnant position. Often what we look for is what we don’t receive, as our habit of instant gratification overshadows things that take time. We have to watch out for our desire to belong. What genuine connections can be made with those around us if it only comes from a place of desperation and insecurity? Those bursts of longing can be dangerously superficial, and we must learn to regulate.
Now, how do we recognize true support amongst these wolves in sheep’s clothing? First, you must know you stand strong with the power of prayer, wisdom and discernment. Christian or not, the discernment to see through harmful intentions is one of our most powerful weapons as perceptive human beings. People give themselves away all the time; you just have to look for it. If they preach kindness but don’t notice the hurting, promote peace but stir up drama, they do not believe what they tell others. It is important to protect yourself from future misunderstandings and unnecessary hurt these types of people will provide.
Second, you must know to be known. Practice seeking the value in each person, finding beauty in all parts of humanity and treating them with love and wonder. Pray for the people who make your heart ache and overflow, whether from love or contempt. You never know — you might be the only person praying for them. God hears our hurt and provides, even through “wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).
What it means to be known can only be truly understood from the ways we are known by our Creator, seen in Psalm 139:1 when David says, “O LORD, You have searched me and known me.” To sincerely see one another, you must remove the lens of judgment and know that in every person there lingers a craving to be understood and taken care of. If our jobs, commitments and material things were taken away, the only thing left would be our connection to people who leave a mark on our beings through each and every interaction.
Ultimately, support can be identified through a few main things: effort, presence and consistency. Effort is not one-sided. Remember their favorite song, listen to what their heart says and not their words. If you are not gaining anything from a friendship, it’s best to let it go. Who in your life is taking more than they give?
Most of the time, people refuse to let go of the toxic atmosphere in their lives because it’s uncomfortable, but misery loves company. These people find it difficult to notice their own flaws, so you have to be the one to cut the ties. You are not being supported through harmful gossip, drinking or people-pleasing. It is just common decency to keep judgments to yourself, protect someone who is intoxicated, and choose to do things for your own well-being.
Next, being together in a physical space speaks volumes louder than countless, empty promises. Go to their sports game or be present at family events. It’s amazing to witness the impact of the encouragement of presence.
Backing up a friend when they go through sickness, a loss, or even small victories brings a sense of love that transforms the way someone thinks about their sense of self and their journey. The road less traveled cannot be associated with loneliness or made difficult by “friends” who place obstacles in your way of growth and peace.
Tangible change presents itself through the renewal of the heart, including how kindly you speak to yourself, to what degree of patience you’re willing to apply when things don’t work the first time, and the joy received when you let go of things outside of your control. Observing that development in a friend, or yourself, over seasons of stationary struggle goes beyond any reward a quick fix can offer.
Finally, the importance of consistency, the thing that makes or breaks the endurance of any friendship or relationship, occurs during the test of time. You have to make the effort to stick around and see things through. Notice the significance of weathering the good and bad, accepting life as an ever-changing tide of emotions and experiences. Who in your life is genuinely there for you?
Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.