Real friends or 'church friends'?

(Photo: Unsplash/Jennifer Burk)

Friendships are hard and complicated things that are an essential part of life. I have trouble defining what a friendship is. Although, friendships can be filled with fun, laughter, love and life-giving conversations.

The trouble is 'the what' and 'the who' in friendship. We probably don't often or don't take time at all to consider these questions. The who is the people or the person we see as a friend. The what or the why is the purpose of our friendship with different people in our lives.

These are tough questions for my extrovert friends and I to ask ourselves. We want to be friends with everyone and be friendly to anyone we know.

Nothing's wrong with this desire and it's probably inherent to an extrovert. It's where we get our energy from. Going out to meet people and hanging out with 'people' or 'friends' is how an extrovert reenergizes.

But I've started to ask questions about my friendships after reading up about people with impairments like myself, and the Church and friendships.

I'm mostly an extrovert and so I like to be around people. And I'm a Christian which means I like to surround myself with other Christians. I turn up to church and do the church thing, then speak to a few individuals. Therefore, I see them as friends.

I go to the same local church weekly and see the same people week after week. The people live in South Auckland like I do. Surely, they are my community and my friends?

Going back to the questions about the 'what', this is the church services and programs that happen in the church building. The 'who' is the people who attend the same church services and programmes. That equals friendships.

But the only time I see these people are at church programmes. Unless I message someone from church, they rarely ever talk to me outside the programmes. Can I call them friends? Or is it normal for church 'friends' to not support each other outside the church building?

Or is it because I'm in a wheelchair and am too much work to be with my friend outside of the fixed church community hour or two?

We have school friends, work mates, friends from various communities and church friends. Our friendships serve different purposes, whether or not we consciously define their purposes.

Learning about friendships and about how the Church should be including people with impairments is making me think.

Does me turning up to a church service mean I'm included? If I ask people for help or to hangout and they never ask me for assistance or out for dinner, are they my friends?

I think no. A friendship should be reciprocal and not just one person making time and effort to connect with other people.

It is important to be a part of Christian communities. We need to receive encouragement from a big group, and those people we have a chat to occasionally on a Sunday give us an insight into something different from our normal lives.

But we extroverts may think that everyone from church is our friend and I'm realizing, and have to admit, that this is not the case.

A friendship is more than just knowing someone. Having shallow conversations can be good for networking. However, our friends are the ones we talk to about the good, the bad and the ugly.

We must have Christian friends that we can be vulnerable and accountable with as well as be people we can enjoy life with. Sadly, people with impairments struggle to find these friendships.

Courtesy of Press Service International.