Being social

One of my friends was briefly in town last week and I was reminded of what I missed in a good conversation. Reminded too, of some of these friends that I had moved away from. That you don’t necessarily have to talk about personal things, but you could if you wanted to. That you can share your beliefs and opinions, even if they differ. That you’ve been friends long enough that most stories are a continuation of the ones you’ve heard already. That they’re patient enough to listen to you tell the same stories too.

Another friend who plans to move next year for work lamented,  “I like socialising, but not with people I don’t know well!” I laughed and asked how she was planning to know people well without socialising. But I agree and feel completely the same way. Sometimes, when I agree to go along to gatherings and outings (or even organise them myself) of people I don’t know well, I wonder what I am doing there. On the one hand, group gatherings are a low stress way to get to know people a little, because hanging out one to one is kind of intense. But on the other hand, I rarely feel like I get very far with actually getting to know people. We talk about all sorts of things, but in a superficial way. When something personal does come up, either for yourself or for someone else, it’s hard to know how to respond. I think it’s exhausting and deeply unsatisfying, being with people and not actually connecting with them.

In church circles in particular, it’s remarkable that God is part of the conversation during the set time of fellowship, of discussion and prayer. But outside those set hours of the week, the frequency in which we acknowledge God or our faith, or talk about our doubts and questions related to Christianity, happens not more often than it does with non-Christians. Or perhaps even less. Not that I’m condemning others – I myself rarely bring up matters of faith with other Christians in a social setting. But why?

Not that it happens all the time, but at least, sitting with my sort of Hindu friend at the temple, we discussed something about who we thought Jesus was. At least my atheist friends love to give their views on evolution and creation. At least my gay friend coming out meant that our mutual friends really questioned me on what my views are on the matter. At least my agnostic cousin and I talked about our different ideas about what comes after death. Is it that as Christians we assume we believe in the same things anyway? Or perhaps that we don’t want others to know about the things we don’t comprehend, the things that we struggle with in faith?

So for me, often socialising in a group feels pointless. Not that it is – I guess there are always opportunities to include, to show love and care to others. Oh well, here’s the conclusions of my midnight ponderings. Firstly, friendships take a long time to happen. Secondly, I’m not very good at probing tactfully but not creepily and neither do I volunteer much thoughts and feelings unless I’m asked. Thirdly, perhaps being purposeful and intentional about my social commitments might help it be more meaningful, even if being social is tiring in itself.

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