Grace Can Have Limits: Friendships, Relationships, and Necessary Self-Care
“You just call on me brother when you need a hand.
We all need somebody to lean on.”
Classic song, right? As a kid, I remember that song making everything sound so easy. You need someone, and they will be there. But you know, as adults, that’s not how it always works. We want it to be easy, but it isn’t. Well, at least not for everyone. I have definitely had issues with this, and especially the last year.
Both family and friends have shown some true colors that I finally had to just accept were not as vivid as I wanted them to be. We expect more from people when we think they are capable of being better, especially when we’ve known people our entire lives, and have been friends with for years. We grow and we change. I used to think that if someone was put into your life, they were meant to be there. They were meant to be your friend forever.
Well, guess what: That is NOT how that works.
The same goes for family members. There’s this idea that just because people are your family, you should always let them slide or give them chance after chance after chance, while overlooking obvious issues. People often say “family is always going to be family.” Ehh, title-wise, sure. But if people treat you bad and do hurtful things on purpose, I don’t want any part of that. Neither should you.
I would say around three years ago, I really started to see that sacrificing your emotions for others wasn’t the way to live. Let me explain because I know that can be interpreted in different ways. If you are hurt, disappointed, sad, mad, or whatever else, after the actions of someone else, you don’t have to just ignore those feelings because you don’t want to make the other person feel bad. But we all hide it sometimes. I just think it’s important to know when to say enough is enough, as difficult as that can be.
Even though I realized this, I was stubborn and still wanted to do things my way instead of really seeing what God was doing. I still gave people chances and let things slide. I would think to myself, “Oh well, they’re busy so they had to cancel and that’s okay,” “I’m asking for too much,” “I can wait,” or “We’ve been friends for a while and they mean well.” But at that time, do you know what I also didn’t have as much of? Self-love, self-respect, and a different type of relationship with God. I mean, I loved myself and I respected myself, but my 29th and 30th years showed me a WHOLE NEW VIEW of what those mean. I don’t know when it happened, but I just decided to not compromise my feelings when people choose to do things that hurt me. It may not look the same for everyone, but always know that your feelings are valid. Just because something isn’t real for someone else doesn’t mean it’s not real for YOU.
Flakiness is real. It abounds. We are busy and have a lot of options for how to spend our time. But while a busy schedule explains why we can’t attend everything we’re invited to, I’m not sure it explains why we say we will and then…don’t. This takes a toll on people.
Full transparency: it takes a toll on me. Flakiness is rooted in dishonesty with others and also with ourselves about what matters to us. Then, when you stop inviting people to things, or stop texting them, or no longer initiate conversations, they say you haven’t seen each other or talked in so long. This frustrates me so much, especially whenever I’ve made several efforts to make plans, only for them to fall through because of the other person. It’s emotionally exhausting. I KNOW someone out there can relate to this. I know when we pray and ask God to reveal things to us, He will. I remember praying for God to protect me from people not meant from me, and I realized a few years later that people not meant for me were people I thought were.
I know that other factors come into play that prevent some from always being there, and that really is okay. The two I think about off the top of my head are anxiety and depression, which can mentally and emotionally cripple people. In times like that, it’s important to either tell ourselves that what they’re dealing with doesn’t allow them to show up for you, or you decide if for that time in your life, you need more. It goes back to self-care.
A lot of times, people mention grace and how God grants us grace and mercy, so we should always do the same thing for other people. The word ‘always’ throws me off, though. Yes, we receive grace from God, but I don’t truly think God wants us to be in toxic, negative, one-sided, friendships or relationships. I don’t think God wants us to continue to feel empty inside because of the actions of another person. God didn’t intend for us to be friends with everyone. He just didn’t. If that were the case, we would like everyone, everyone would like us, and the world would be perfect. People are put in our lives for a reason. Yes, some people stay in our lives forever, and some people do not. You can give people grace by letting them be who they are, even if who they are is no longer for you. Grace has its limits.
I’ve been friends with people for yeeeears, and I’ve accepted the fact that they’re just not for me anymore. I wrestled with it for a little bit, but God revealed it to me. I could either trust Him, or do things on my own. And do you know what? A calm came over me, and it still does. This doesn’t mean you won’t be hurt, confused, or disappointed when moving on or letting people go. You’re human. Feel those emotions and don’t run from them, but don’t wallow in them either. Letting people go doesn’t necessarily mean you’re still bitter, mad, or upset, either. You just realize that your self-love and self-care take priority, even if it doesn’t make sense to other people.
A few more things:
It’s okay to stop telling people, “That’s okay” when they do something that you are not okay with. You don’t have to continue putting up with people and the things they do, or don’t do.
Reciprocity in friendships and relationships shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth. If you have to constantly give so much of yourself and don’t get much in return, or nothing at all, re-evaluate that relationship.
Texting isn’t hard. It’s just not.
If you want friends to show up for you, show up for them, even if it means saying what’s going on with you. I’ve experienced things before where friends have said they’re “dealing with life and having a hard time”, with that being an excuse as to why they always bail. But you know what? They were still making time for other people. I eventually opened my eyes to what they were saying…without saying it.
Social media’s ‘likes’ and ‘loves’ are not the same as asking someone how they are doing. It’s not the same as picking up the phone and having a conversation. It’s not the same as showing up for them. It’s not the same as putting forth the effort to show them that they matter to you.
If you tell people how something makes you feel, but they continue to do this same thing, know that it is a choice on their part.
It’s important to self-evaluate and really see if you’re doing something wrong in a relationship or friendship. Not everyone does this, though. As a matter of fact tooooo many people avoid this.
We are all busy. We all have stuff going on. We are all dealing with life. If people want to prioritize and make time for you, they will. If you see them making time for other people but not you, wake the heck up.
You don’t have to keep people just because you have history with them. (When I finally accepted and understood this one…WOOO!!!)
Grace DOES have its limits. God didn’t make us for everybody.
Your feelings are valid. Always.
This topic just is not discussed enough. We need more of it. I’m hoping that someone realizes they haven’t been/aren’t alone out here in life, maneuvering friendships and relationships. Keep your head up and remember to love yourself enough to not settle for less than what you deserve. The same way God gives us grace, we have to give ourselves grace, too.