I am an introvert. A big introvert. And, like many introverts, I’m not a fan of large gatherings. It’s not that I don’t like the people there; it’s just that the noise and number of people in one space can really get to me. Or even if it’s a small gathering, if I don’t know a lot of the people there, I can get really anxious.
However, if there is a party or celebration of some sort for a friend of mine, and it will mean a lot to them, I will go. Because I love them, and I want them to know that.
When Our Circles Don’t Overlap
In an earlier article, I shared about our Model of Encouragement. In essence, the overlap of the two circles is where the best encouragement will happen: it will be authentic for you and meaningful for them.
But sometimes, our circles don’t overlap. What do we do then?
Here’s the bottom line: the onus is on us, not our friend, to stretch and get out of our comfort zone.
It seems cruel and a little backward to expect our friend–who is hurting, lonely, or grieving–to go out of their way to receive encouragement from us so that we are the ones who are comfortable.
No, my friend. We must learn to step out and stretch ourselves so that our friends know, without a doubt, that we are there for them. We can’t let our personalities or preferences get in the way.
Stretching Outside Our Circles
The best encouragement and support will often come in the Overlap–something that is authentic to you and meaningful to them. But when the circles don’t overlap, or when your friend has a more pressing need that is outside of your circle, then you must stretch.
Let’s say you are great at writing notes and finding special gifts to show your support to a friend in a need. But your friend needs someone to clean their house because they are sick and can’t do it themselves. If you are an Inner Circle friend, you are one of the few they might want in their home, and so, this task might fall to you.
“For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”Galatians 5:14, NLT
Or say that you are good at cleaning homes, but you’re more of an Outer Circle friend. Maybe your friend needs you to help provide meals or gift cards to restaurants instead, to help ease the burden of feeding their family.
Or maybe you aren’t fond of hugs, but one of your friend’s love languages is touch and they are in desperate need of a hug at that moment. Would you just walk away from them, or would you forget about yourself and give them the best hug you could muster?
As those seeking to encourage friends who are hurting, we’ve got to be the ones to stretch ourselves if and when the situation calls for it.
In his book Being There, Dave Furman shares another great example: “Another friend, Angela, volunteered to keep our eighteen-month-old son for four days while Gloria traveled to the United States. I wasn’t able to watch our toddler (toddlers require a lot of lifting, scrubbing, catching, and other arm-intensive work), and it was obvious that if Gloria was going to be able to serve in this rare ministry opportunity, I would need some special help. It was certainly not a convenient time for Angela–her husband was also traveling, she has two children of her own, and she was in her first trimester of pregnancy. But she served joyfully and selflessly!”
God Will Supply the Strength
Encouraging someone else in a way that is outside of our circle can be draining. It can be uncomfortable. It can be scary. It can take everything we have.
But we don’t have to do it alone.
First Peter 4:11 says, “Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies.”
When we are called to help others, God will give us the strength and energy to do so. And I believe this applies to when we have to stretch ourselves to meet the needs they have. We must learn to rely on Him, not ourselves.
So, is there a situation right now where you need to step out of your circle so you can care for a friend? Take a deep breath, thank God for His help, and dive in. You can do this.