Be a Circle Breaker Not a Circle Maker

I bought the tickets months in advance. I’d heard about this event for several years but was never able to make the date work.  This year it did and this Nana was taking her two granddaughters to a special tea.

When we arrived, we were escorted to a round table. The girls and I took up three seats and the other four were initially vacant. In time two moms and their daughters joined us at the table. It soon became evident they came to the event together. And they were tight…so tight that no one else could get in.

Because I’ve learned the value of being a “there you are” person rather than a “here I am” person, I started asking them questions. They would give one word answers and turn back to each other and talk. Their small circle didn’t have room for anyone but the two of them.

It’s easy to do. We focus where we’re comfortable. We see what we want to see.  When our circle is tight it feels good to us…but not to someone on the outside of the circle.

My friend Rhonda made a cross-country move with her family several years ago. She immediately put herself in Bible studies and groups where she could meet women and possibly plant new seeds of friendship. At the end of her Bible study one day she helped clean up. So many moms had little ones they needed to get from childcare, but Rhonda’s kids were all in school so she had the freedom to help with the tear down after the meeting.

There were several women helping to clean up and it soon became evident to Rhonda that these women were planning to go out to lunch after they were finished. One gal said to Rhonda, “You don’t need to be somewhere?” Rhonda replied, “Nope my afternoon is wide open.”  The clean-up continued another 10 minutes or so when the group announced to Rhonda they were leaving and heading to lunch. “Have a great day!” they said as they exited.

It’s obvious this was a tight circle and also obvious there wasn’t room for one more. Rhonda headed home to eat lunch alone.

One of the most beautiful gifts we can give another person is an invitation into our circles. We do that best by keeping our circle broken….always looking for who God wants us to reach out to, or invite, or notice, or include in our conversation.

After reading Sarah Horn’s fabulous blog post on the subject, my daughter Anne and I wrote about this in our Better Together book,

“Too often we don’t stop and think about whether we’re making it easy for a mom to enter into our circle of friendship. We’re so focused inside the circle that we miss seeing who’s outside the circle. In the same way we need to be a “there you are person” when stepping into new environments, we all need to be “there you are people” keeping an eye open for those who are new to an environment in which we’re comfortable. Doing so will ensure that others are seen and valued. Making someone feel cared for doesn’t commit you to friendship for life. Your friendship plate might be full, but you can still take the time and make the effort to “see” someone new and make them feel cared for. You can also help them break into the circle by introducing them to others.”

When a circle is made, polite usually happens. But polite doesn’t make people feel included. Warm, friendly, and interested make people feel valued, cared for, and seen.

Let’s commit today to move from polite to caring. It could be the difference between someone going home alone or feeling included.

What circles are you in that need to be broken?  What do you need to do to really “see” people around you? Who could you invite this week to join you for coffee or a playdate at the park? 

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2 thoughts on “Be a Circle Breaker Not a Circle Maker

  1. Jill,

    I don’t normally comment on your articles, partly because I don’t usually have the time. I am making time this morning to do just that. I have been in these shoes so many times, too many to count, or like, or want to remember. I remember moving to Bloomington and I knew zero people and was crazy lonely. I remember standing in the grocery store line and someone noticing I had a little one and inviting me to M2M. I made friends, real friends. If not for you starting that group in your living room, it would have been a really lonely time. You are a good friend to many and an example of what it means to extend yourself. I moved to Florida in 2007 and it has taken me until now to have friends again. It has been the loneliest time of my life that I can ever remember. I have prayed and prayed that God would bring me a friend. I have been at my church home for most of those years and you would think that someone would have invited me out to lunch and I have certainly tried inviting and even offering to pay…… Nothing. I started graduate school in August of last year and so I have friends again that I will probably have for a lifetime.

    I have always tried to keep my circle broken, so that I can allow those women that God brings in my life a place for friendship. The ladies that I have met over the last 10 years are all in the early stages of motherhood and busy with their families. It’s a tough position to be in……

    Thank you for this article,

    Kristina Stewart