Dealing with Flakes

No, I’m not talking about the mounds and mounds of snow flakes that plague/bless (depending on your perspective) my beautiful state each winter. I’m talking about that friend who prefers to keep her options open. You just expect her to bail now, rather than continue being disappointed, and you are genuinely shocked when she commits to something or actually shows up when she said she would. That’s right, today we are talking about that sister who is a flake.

This sister can be a challenge to keep loving well because no one likes to be disappointed over and over. Maybe you’ve just stopped asking because this friend has bailed so many times. I will say, sometimes, you just have to let this friendship go. Maybe they’re not in a place to commit to your friendship right now. That’s a bummer, but it’s okay. We don’t have the capacity at all times in our lives to love everyone well. In fact, I just started reading Jennie Allen’s new book, Find Your People, and she cites research suggesting that people really only have the capacity to maintain 2-5 close friends and a “village” of about 15. These numbers mean that, sometimes, letting go of the friend who isn’t invested is the right move, as it frees you up to focus on another friendship. Like I said, I know this can be so tough, but it could also be the best thing for right now.

Today, though, I want to talk about the friend who is flaky, but letting her go, even for now, is not an option. Maybe your friendship is too important to you or maybe you know she really needs a friend right now, even though it’s been a frustrating season for your relationship. I want to encourage you to stick with these people that God has placed on your heart, even though they’re tough. Your perseverance to love them well matters, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

Let’s look at a few specific types of flaky friends and discuss how we can press through our frustrations with this quality (whether it’s enduring, outside of her control, or just a season) and love her well despite it.

The free spirit

This flaky friend can be a challenge to love well for the long haul. She struggles with commitment and likes to keep her options open. She wants to have the freedom to pick the best, most fun thing when the time comes. But for the friend who sees keeping commitments as a high-value virtue, this can be hurtful and frustrating. It may feel like she’s holding out on making plans with you to see if something more interesting comes up, or that she just doesn’t value your friendship much.

I hope it gives you some freedom today to try to accept that, for some, flakiness is just a part of who they are. If this is just how she is, she is probably not trying to be a bad friend to you. Try to shift what you see as flakiness away from the category of “character flaw” and more into the category of “personality trait that is different from mine but an equally valid way of seeing/interacting with the world.” If you’re able to get to a place where you can see this person as different instead of wrong, I think it may give you the license you need to be able to love them well despite how this quality makes you feel.

But what does loving her well look like? For this friend, especially if you feel called to maintain your friendship for the long haul, I would encourage you to examine your expectations of the friendship. Try to focus more on treasuring the time you do have with her and let her run free the rest of the time. In many and most friendships, quantity of time does matter. Sometimes, though, I think it’s okay to be content with quality of the time you have, rather than just letting the friendship go altogether.

Talking to this friend about your differing expectations of your friendship could also be so helpful. Explain to her how it makes you feel when she doesn’t commit or when she bails last minute. Ask her to describe how she sees your friendship and see if you can practice putting yourself in her shoes for a bit to get a taste of her perspective. Then, work together to come to a compromise about how you could give her a little more leash without feeling abandoned and how she could be more intentional about regular time together.

Social Battery is Low

This friend is one who doesn’t necessarily mean to be a flake, but she sometimes has to be to maintain her mental health. She has a very low capacity for socializing, and sometimes what appears like flaking out is just the reality that she has nothing left to give when the time comes.

If your flaky friend is like this, I think this is an amazing opportunity to lay down our own pride and vision for friendship and embrace the actual call to love our sisters well. Sure, we may have an idealized version in our heads of a friendship that involves girls’ nights and long heart-to-hearts on the couch, but that may not be an option for this sister right now. What that doesn’t mean, though, is that she doesn’t want or need connection with her sister in Christ. Consider, or better yet ask her, how you can love her well right where she’s at.

Maybe this means dropping off coffee on her doorstep rather than asking her to come over. Or maybe it means watching a show you both enjoy at the same time and talking about it another day when she is less drained. This is another opportunity to see your sister as different, not flawed. Her social battery capacity may not be equivalent to yours, but that absolutely does not mean that she was not also made to live a relationally-connected life. If you feel called to love this sister well even though it requires you to think outside the box or sometimes be disappointed, I think that is something you should absolutely pursue in creative ways that serve her reality, not a movie version of “friendship.”

The friend in pain

Maybe your flaky friend has something else that runs her life, like chronic pain. She likely wants desperately to be able to keep her commitments and plans, but her body keeps her from it sometimes. For this friend, your ability to not be hurt or offended when she has to cancel is an important gift. She may have already lost less stable friendships because of her inability to commit. To not have to worry about yours is really important to loving her well.

Consider if there are ways you might be able to bless her, like taking an errand off her plate, bringing dinner by, or scooping up her kids for a play date on hard days. Like the socially-taxed friend, this sister still needs community like anyone else, maybe even more so because pain can be so isolating! Consider ways to spend time together or connect that are not physically demanding for her. Loving this sister well looks like you taking the initiative to think outside of the box, rather than waiting on her to be able to do something more conventional.

It’s just a season

This last type of flaky friend is the one who is just in a season where she can’t commit to much. It could be any host of reasons, from having a newborn to illness to an unstable life situation.

The most important thing I see here is this: don’t give up on this friend. Recognize that she is in a tough season, show up for her where you can, and, most importantly, keep inviting her. I know it can be our tendency to stop asking once we have been turned down a few times, but your sister in a tough season isn’t trying to be flaky. She will emerge from this season eventually and stabilize. When that time comes, she will be able to show up again, and having her people still there even though she had little to offer for a while will mean the world to her.

In the meantime, she needs your support and steadiness more than ever before. She may need someone to confide in, or she may need a friend who is willing to come help her cook dinner. See, in my opinion, here’s the difference between convenient friendship and real sisterhood: are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?

What I mean is, are you willing to show up and be a sister when it isn’t easy or convenient or fun? Getting coffee together is easy, convenient, and fun. Cooking dinner while you chat with your sister who just had surgery isn’t convenient, but it’s pretty easy and could be fun. Picking up groceries for your friend with a newborn isn’t fun, but it’s easy and convenient if you’re at the store anyway. Scrubbing your sister’s bathrooms as an act of selfless service isn’t easy, convenient, or fun, but to me, that’s love.

Sisters, can we, as women of God, get down in the dirt – sometimes literally – and actually put in the hard work of loving our sisters and meeting their needs, even when it’s tough? I find that these opportunities and moments say more about the nature of a friendship than a million coffee dates ever could.

If you find someone coming to mind as you read, I hope you’ll seek out ways this month to love them well, even when it feels tough. If you’re in the position of trying to love a flaky friend, ask yourself where your call to love my sisters well is from and who it’s for.

My call to love my friends well is from the Lord, who loves me the very best despite my many undesirable qualities. Flakiness may not be my most prominent quality, but, tell me, has there ever been a day you missed connecting with the Lord? For me, for sure. To him we probably all look flaky. Yet he loved us even to death.

Additionally, my call to love my sisters well is for all my sisters that God puts in my life and on my heart. That’s not to say I am responsible to love everyone I ever meet, but to the women God has set on my heart or in my path to pursue with friendship. Likely, this isn’t just going to include women who are exactly like me and easy to love. I’m sure there will be some like that, but we wouldn’t have much opportunity to grow and love better if we were never put next to sisters who force us to, right? My call to love well is for all my sisters, not just the easy ones.

From the Lord, for the sisters he has assigned me to love…not the imaginary flawless sisters I wish I had.

My prayer for you this week is that the Lord will give you patience for your flaky friend and creative ideas to help you love them well, even if you get some dirt under your nails doing it. I know it will matter.

Love ya, friends.

Your Sister, Kimber

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One response to “Dealing with Flakes”

  1. Kimber,
    Thank you for the time you are devoting to this blog and your podcasts. I enjoy reading these and love your podcasts.
    I especially like what you said about seeing people as different from you, instead of wrong or flawed.
    In the podcast with Stephanie, I liked the part about intentionally setting aside the time for friends, but if no one shows up, it can still be time to spend with God.

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