Say yes, say no. We are constantly told to draw boundaries, especially in relationships.
It’s hardly enough to “be intentional” when choosing friends. It’s impossible to choose relatives. And try as we might, we find ourselves connected to, enmeshed with, and integrated into a community of imperfect individuals.
How does this often play out? We begin a friendship with sympathy, commiseration or even lust for a neighbor’s status or possessions. We then develop deeper connections– until we grow tired and impatient. The result? We claim minimalism as our mantra and declare that we “just don’t need someone like that in my life.”
The table: your gathering place
The people you choose to invite to your table reflect a lot about you. They have space in your life. You think about them. You confide in them. You seriously consider their opinions. You trust them.
Whether a physical table or a metaphorical one, this is a space that you can curate. These are people who have the closest access to you– priority in your relational spheres.
Designing your table is immensely important and intricately connected to your daily life. Do you reach your goals? Are you growing? Do you find yourself grateful? Jealous? Ashamed? Empowered?
Need versus Like
Oh, you might be thinking, so I should surround myself only with people I like. That should be easy enough.
A wise person recently remarked to me that if we spend most of our lives with people who are just like us— who agree with us on every level– then we won’t learn very much in life. Ouch.
Therefore, I am not (just) talking about people you like. The people you need at your table are those who are invested in your greatest good. Like medicine on a wound, they bring healing and reinvigoration.
So who are these individuals? How do you know whether a particular person should have their share of your time, or not? Here are my 6 essential people.
6 Types Of People You Need At Your Table
1) Someone who inspires you.
This is the leader in your life. Whether she’s a close friend or an acquaintance you’re just getting to know, she fills your mind with positive aspirations for the future. She leads you to higher places, she motivates you to keep on, she demonstrates the fact that your dreams really can come true. Keep this person in your sights.
2) Someone who challenges you.
This is the contrarian in your life. They are skeptical out of deep love for you. If you’re about to settle for good enough, this person will interrupt that complacency and push you toward best. She might also be difficult for you to deal with. Her presence at the table forces you to reconsider your convictions and grow patient and open-minded towards those unlike you.
3) Someone who understands you.
This is the friend who’s in your corner– the one who looks at you with a knowing smile and says, “Me too.” She doesn’t need long-winded explanations, because she is walking through the same season, or has in the past. She’s the one you pray with, laugh with, and cry with, because it is just so natural.
4) Someone who needs you.
This is the person you’ve chosen to serve. They are a constant reminder for you to live generously, intentionally, and open-handedly. You need this person as much as she needs you— she helps you realize how fortunate you already are, and how much richer you grow when you share.
5) Someone who fights for you.
This is the advocate in your life. She speaks truth when lies attack, she stands when you can’t, she hustles on your behalf. When you wander away from your convictions or dreams, she fiercely pulls you back.
6) Someone who surprises you.
This is the person who is nothing like you. She doesn’t live the way you do, or value all of the same things. But by virtue of intentionality, she’s in your life. This person is the thorn in the side of complacency; she reminds you that not everyone is just like you. She pushes the edge of your imagination and somehow it’s so freeing. She stands outside your tribe and can observe it in a way you never could.
The bottom line: These could be many individuals.
These categories are not intended to be limiting, and you can, of course, have more than 6 close friends. In fact, I have friends who fall into more than one of these categories– and we’ve played these roles in each other’s lives. As seasons come and go, you may find that the guests at your table come and go. Sometimes they fulfill one role, and other times another; ultimately, they’re in your life because you need them there, and they want to be.