Flannery O’Connor famously once said, “Anybody who has survived childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days,” and I find this to be so true, especially when it comes to the work of spiritual formation.
Those are the years we took in so much sensory data about life, and what we took in — without our realizing it was even happening — formed and formed and formed us into the people we eventually became.
And so we’re going to continue peeling back the layers of childhood a bit this week, starting with childhood friendships.
When I look back at my childhood friendships, I notice two main things.
First, I tended to form one or two really good friendships rather than a lot of them, and this holds true still today. And second, my experiences with group friendships weren’t very positive.
As connected as these two observations appear on the surface, and there is certainly some connection, they don’t form a perfect one-to-one correspondence. One reason I formed just a couple close friendships rather than many is simply because I’m a very high introvert. Large social gatherings aren’t my preference when it comes to making connections. I’d rather go deep than wide.
This reality of who I am holds true today, both in my friendships and in the work I do. My life’s work is helping others go to the deep places, and I am best oriented to do that in one-to-one settings.
Concerning group friendships, I think a lot of my negative experiences had to do with the reality of what happens when you gather 7-10 girls in a room. Chaos happens. Backbiting happens. Jealousy happens. Gossip happens. Allegiances happen.
That’s never been my cup of tea.
We can learn a lot from our childhood friendships. They teach us about ourselves — our preferred way of being in the world and with others — and they teach us how we learned to relate to the world around us, and what we came to believe.
How did your childhood friendships form you?