One of the most common things I find myself saying to younger people is the importance of building a network of friendships where their various friends can be located in various concentric circles.
In the core circle are those friends with whom we are close. In the outer circle are those friends who are a bit more than acquaintances with whom we are not that close. Then there are various circles in between. For healthy relational living there need to be people in each concentric circle - and strategies need to be developed to enable this to happen.
It is such a helpful picture to draw on the back of an envelope...
However the mistake that is so often made is that some circles remain empty. For example, sometimes the core receives all the attention as friendship becomes dependent, even co-dependent, on just a few people where the honest and the intimate are freely shared as life is absorbed with them. On other occasions - oh, so sad - it seems that the only place where people are found are in the outer circle as a searing loneliness takes over, and social skills remain limited.
Two implications of this:
(a) Local church communities need to audit what they do and how they do it in order to ensure that it is readily possible for a given person to develop friends in the inner and the outer concentric circle. Audit the events. Audit what you know of the life of each person. Is there a balance through the circles?
(b) This is another image that can be placed in a divine frame. I love my 'divine frame'! It is such a useful picture... Let God take control of friendships. Let him enclose every relationship. Let his frame be of such a colour that it draws out such colours in each friendship in each circle.