I was sitting in Greenwich Village yesterday afternoon, laughing with one of my best friends from college, Tiffany**. Freshman year, I was on my way to a Halloween party and bumped into her and a mutual friend, who happened to be going to the same place, so naturally we joined together. Tiffany and I instantly clicked and my shallow teenage self was pleased to have another pretty, popular friend to party with. And indeed we partied..and had many blackout nights. And shared many hook-up stories. And had many gossipy conversations at our kitchen table about everyone in the 200 person social bubble at our nerd school. We were those girls. And yet two weeks ago, we sat around the table of my C3 dinner party, with other people from my church, discussing faith and how to surrender our lives to God’s will. An evolution to say the least.

Nothing has more influence in your life than the people in it. C3 has started a new series on discipleship, or how we teach and learn from each other, and it has me reflecting on the changes in how I see friendship. I used to take a “the more the merrier” approach and vehemently denied the idea that you can’t have a dozen best friends. As a serial friend group bouncer, I had an overwhelming number of people with values and lifestyles on every part of the spectrum continuously imprinting and overwriting on my heart. It brought confusion about what I was looking for in people because it became increasingly more difficult to trace which influences came from who, especially because most of these relationships were fleeting. All my good friends who’ve lasted the test of time have the same thing in common: they have discipled me into my best self.

I’m not saying be exclusive. Be friendly to everyone, have acquaintances galore. However, we tend to have a lot of “friendship” out of convenience, when friendship should be out of communion, the idea that we are becoming one with the people around us, internalizing their thoughts and actions. A true friend is not someone to just pass the time with; he or she subconsciously sets the standard for your life by bringing you up or down to theirs. After all the work I’ve done in changing myself,  I’m not interested in anyone undo-ing my progress. I want people who: encourage me to go the extra mile, have uplifting and positive energy, call me out when I’m living below my potential, talk about real things (not the he-said she-said of what’s happening in everyone else’s life), support me through thick and thin, inspire me in how they deal with life’s challenges with grace and poise. If your friends don’t look like this, ask yourself - why are they your friends?

Some people may work for right now. Then 5 years pass, you live in different cities, the context of your closeness changes. Even if they’re nice people with nothing blatantly flawed, the extra push they add to your life is what separates the here-and-now from the now-and-forever friends. If you’re not already discipling each other for the better, either you will outgrow them or they will outgrow you. That’s what I love about Tiffany and I. When we were moved into our apartment years ago, I had a sign hanging on the way saying “Lex & Tiff for life.” Yet truth be told, there was a time when I questioned it. After we stopped living together sophomore year and thrill of our reckless underclassman lifestyle faded, there was more space and less keeping us together. Last spring, we hung out after a while and I realized in that distance, we had both been growing independently and were now secure, hard-working women letting go of everything toxic in our lives. We were so inspired by how much the other person had grown- I mean, seriously we used to be hot messes- it forged the way for us to be close again and resurrected our friendship from something skin deep to a constant source of motivation. Every time we talk, she’s remarking how much she’s learned from me, while I’m thinking “What? I’m learning so much from you!” Your life naturally moves in an upward direction when the people in your life look like that, not ten brunch-and-done girlfriends. It pushes you to look at your sphere of influence and replicate the example in someone else’s life. If you’re feeling stagnant or conflicted in your growth, take time this week to think over who’s discipling you and who you could be discipling //

**name changed for anonymity