Elise Boutell | Student Contributor
Cliques often make people feel unloved because of lack of communication. It stings when we as Christians reject others because the gospel includes all people.
Julia Hurlow, interim associate dean for residence life and discipleship, said friend groups become problematic when those who want to be included cannot enter.
“I don’t believe the gospel of Jesus Christ to be exclusive,” she said.
The people who feel excluded need a voice and people to stand up for them.
Taylor University students tend to do this well already. Most students have small friend groups to help them grow, and they want to open their arms to others.
Still, no group of people can do this perfectly. Even at Taylor, people suffer with friend group problems on a daily basis.
I know because I have been the person on the outside.
The irony is that when I was loneliest, I was in the inner circle of a friend group on my wing. We made a group chat and started doing dinners, events and other group activities together. Our time together became more exclusive, less welcoming.
Text after text popped into our wing’s group chat, texts like, “Is anyone going to dinner?” I read each one, feeling guilty as I ignored them.
I sat quietly during most of our eight-person dinners. I wondered if the girls would shun me if I included others.
Soon I began to focus on academics and other friendships. I spent less time with them. The time I did spend with the group became less satisfying as I realized how lonely I felt when I was with them.
My story is only one example of a common occurrence. That is why these things must be addressed.
Many students agree that exclusion from friend groups has negative effects on student health – mental, emotional and even physical.
Senior Dora Rivera said, “Those friend groups are going to have an impact on mental health, whether it be good or bad.” Rivera said friend groups directly affect mental health, which often impacts physical health.
Senior Jessica Cochrane said she felt the physical effects when she was on the outskirts of a high school friend group. “I didn’t want to eat. I was upset. I was anxious,” she said.
It gets all too easy to start playing mind games. Exclusion crushes our spirits and leads to physical problems like loss of appetite.
The good news is we can fix many of our problems through communication.
To the one who feels lonely, remember that others can’t read your mind. It can be challenging to speak up when no one notices you, but speaking up is often your only solution.
Hurlow said she relies on communication in her life. “It’s important to name what the feeling of unloved feels like,” she said.
Junior Zack Brandon said, “Any time I felt unloved by a group of people is because I was putting expectations on them that I did not communicate with them.”
Be patient when others don’t see your struggles. Express your frustrations in kindness and ask questions.
Senior Andrew Edwards, a 2021-22 discipleship assistant (DA) in Bergwall Hall, said attempts to include people must involve effort from the person who feels marginalized.
“Part of my job is to go to people, but also, I’m a student, too,” he said. “It’s hard to reach someone who doesn’t want to be reached.”
To those who are in friend groups, enjoy them! Hold your friends close and spend good time with them. Also, open your arms to others.
Senior Bella Anderson, said that the main theme that comes to mind when thinking about cliques is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (see Mark 12:31).
She said, “When there are people who frustrate us, who are difficult to love, we’re still called to love them.”
The core of any efforts to help must revolve around Christ’s love for us.
Hurlow said, “Live loved.” Her hope is that each person acknowledges his or her desire for love and belonging. From that love, we can love others.
There are thousands of ways we can love the marginalized. Hurlow gave several examples.
Don’t avoid or ignore people, she said. Don’t shut your door and whisper when others are around. Don’t gossip or slander.
More than just avoiding those things, Hurlow suggested asking questions, such as, “Is that loving?” or “Is that kind?”
One significant way we can love the marginalized is by standing up to our friends.
“There’s a vulnerability that each of us have to say, ‘I’m going to stand up to another person who’s speaking ill about someone else,’” she said. “Deep trust is built when people stand up on behalf of another.”