The Care and Feeding of High Maintenance Friends

A few weeks ago, I got a phone message from an acquaintance with a question about real estate. Fair enough, I am a real estate agent, after all. However, I was not in a location where I had access to a computer or the internet. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to her with an answer to her question until the next day. Also, I really wasn’t able to return her call right away to tell her, which I would normally do out of courtesy for anyone who left me a message with a question that would require me some time to get back to them.

However, this nagging voice in the back of my mind kept telling me, “You’d better call her back sooner than later. You know she’ll get her feelings hurt if you don’t call her. She’ll think you’re mad at her and then she’ll get mad at you and think that you’ve been avoiding her.”

The entire situation frustrated me and got me thinking, “Why can’t this person ever extend grace and just give people the benefit of the doubt? Why does she take things so personally? Does she really want me calling her because I’m afraid she’ll be hurt and get mad if I wait until tomorrow? Wouldn’t she rather me call because I WANT to, not because I feel like I HAVE to? Why is she so sensitive and high maintenance?

I’m sure we all can think of someone we know who is over-sensitive. We walk on egg shells around them because we never know when something we say innocently is going to cause a problem. They seem to have a vortex of drama constantly swirling around them and if we’re not careful, we get sucked in before we know it. Perhaps she is a friend or relative.

Or perhaps that person is the one we see when we look in the mirror. Ouch!

I believe there are several reasons a person might be high maintenance. One might be insecurity or low self-esteem. They need to get their validation from others, so when a phone call is returned “too late” or someone pokes a little fun, they internalize it and feel rejection, rather than consider the other possibilities of why a phone call may not be returned right away or laugh at something that might really be funny, not hurtful.

Another possibility is self-centeredness. Perhaps they feel that the world really should revolve around them. When they say jump, the rest of us better respond with how high? They don’t take into consideration the fact that someone else might be having a bad day, or previous plans that kept them from jumping at that moment.

Closely tied with self-centeredness may be control issues. They like to control their world and when others don’t cooperate with their plan, someone is going to pay.

I have to admit, when I was younger, I was much more sensitive than I am now.  My poor husband can vouch for that! The main thing that helped me “get over myself” was God’s Word and what He had to say about what He thinks of me.

So what do we do when we find ourselves feeling slighted, hurt, and insecure more often than we’d care to?

John Maxwell says, “When we are 20, we worry all the time what people think of us; when we are 40, we don’t care what people think of us; and when we are 60, we realize that people don’t really think of us that much anyway.”

I think he hit the nail on the head. We need to stop worrying what other people think of us and focus on the only One who can and should define us – Jesus.

So what does Jesus think about us?

He loves us. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” Eph. 3:17b-19a

Nothing can make Him love us less. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  Romans 8:38-40

He saves us. ”For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”. Romans 10:9-10

I could go on and on about all Jesus has done for us and how much He loves us. I challenge you to search out verses on your own and study and ask God to impress on your heart how much you are loved.

When we begin to grasp the love of Christ for us and realize that He is enough, what other people think of us suddenly becomes much less important. Yes, people can and will still hurt our feelings, but it’s easier to just let the petty things go when we understand that the Creator of the universe is madly in love with us.

So what do we do with the high maintenance people in our lives?

Again, the answer is love.

Proverbs 19:22 says, “What a person desires is unfailing love.”

Not too long after I received the phone call from my acquaintance, I got the opportunity to spend some time with her. It was the first time in a long time that I got to catch up with her and find out about what’s going on in her life. I got to encourage her and understand her better and I felt convicted for my initial frustration at my perceptions of her demands on me. Once I got the chance to “love on her” a bit, I realized that even though she still had “high maintenance” tendencies, she wasn’t trying to control me. What she really wanted was to know that she was loved.

Which is all any of us really wants.

While we can’t be all things to all people, we can be “Jesus with skin on” to those around us, showing His love and pointing others to the One whose love makes all the difference.

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  1. Carol,

    Wow. I read this today not long after receiving a call from one of my own overly sensitive, high maintenance friends. I’d been writing something when she called and I was trying to transition from writing to chatting mode when she immediately said, ‘OH! You sound like you’re really busy and don’t have time to talk with me today, I’ll go.” As a new retiree, the only thing I’m REALLY busy doing at this point is relaxing. It took me about 3 tries until I finally talked her off the ledge and made her realize that I was at her disposal to talk for as long as she needed to. But it wasn’t easy. As I read your post, I thought, ‘Oooo, can I relate to this or what?’, all the while thinking of my friend….until I got to the reasons. And then I came face-to-face with my reflection in the mirror. For much of my life, I have been and very often still CAN be that needy, overly sensitive, high maintenance friend. I’ve recently realized what a crappy friend I’ve been to many, only reaching out and picking up the phone or shooting an email out when I’m in crisis mode and need prayer support and encouragement or advice. This then became painful for me to read, but obviously, very necessary. I read another blog post today, by speaker and writer Christine Wyrtzen, in which she mentioned the need to be sifted internally. Thanks for being part of that process for me by your writing.

    Pam

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