Are They Your Friend, Your Ministry, Or An Energy Vampire?

Are They Your Friend, Your Ministry, Or An Energy Vampire?

house Annie Hutchison Feb 13, 2024

At the start of 2023, I had an epiphany moment where I went from asking, “Do my friends like being around me? Am I good enough?” to asking, “How can I make their life a little better each time I see them? How can I give them Jesus?”

This one shift in my thinking had such a profound impact on my psyche and relationships that I want to share it with you.

I am majorly insecure by nature. I think it comes with the territory of being a perfectionistic over-analyzer. I also tend to like everyone, because each and every person I have ever met is truly spectacular. These two facts about me have led to me naturally going down this spiral of I reach out and invite this cool person to hang out, maybe they say yes, maybe they say no, but either way I am going down a rabbit-hole of “how do I impress them, make them like me, make them see anything good in me?”

By the time we get together, I am an awkward mess and I am living so much in my head that very few potential friends have had the compassion or desire to keep being my friend. Because of this, I have really struggled to make and keep friends as an adult.

When I shifted my thinking from focusing on my merits, to what value I can add to the other person. I noticed that my friends’ roster went from 2 people to 12.

I also noticed that because I was so preoccupied with listening to them as they spoke and trying to encourage, support, and lift their eyes to Jesus, I wasn’t acting like my usual socially awkward, sometimes obnoxiously boastful self. I was able to make genuine connections with my friends and I was able to love them well.

This one mental shift took me from being insecure and focused on trying to prove my worth, to listening and seeing these friends. Because I was focused on hearing their heart, and serving them in a healthy and sustainable way, I found I was able to have deeper and more meaningful relationships.

If you find yourself in a place where you feel like you are already there: asking how you can encourage, support, and love the other person. But you still don’t have deep meaningful relationships, then we have to talk about the rule of reciprocity and how knowing this one thing will help you identify who your true friends are, and how to love others who might be categorized as your ministry (because they need and deserve love, but are not in a place to offer anything back to you). It also helps you identify the energy vampires and avoid them.

Robert B. Cialdini says that the rule of reciprocity is “we should try to repay what another person has provided us” (Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion). This rule is so deeply ingrained in the human psyche that it can be observed in every culture worldwide. So what happens when you invite a friend over for a meal or playdate, and they don’t reciprocate? What do you do when you keep calling and pursuing another friend, but they never seem to call you or want to invite you to do things?

In my own life two things have occurred, I am either too hurt by their failure to reciprocate that I stop trying and let the friendship go, or I feel called to invest in that person, even if they are unable to reciprocate and in my mind I call them my ministry.

You see, when I was in my early 20s, my very dearest friend Amy would call and ask me out for a coffee date at least once a month. She was so good at pursuing me and modeling how to be a good friend that over the span of a decade I am happy to say, I am a much better person and friend because of her example. In the first year or two of our friendship I think I would have to be categorized as her ministry, because I was such a mess of a person I didn’t even think to offer anything back. I didn’t call or instigate, but I was so excited when she asked me to hang out.

Sometimes, friends come with wounds and poor relationship skills and they need someone who is further down the path to love them, point them to Jesus, and model healthy relational skills. These are the people who will never instigate, but genuinely love spending time with you and will accept your invitation. These are the ministry friends.

The last category, I call energy vampires. These are people that you admire, that you invite to gatherings, who seem like they want to spend time with you, but then without explanation, flake on you. These are people who demonstrate over a period of time that they are not interested in investing in you and do not enjoy spending time with you. They will take all of your efforts and leave you feeling drained when you are done.

Beware of the energy vampires and give yourself permission to let them go. Your energy is best spent when you are investing in friends that will be iron sharpening iron, and friends who you feel blessed to bless, even if they aren’t in a season to offer much back to you in return.

Life is too short to waste it chasing after energy vampires. I can honestly say that I would rather be in a lonely place with Jesus, than in a room full of energy vampires: people who see me as a commodity to be spent, rather than a person of great value.

I hope this helps you in your relationships this Valentine’s week. I pray that the love of Christ fills your life and that you are a person who knows how to love others well and point people to Jesus.