The Inner Ring

by Edie Wadsworth on February 23, 2013

It’s shaping up to be a busy year so I’m extra thankful for the hunkering down we’ve been doing the past two months. One month from today, I’ll be in Dallas, Texas with all my Blissdom friends and I absolutely can’t wait. I’m reposting this because I love C.S. Lewis and his thoughts on this topic. My whole life, I think people have assumed that I’m in the inner ring, the group that matters, the popular crowd. Sometimes, I have been but I’ve never cared a hill a beans for it. Why?  Most of the people in ‘the popular crowd’ aren’t very interesting because they’re too busy trying to stay popular.  I love to find camaraderie and friendship where my interests lie and when you seek that kind of fellowship, a circle or ‘inner ring’ forms naturally—but not at the exclusion of others.

Do what you love, be who you are and you’ll find your people.

inner

{one of my favorite inner rings, forged by time and trial and good fortune}

It can be intimidating to go to a meeting of five hundred smart, opinionated, quite successful women.  Let alone women bloggers: that’s another category altogether.    And when 500 women gather at Blissdom in one month, there’ll inevitably be 100 little groups of 4 or 5 women huddling and laughing and talking about all manner of topics, as it should be.  We seek out those with whom we have much in common and hope to make true connections.

But lurking closely is temptation to what C.S. Lewis, in his book The Weight of Glory,  calls the ‘inner ring’.   And we often perceive that we are somehow just ‘outside’ it.   You know the ‘inner ring’ well from high school;  the group of girls that are inseparable and exist for the sole purpose of excluding everyone else from their circle.   The group is usually not a natural, organic group that forges easily because of the like interests shared by the parties.   It’s a group that has the appearance of  including the ‘important people’ or the ‘people in the know’.   And it’s sole existence is exclusion.  The allure for the inner ring only works if there’s an imaginary line of admittance which is guarded tightly by those already inside.  Lewis points out what many of us already know;

If all you want is to be in the know,  your pleasure will be short-lived.   The circle cannot have from  within the charm it had from outside.  By the very act of admitting you it has lost its magic.   Once the first novelty is worn off, the members of this circle will be no more interesting than your old friends.   Why should they be?  You were not looking for virtue or kindness or loyalty or humour or learning or wit or any of the things that can be really enjoyed.  You merely wanted to be “in”.  And that is a pleasure that cannot last.   As soon as your new associates have been staled to you by custom, you will be looking for another ring.

The quest for the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.  But if you break it, a suprising result will follow.  If in your spare time, you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside, that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which,  seen from without,   might look exactly like an Inner Ring.   But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and noone was led thither by the lure of the esoteric, for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do what they like to do.   This is friendship.

What we seek to establish and strengthen are friendships.   Inner rings are unavoidable, necessary, and often innocent wholesome groups.  It’s our desire to be admitted for the sake of being “in” and our pleasure at others’ exclusion that ushers in evil.

So, remember that the people sitting with you are likely the most interesting, kind, passionate people at the conference.   And when you find, perhaps unawares, that a cozy inner ring has formed, be thankful for the gift of true fellowship, which never has exclusion as its’ touchstone.

************************

Tell us about your struggles with the inner ring.  Have you ever “come unawares to a real inside?”

True fellowship is a good gift from God and I’m so thankful for it in my life!

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 baileywife February 23, 2013 at 8:31 am

Edie, I’ve never seen this actually spelled out before. But this is exactly how I feel on a daily basis. Always just a little “out of the ring” and have been searching for MINE, a place to fit it, all my life. Women can be harsh, hurtful people….. but I do have amazing daughters that I’m raising and are becoming the women I love to be with most! ~Kim

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2 a friend February 24, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Kim, You sound like you and I are cut from the same cloth. I think the place to fit in is exactly where people like you and I fit in – being people who do not Necessarily fit a mold of an “inner circle” type of person
. It is a sign of strength to walk strongly in you own path, not following the crowd, whether popular or not!! I have daughters with whom I am doing exactly the same. As I watch them navigate the world of friendship, I encourage them to realize they are Their own best friend and their sisters will be there for them. I have become more comfortable in my skin of the “outside looking in” and realizing that it is actually a gift and strength to be an individual not needing to fit in or always be in with the “right” people! I often think, what makes the inner ring the place to be, at times, I feel people who look at people like me are wondering why I am strong enough to be on the outside looking in….and I am darn Happy being there!!!

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3 Sandy February 23, 2013 at 9:15 am

I’m so fortunate to have an inner ring of teachers who I have known for seventeen years. We have all retired since last June, and consider ourselves blessed to have our health, family, and each other.

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4 Colette February 23, 2013 at 10:07 am

Edie, this is a classic post. It will never grow old or dated or become irrelevant. I feel a self-reflective counseling session coming on…when I was a 14-year-old freshman in high school in mid-western Illinois, my parents decided it would be awesome to move us 1800 miles to Phoenix, Arizona. After living in a small town our whole lives. Surrounded by cornfields. Yes, brilliant idea! Of course my brothers and I played all manner of sports and activities which brought about a certain amount of inclusion in such “inner circles”. When we arrived in the desert however, it was the first time I stood on “the outside looking in”. It was painful and lonely to say the least. Fast forward to senior year, I tried out for cheer and was happy to have a spot on the squad. Finally! No more would I be lonely, for I had penetrated the line that is invisible yet we all see this line. But surprisingly to my young self, the loneliness persisted. Most of the other girls were very kind of course, but these girl has been forging their “circle” for years….even their mini sub-circles, if you will…I graduated in 1988 with a hollow heart. (cue sad violins). But coming to Christ, finding my true measure in Him, studying what the Word has to say about who we really are, filled the hollow hole. And as time passes and we follow our true passions, we find ourselves in the best company any girls could ever imagine, right!? I think most of us, to some degree, are still learning who our true friends are. And still learning to stop yearning for that elusive inner-circle. Sorry so long, but your post really blessed me so I had to share :)

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5 Marsha February 27, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Colette, I have to share. My story is so similar to yours, just eleven years later. Same age when I moved and it sounds like the same change in population too. I did, however stay in Texas. It was a hard freshman year. I had very few people I even felt confident enough to speak to because I was not in the “inner-ring,” this was new for me. I think in our small town I had been born into the “inner-ring.” This realization now makes me sad, wondering why on earth there ever had to be such a thing! Looking back I have learned Christ cannot fill what is not empty. I am so grateful for being empty that year, words I never thought would come from my mouth at the time! I want to save Edie’s post for my girls in about seven years. Thank you for sharing your story!

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6 Colette February 23, 2013 at 10:12 am

With all respect to the words of C.S.Lewis and your post, I should correct inner-circle to inner-ring. My apologies.

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7 Judy February 23, 2013 at 10:35 am

I am amazed at these words, I have wondered all my life what it was, now I know. I have tried to fit in with some. I almost feel that I have found peace, after reading this.

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8 Kelli February 23, 2013 at 11:04 am

wow this really speaks to me. I love that you (and C.S.) have put it into words. Yes, I think we all at one time or another wanted to be in that circle of friends that seems cool, popular, etc.. Even as adults we do that. I know I have. I thought that they were more fun than my friends.. (they kind of are haha!). They have more money at their disposal to do more fun things. But the little time that I actually get to spend with the folks made me realize I really didn’t have much in common with them. I don’t think they were/are trying to exclude people, I believe they are just who they are, doing what they want to do, and I need not take it personally or even worry about it. The shine has come off and I’m happy for them and their friendships with each other, and also very grateful for the close friendships I have.

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9 Faith Pray February 23, 2013 at 11:24 am

Edie, this is a lovely post. I love this encouragement about friendship and the friend circles that matter. I also believe that we can take it one step further. I believe, in the opposite nature of exclusion, that we can reach out in such settings – whether at a conference or in church social time or where people gather – and we can reach out to the misfits and the people on the fringes. There are always people on the fringes, and we can be warm and interested in them, even if they don’t become our best buddies. Thank you again for the lovely words.

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10 edie February 24, 2013 at 7:52 pm

yes,love this!!
i love snuggling new people into my circle!
it’s a beautiful thing!

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11 Jennifer February 23, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I’m going to echo most of the sentiments already posted here and say, this one is a keeper and a must-read. Spot on. And amen!

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12 the farmer's wife February 23, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I immediately mailed this one to my “blue hair girls”. We call ourselves that because one of them owns a salon and we all get cuts at the same time. We really are like the girls in Truvie’s shop in Steel Magnolias. Someday we’re sure to have our blue hair permed together : )

C.S. Lewis is always a good read full of Godly wisdom.

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13 edie February 24, 2013 at 7:53 pm

i wanna go to your salon!!!
xoxo

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14 DJ February 23, 2013 at 4:25 pm

I have been caregiver to my husband who has TBD for almost nine years. I was able to work at my part-time job for 7 years, but it ended 18 months ago. I don’t really have any family or close friends nearby. My husband is my mostly 24/7 companion. He does well, but he is more like a child than an adult most of the time. I enjoy your posts. Mostly, I have been on the outside looking in, so I appreciate your words and those of C.S. Lewis. I rarely comment on posts, but you and other bloggers are my inner circle. You give me laughter and hope and unbeknown to you, friendship. Thank you.

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15 Carol S. February 24, 2013 at 7:36 pm

I admire you DJ, so glad you find friendship here as I do. Have a good week, just had to comment.

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16 Marie at the Lazy W February 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Perfect timing for this fretting girl. Thank you, as always. So true that large groups naturally break down into several small ones, how funny…
I am sharing this with some hurting friends, too.
xoxo

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17 Wanda February 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Edie, I live in Fort Worth and would love to be able to meet you while you are in the area. Any chance?

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18 Marie at the Lazy W February 23, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Wanda I am north of the Red River and wondered the same thing!! haha xoxo

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19 Wanda February 24, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Do you think we could convince her! :)

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20 Trudy K February 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Bravo Edie! Your blog needs a “like” button for those of us just soaking this up and cheering you on.

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21 Ruth February 23, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Well I have never been a part of an inner ring. Always on the outside looking in. Finding true meaningful friendships can be difficult. You want do much to fit in but not at a loss to your true identity.
Ruth

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22 Julie Ann February 23, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Hi Edie, sister-girlfriend blogger. There’s nothing like a true “round-up”, “circle”, “ring”……or what I like to call……”girlfriend love”. Nothing like it. That is the best thing about getting “old”. Most times you don’t worry about all that. We have all been touched by it and we all know exactly what you are saying.
Well said. Nice post. xxx ooo
I hope you have more posts before next month…..but if not, have fun in Texas!

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23 Jennifer February 23, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Amen! Love all the comments, too. I love to hunker down with my favorites … my sisters, my daughters, my mom. They’re the closest thing to an inner ring I have and while it’s not always a perfect fit, we’re definitely ‘who we are’ without fear. I agree those inner rings and tightly woven circles are overrated. Plus, I think I heard somewhere it’s hip to be square. Ha! :)

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24 Kathleen Jaeger February 24, 2013 at 1:02 am

thank you for articulating the difference of perceived inner rings and friendships…i needed this word today

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25 Tricia O. February 24, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Thank you so much for this post. Though I’ve known this in my heart for a long time, I’ve never seen it explained in such clear terms.

Have so much fun at BlissDom-I so wish I were able to make it this year. I’m madly jealous that I’m missing my own “inner ring” people who are going to be there.

Thanks again.

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26 Heather February 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Edie, this is such a thought provoking, interesting post to read. Thanks for posting it. About a year ago I wrote a post on “The Blessing of Friends”, about a time in my life when I felt I didn’t really have any, but upon praying about it, God sent me friends who fit into my life & needs very well. Your post reminded me of this–how quickly I’ve forgotten now that I have what I wanted–that fellowship and relationships are such a blessing and is something God knows we need. Not all relationships are formed for the right reason though are they? Friendships shouldn’t be about being “in the ring”, and friendships are also easily taken for granted. Anyway, thanks for the post :)

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27 edie February 24, 2013 at 7:47 pm

We have a beautiful Texas inner ring!!! So glad to have met you sweet Heather and thank you so much for the thoughtful package! You are such a darling! :)

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28 A sister in Christ February 24, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Your post truly sings to me and is an affirmation. I have been struggling with this for a while. I even wondered if I was “good enough” to read, or comment on your blog. Once upon a time, I had asked you a question via FB I believe, or perhaps email. I had thanked you and responded to some of your questions with an outpouring of my heart. I never received a response from you. It really threw me off and I thought that perhaps that somehow I was inadequate. I don’t say this to make you feel bad but to say that I finally worked through it all. I get it and we all should always get it. We give and we take and we wish each other the best. We hope to find our people along the way and if we don’t we don’t and we just move on and try to leave our best and take the best. It’s all good and the inner ring is so wonderful and feels so right.

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29 edie February 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm

thank you for sharing and joining in! and thank you for grace. please forgive me, i can never seem to keep up, but i’m so blessed by people who are full of love and mercy. much love!!
xoxo,
edie

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30 Diane February 25, 2013 at 8:16 am

Thanks for the insights Edie. You and C.S. are wise beyond measure.
I understand the need for recognition and thinking that it might come from being included in an “inner circle. If only. My challenge is much greater than that.
God made each of us differently. You, Edie, are someone to whom people gravitate. Me…not so much. Fortunately when I was in high school I ‘belonged’ to a group…a big one. I’m sure I would have been lonely without it.
But, many years have passed and I’ve moved a few times. And there is no group, there are a few friends, but everyone is always too busy. Even my very best friend will go months without calling, even if I leave a voice mail for her. She’s busy…truly. And I am many miles away. When we get together every few years we have a ball…it’s wonderful. That is the best relationship I have. Yes, I have other friends, I know they love me, but there isn’t that spirit of closeness. A few other friends have had such great needs and my friendship grew with them because they needed a friend to stand by them through those trials and those trials have lasted for years. I have been faithful and obedient, though they wear me out. But where is the friend who wants to go for a walk, or browse stores, or ask me to come over and ‘play’ (craft, re-arrange furniture, swim, whatever) or even talk about God. My motto has always been that if you want a friend you must be a friend. And guess what? That is only a half-truth. I have done that. I’m blessed to be married to a man who loves and cherishes me…my true best friend. I’m grateful for the companionship of the Creator of the universe. But, more than anything I wish for girlfriends. To have a few friends I can do life with, that will come to my home, even if it is a day’s drive in some cases. I guess as you grow older, especially if you are new in town, it becomes more difficult as people are unable to make room or take time for another. We are involved in a small group, and though every one prays for one another, it feels like everyone is just plain nice.
I see other bloggers develop friendships….but not me. My blog is growing…but, in a year I haven’t really made any friends. Yes, I’ve met a lot of nice people. But, really it reminds me more of the networking breakfast I used to attend for business.
I’m sorry to go so long. But, I’m guessing that there are many people like me. People who are real not fake, who smell good, have good teeth and good manners, who are caring and considerate, passionate about living, etc., etc.
Is it God who desires this lonely path for me? Does he want me to be satisfied with him alone? Yes, there are tears as I write this. An inner circle? How about a circle of friends?
I rarely watched Mr. Rogers…but didn’t he say every episode…”Will you be my friend? Won’t you be my friend?” I wonder how many women who look like they have it all together (and yes, I do) are walking around with an almost empty cup of friendship? They’ve pour it out into others….but no one has refilled their cup.
Sorry Edie…I guess this ended up being an essay. Oops!
I am happy for you and your blessing of friends. You have a wonderfully warm, caring, and magnetic personality and are no doubt a huge blessing to your friends. And yes, it looks very attractive to those of us on the outside. Especially us from the north. ;)
[hugs]

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31 edie February 27, 2013 at 7:31 am

bless you, Diane and your beautiful struggle. we all have seasons of being just where you are. and Christ knows every ache of our hearts. He loves us so tenderly and uses even the dry seasons to draw us to Him. you are beautiful and loved and He will not waste your tears. He will turn them to joy. i can say from experience that we often look back on the suffering and know that He was right there, changing us, making us into our true selves.
much love to you.
praying for peace.
xoxo,
edie

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32 Samantha February 25, 2013 at 8:56 am

Edie!! I am so excited to see this post. After reading your blog for-ever, I will finally get to meet you! I am going to BlissDom next month too. It will be my first blogging conference! So please excuse me when I run up to you and excitedly say hello :) :)

This post is timed perfectly! I just finished a half marathon with 8 of my girlfriends yesterday. Our little group has encouraged and cheered on each other through years of training. This was our 4th half marathon together and I can honestly say that without those girls, I would never be able to do it.

Looking forward to finding a great circle of blogging friends at BlissDom too! Can’t wait to see you there!

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33 mindy February 25, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Wow! Can we post this on the wall of every high school in America? So thankful to be in the stage of life where I have my “people” figured out already. They may not be glamorous, but I sure do like em!

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34 Ericka February 25, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Edie,
Thanks for writing this, this subject I have been struggling with since we moved over a year and a half ago. You and C.S. Lewis are right and thanks for the reminder; I needed it today. I really enjoy your blog and keep writing you have a gift.

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35 Brittany February 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Love this post – CS Lewis was a wise one :) I’ve always been the type to choose friends based on who I like vs can advance my status. And I definitely think I’ve developed my own ‘inner ring’ over the years. It changes – grows & shrinks – but I hold my dear friends close. Life would not be the same without them!

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36 ECD February 26, 2013 at 3:37 pm

The timeliness of this post is simply amazing! I’ve been struggling with loneliness: I was always part of an organically-developed inner circle and since college — through marriages and job changes and cross-country moves — they’ve dissipated. Recently I’ve been desperately trying to fill the void by chasing admittance into groups more “exclusive,” but its been fruitless and left me feeling empty. All this to say, I really appreciate the perspective this post provided!

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37 tara lowry February 26, 2013 at 9:39 pm

there literally aren’t words…well, they are in my heart and in my head, but they won’t spill out.

thank you….this post was used by God in my heart tonight.

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38 edie February 27, 2013 at 7:06 am

love to you, sweet Tara!
xoxo

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39 Joleen February 27, 2013 at 10:34 am

You have so completely put into words what has been on my heart for months now. As Christ-followers we are called to love the ‘unloveable’, and more often than not, those are the ones that end up outside the ‘inner ring’. I love my friendships without exclusion…it has balanced my life, broadened my world view, and chipped away at my rough edges. Hooray for those willing to love outside themselves and their comfortable.

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40 Arlee February 27, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Edie, this was a new perspective for me, and on a topic I’ve struggled with lately. I hope I am always sensitive to others’ feelings of exclusion. I hope I find my own little circles to face life’s journey with. Thank you for this.

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