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As a teenager, I often felt this way. Sometimes I would learn after the fact that one of my friends had been to a sleepover or event—and I wasn’t on the guest list. Even having a “best friend” didn’t always guarantee inclusion, because the phrase “best friends forever” is more of a nice idea than an actual depiction of the seasons we go through as friends. If you have ever struggled with feeling ignored in a conversation—drowned out by people who had more interesting things to say—you’re not alone.

Scripture contains some key friendship principles that offer hope to anyone who feels invisible.

Believe it or not, the key to combating the feeling of invisibility is not seeking ways to become more visible. Being seen is not—in and of itself—a good thing. Many people draw negative attention to themselves through behaviors such as breaking the rules, talking down to others or stealing the spotlight. While there are certainly some positive behaviors that can incidentally result in attention from others, the act of constantly seeking to draw attention to oneself is off-putting. So, how can you avoid being overlooked? It turns out that friendship is not so much about what friends can offer us, as much as it is about what we can offer them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice

If you’re feeling invisible, chances are that others are too. You’ve heard of the Golden Rule—treating others the way you’d like to be treated (Matthew 7:12)—but how does that look in action? And does it really solve the problem, or is it just extra work on your side? While doing good is not something we should pursue simply for the rewards we will reap, it turns out that looking out for others’ needs actually builds a sense of community between people. Scripture instructs us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) because it creates a bond and develops a relationship.

John the Baptist illustrated this by rejoicing for his cousin, friend, and Savior, who was stepping into an exciting time of life as His ministry began: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled” (John 3:29). When something great happens for your friend, don’t let that milestone go unseen! Congratulate him or her for winning an award, or ask to hear the success story behind an achievement. Similarly, don’t neglect opportunities to be there for someone going through a hard time. It’s difficult to know what to say when a friend faces loss or disappointment, but these are the times when people most often feel empty and ignored.

Whether or not a friend is ready to talk about their struggles, just being present and continuing to acknowledge them can mean a lot. So, if someone you play games with has skipped the last few sessions, or your classmate has been absent from track meets, it might be a good idea to reach out and not let their absence go unseen. To these people, you may become more than visible—you might be a beacon of hope!

A friend in need . . .

This leads to another great way we can strengthen friendships and avoid feeling invisible. The old proverb “a friend in need is a friend indeed” means that a true friend comes to one’s aid. This goes beyond the instruction to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), as we’re also instructed to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). In fact, Christ says: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). If you look for the needs that others have that often go unseen, God will see to it that yours are met in a similar way.

In a similar vein, we’re admonished that “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself” (Proverbs 11:25). This principle gives us freedom to turn the things we worry about over to God and turn our attention towards others, knowing that our struggles are in God’s caring hands (1 Peter 5:7).

So, what are some practical ways we can help others? Start by asking questions. What has this person being doing lately? What keeps him or her busy during the week? Perhaps a need will come up in conversation, and as you learn of needs, this may present you with an opportunity to offer help. Find ways to share—it doesn’t always have to cost money (though if you have the means, a tasteful gift that fills a need can sometimes be a good idea). Many people feel most loved when you spend time talking to them, helping them with a project or doing an activity together. Instead of worrying about whether or not you will be invited, invite and welcome others to your events.

A few years ago, I moved to a different state. Initially, many of the people in the local church area invited me to their houses for meals and to play games. But as friends moved away and life got busier, these invites began to dwindle. I used to ask myself “am I that boring? Why don’t I get invitations as much anymore?” In time, I learned to change the question. “Why aren’t I inviting others?” With this perspective change, I began to invite people over to play games or to join me when I went hiking. I asked others to sit with me during church. Sure, it took a lot of effort, but as I look back, the previous void is filled with happy memories.

A friend . . . to your friends' friends

One of the best ways to include others is to invite new friends into your group. There are many stories from the life of King David that are well-known and loved, but perhaps one of the most touching is his friendship with a man named Mephibosheth. David and Jonathan were what one would describe today as “best friends,” so it must have been very difficult for David when the two were forced to go separate ways to spare David from the wrath of King Saul, and even more so when Jonathan was later killed in battle. Yet, David remembered his best friend with a beautiful gesture of friendship that honored Jonathan beyond his death.

Believe it or not, the key to combating the feeling of invisibility is not seeking ways to become more visible. Being seen is not—in and of itself—a good thing.

Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, was disabled (2 Samuel 9:3). Ordinarily speaking, his family’s fall from rulership—combined with his disability—would have thrown him into a life of poverty and hardship. But King David was a friend to him, giving him what had belonged to King Saul, providing servants to work the land on his behalf and inviting Mephibosheth to eat at his table (verses 9-10). King David’s example highlights another important friendship principle—be a friend to your friends’ friends.

It’s difficult to accept when the dynamic changes in your friend group and a new friend suddenly becomes more exciting to talk to. I’ve watched some of my friends suffer rejection when a new person moves into the area, and I’ve experienced this too. If you’re worried about being left behind—become part of the welcoming committee! Look for needs to fill, and find ways to be a part of the new person’s success. If you have a new classmate, perhaps he would benefit from reading a copy of your notes so he can catch up to the rest of the class.

Perhaps you’re at summer camp, and there’s a girl who knows several of your friends, but you’ve never had a chance to meet her—view this as an opportunity, not a challenge. I remember going to camp one year with high anticipation of spending time with two of my close friends, only to learn that our age difference was, although seemingly insignificant, enough to land us in separate dorms. I had to make a whole new group of friends, but as it turned out, the experiences and conversations we shared that year were wonderful! And while I didn’t get to spend much time with my two friends, spending the week in different dorms didn’t create a rift in our friendship—it just gave us more experiences to talk about after camp.

If you’re worried about being left behind—become part of the welcoming committee! Look for needs to fill, and find ways to be a part of the new person’s success.

As you navigate your friendships, there will be times you feel invisible, but don’t let these times prevent you from moving forward. One of the best ways to ensure you are not invisible is to be a shining light. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Be this light. Rejoice with those who rejoice, be a friend in time of need and look for others you can add to your friend group. Even if others don’t recognize your attempts at friendship yet, God does (Matthew 6:3-4). So, here’s a reminder to keep being a friend to others. You don’t have to feel invisible.