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Why was my inner circle so filled with takers, and yet those who were ready and willing to give were held at arms' length with reserve? (StockFreeImages)

I sat on my bed holding my iPad in my shaking hand. The orange Voxer button taunting me to reach out to group of ladies I had only recently begun chatting with regularly. My heart had wanted to open up to them and share with them about the battle I had been fighting alone, but my fear of being misunderstood or brushed aside had won out time and time again.

Truth be told, one of those girls had reached out to me many times over the past two years, but the fear I felt, and my crowded inner circle, kept her at arms' length.

But it was now or never.

Heart pounding, I punched the orange button and watched it turn green, and with a shaky voice I began to pour out to them the pain, loneliness and fear...

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...and what I received in return was the balm of friendship that only comes from healthy relationships that both give and receive; that will speak truth in love – always in love but never despise; that continually believe the best and guard the doors of friendship so that the evil of jealousy and doubt have no place to enter.

I'll be honest, there have been few moments in my life when I've had close friendships. You know, the kind where you can call anytime and just pick up where you left off last time, say "Hey – there's a sale at Penny's – wanna go and burn through a few bucks?", go to coffee for no good reason.

Sadly, I have few close long-time friends. Sure, some of my childhood friends and I are friends on Facebook and occasionally "like" each others' statuses and comment here and there. But outside of Facebook, apart from Facebook, there is no contact at all.

And I guess that always left me the impression that I am terribly forgettable. I am the friend whom people love when they are in front of you, but when they're gone they just aren't interesting enough to come to mind.

This impression left me lonely and hurt a lot of the time.

I would see people and their life-time besties and felt somehow shortchanged and left out.

My dad has always said that my sister brought home stray cats and I brought home "stray people". This is probably true. I have always had this deep need to reach out to people and encourage them.

I believe this has been a blessing and a curse in my life.

The blessing has been to watch people grow and blossom, and become a blessing to others. But the curse has been when people chose to take advantage of my innate need to reach out to needy people.

I suppose its my introvert side that tires quickly of casual friendship. There is this craving in my soul for deep friendship that goes beyond the shopping and girl-chatter about 80's flicks and fashion and into the murky waters of what really matters in life. You know, those topics that can make you stumble on a land mine...knowing that if this is a true friend, you'll somehow survive it together.

I have always been this way – from childhood, probably. I was born an old soul.

I much preferred sitting with adults and listening to them talk about important business matters than giggling with my girlfriends over Kirk Cameron's "hot" magazine cover.

And it was this craving for a deep connection that left me both lonely and vulnerable to needy people who know well how to take, but never think to give.

It was only months before leaving the Vox message that led to a transformation in me that I was finally able to admit to myself that my inner circle was crammed with people to whom I gave much of myself, but never reciprocated. The telephone lines to my inner circle generally ran in one direction...unless they needed something from me. I cared deeply for each person in my inner circle, but didn't sense that same care or concern coming from them.

To be sure, I walked the deepest valley of pain in my life with only two special ladies who messaged me daily to see how I was doing.

Neither of them were in my inner circle.

And I had to ask myself why.

Why was my inner circle so filled with takers, and yet those who were ready and willing to give were held at arms' length with reserve?

Here I sat at a crossroads:

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