The Tribe that Built Me

Relationships can be risky. And yet life without them leaves us lonely - and less than our best. We need others to make us better versions of ourselves. Is it time for you to take the next step of risking relationship?


The Tribe that Built Me

By Heather Riggleman

We gather once a week. We circle up, each sharing the latest news about work, life, and kids. At one point, Cindy nicknamed our group The Tribe and it stuck. If you're part of a church you may know The Tribe by a different name, such as life group or small group. At first we were strangers but as we gathered weekly, our stories become threads that weave into each other's lives. These strangers are now my people. My truth tellers, my warriors, my problem solvers and middle of the night callers. This is my built-in family.

This is the tribe that built me.

When I first met this group of women, I was a cynic. Past relationships with women were filled with battle scars but my life had become dry and barren. As a working mom I would have days that would go on for a lifetime.

I never made it out the door with matched socks and the kids were always late. It didn't help my case when my kids would tell their teachers they were late because of my "drinking problem." My problem is that I don't function before at least three cups of coffee in the mornings. Try explaining that to your children's teachers while wearing visibly mismatched socks. I tell them, it's still a thing.

So when I was invited to join this group of women, I imagined tortuous moments of stale tiny sandwiches and dissecting the book of Judges which would likely put me to sleep.

But what I found was a group of women all new to each other. The conversations became battering ram revelations that began to take down the fortress around my life. We talked about love and hope, parenting and marriage, redemption and miracles.

The expectations I had about friendships began to change as I came face to face with the real kind. It turns out behind the idea of real community are real life women willing to link arms and do life together if you let them. But that's the thing, the secret to having a friend is being a friend. The secret to being accepted is acceptance and the secret to getting past someone's defenses is taking down your own.

This, for me, has been the challenge: to boldly welcome others into the mess that is me. The chance to find real community is to be the real me.

Why don't we believe that? We insist to our kids they can be loved by being their beautiful selves; but then why do we tell our grownup selves to be liked and loved? We have to be the most interesting, the most successful, or the most beautiful? Maybe the surest way to build friendships is to take a deep breath and plunge into the mess.

These days, my tribe and I do life together, we pick each other up when life throws curve balls like the sex talk in fourth grade, when a spouse announces divorce, or when we lament at $500 bill because we hit the trash can backing out of the drive way or we've been so busy doing and being and living that we have no clue what it's like to be our real selves, so we rally for a girls night out.

But that's a risk right? It's to risk sharing life, being real. It's vulnerability. It's brave.

Heather Riggleman is a columnist, blogger and author. She confesses to being a coffee addict and currently has no recovery plan. You can find her at her blog Chasing Perfect at

© Elisa Morgan 2020

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