Always Remember That Friendships Have "Levels" To Them

Not everyone deserves to have the same access to you. This friendship thing definitely has levels to it.

What About Your Friends?

If you live on this planet long enough, hopefully you'll come to realize (and then accept) that one of the hardest lessons life will teach you is what it means to have friends and what it means to be a true friend. I promise you that it wasn't until, shoot, probably my mid-30s when I came to the conclusion that, "Ohh…so this is what a real friendship is supposed to be like. Who knew?!" A part of the reason why I struggled so much was because the way we are introduced to things can set the tone for what we expect in the future and my first so-called friend? Lord, can you say "she-devil"? I ain't playin' either. She was all kinds of evil. But we were children and, a lot of times, parents will push kids together, just so they can be left alone to talk about grown folks stuff while they are hanging out with their own friends and whatnot. So, no matter how much she teased me, taunted me, was straight-up mean to me, I thought that was what friendship was supposed to be like. This meant that anyone who was even one-tenth nicer, I thought they were the best person ever. Hmph. One day, sooner than later, I'll write about why you should not just "allow friendships to happen"—why it is oh so important to be super intentional about actually selecting your friendships (in the meantime, see "Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'").

But today, what I want to get into, is something else that I've discovered about friendship. It's something that can help you to feel safe in your relationships. It's also something that will prevent you from being disillusioned, disappointed or flat-out mind blown as much as we can sometimes be in our friendships. You know, last summer, I penned a piece about how the Greek philosopher Aristotle once said that all of us should have three kinds of friends—utility (work), pleasure (fun) and good (basically friends who "grow us up") ones. I totally agree. Well, as someone who applies Scripture, quite a bit, to my life, because the Bible refers to our bodies as temples (I Corinthians 6:19) and also because, back in the Old Testament, the actual temples/tabernacles were broken up into three parts (which I'll break down in just a moment), I'm going to share why I also think it's important to consider that all friendships should not be treated equal.

Coming to the place of embracing that friendships have actual "levels" has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me—and my relationships with other people.

Outer Court: Good Acquaintances


Let me start all of this off by saying that if we first see ourselves as temples—as sacred beings—that can automatically alter our dynamics with folks. To be sacred is to be divine and divine things deserve to be treated with extreme reverence. Keeping that in mind, back in biblical times, the temples/tabernacles that people would go into were broken down into three different spaces: the outer court, the inner court and the most holy place.

As far as the outer court is concerned, one of the things that made it stand out are the many pillars that the temples/tabernacles had. Pillars provide strength and support to a building; to a certain extent, pillars also serve as barriers. If I were to parallel this to actual relationship with people, to me, this would be like having a close acquaintance. By definition, an acquaintance is someone who knows you (not because they say so but because you say so) but they aren't the closest to you. You and your acquaintances might have lunch together sometimes at work or meet up for drinks after because you enjoy each other's company or you have a few things in common. They might even be someone who you confide in when it comes to certain areas of your life, perhaps because you respect their level of expertise, you see them as a mentor or you don't want particular details of your life "hitting too close to home" via your family members and friends.

Acquaintances are cool because you enjoy them, you really do, but there still need to be certain boundaries and barriers up where they are concerned. It's not that they aren't good people; it's simply that before someone can even be considered a friend, other things have to transpire first.

Inner Court: Close Friends


When it came to the inner court, some biblical scholars say that the outer court was a designated space for praise while the inner court was a designated space for worship. As it relates to God, specifically, a good definition of worship is "to render religious reverence and homage, as to a deity". However, did you know that another definition of the word is "to feel an adoring reverence or regard for (any person or thing)"? While I don't recommend that anyone "worship" someone else (that can set you up to make them an idol in your life), I am a strong advocate for you being in relationships where you are highly regarded.

When someone regards you, they pay close attention to you. When someone regards you, they are concerned about you, your needs and your overall well-being. When someone regards you, they are careful with your feelings, they are truly interested in your world and they take special note of what they can do to make the quality of your life better.

Articles that I've written like "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'", "10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships", "10 Questions To Ask Your Close Friends Before The New Year Begins" and even "10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend" are all the result of the blood, sweat and tears that I went through in order to figure out who truly regarded me and who didn't. Not only that but who I truly regarded and who I didn't. This "level" of friendship is for the folks who are truly invested and committed in your life. No one deserves access to your inner court until they have shown—in word and in deed—that they can be trusted, that they are loyal and that they are interested in giving just as much as they want to receive. No one should see your inner court "just because". They definitely need to earn this type of access.

Most Holy: Best Friend/Spouse


While recently reading an article on the most holy space of biblical temples and tabernacles, I liked it when the author said, "To understand these places, it will help if we first understand the concept of 'holy.' At its most basic meaning, holy simply means 'set apart' or even 'different.' God is holy because He is absolutely different, completely set apart from everything else." Amen. Your most holy space is also "set apart" and "different"; it's highly-privileged information. It's kind of another message for another time, but that's why I'm not big on casual sex. Just because the dynamics of the situation may be different, that doesn't change the fact that a man has been able to literally enter into "the holiest of holies". Not just anyone should know you in that way. You're far too special, precious and yes, sacred for that.

As far as friendship goes, I liken the most holy place to a best friend or spouse. One day, I'll write about why I'm a huge fan of that being one in the same once you're married (the word "best" in best friend can give you a clue in the meantime).

For now, I'll just say that your best friend and/or your spouse should definitely have a different kind of access to you than anyone else does; they are the top tier level in your life.

You know, back in the Old Testament of the Bible, when a person entered into the most holy place of a place of worship without God's permission, the consequence was super extreme; it was death (Leviticus 16:2). That's how special that space was. So many times in my life, when a friend would hurt me, I'd be absolutely devastated. Looking back, it wasn't really because they were all that great as people or good to me. It was because I allowed them into my "most holy place"—my intimate secrets, my most fragile vulnerabilities, my most valuable of resources—when they absolutely and most definitely did not deserve it. How did I heal? What changed? I learned to stop giving outer court, inner court or folks who didn't deserve my temple space at all the permission to come into those spaces and places. It's as simple as that. At this stage and season in my life, I've got a couple of "most holy friends" and they don't even have the kind of accessibility that I am reserving for my future husband. Knowing that I control my "levels" and no one else is both empowering and healing at the same time.

It can't be said enough. Sis, you are a divine temple. You don't have to—nor should you—allow just anyone to be in your outer or inner court, let alone your most holy space. Each level requires a certain type of character, commitment and reciprocity from an individual. Don't let folks in who aren't worthy. You are far too sacred for that. Make sure that they level up first, OK? It'll totally change your life—and quality of friendships—if/when you do.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Is It Time To Initiate A 'Friend Divorce'?

How To Deal With You And Your Friends' Growth Spurts

Pettiness, Moodiness & Other "Friendship Irritants" To Work Through

The Word 'Platonic' Is Sacred. Literally.

Feature image by Artem Varnitsin/Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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