I was talking with a friend the other day about how hard it is to make friends as an adult. In college, making friends seemed to come easy. Friendships get more tricky when you start dating someone. It can be complicated to merge two totally different friend groups. Then you get married. Is it just me, or is it hard to find a couple where the wives and the husbands both get along? Then you have kids. For the first few years of having kids, you don’t even have time to have friends. And by the time you emerge from the fog that comes with a lack of sleep, your life starts to rotate around your kids’ activities. The older you get, the harder it seems to make new friends – let alone maintain the friendships you already have.
And then there is a pandemic.
We were already struggling to maintain the few precious friendships we have and then we were told to keep our distance from others.
Friendships can feel impossible, especially right now. But the truth is, we can’t do life without them. In fact, God created us, and even commanded us, to experience life alongside others.
In John 15:12-13 Jesus tells us “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”
Romans 12:10 says “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Ecclesiastes 4:10 warns us of what happens when we don’t cultivate friendships “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
So what do we do? How do we make new friends?
Before we dive into the practical pieces, I want to share a few things I have learned over the years about friendship.
Everyone needs them, even if they don’t think they do.
Some of us want people around us all the time. We thrive when we have lots of friends. Some of us feel overwhelmed by big crowds and prefer just a couple close friends. Regardless if we desire 100 friends or 2, we all need them. We are not designed to do life alone. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” We will not become who God created us to be without friendships.
Everyone wants genuine friendships, yet few seek them.
I am an initiator, I am a pursuer. When I feel alone, I don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend. Because of that, there are times when I have wondered “What if I stopped pursuing people… would I have any friends at all?” It would be easy for me to throw a pity party for myself and wallow in loneliness, but what I have learned over the years is that a personality trait that can feel like a burden to me can be a gift to others. People are glad when I reach out. Most people I talk to desire deep friendships, but feel stuck and don’t know where to start. If that’s you – keep reading, you are not alone!
Real friendships take time and effort.
I am generally in a hurry. I don’t always take time to enjoy the process, I want to get to my destination as quickly as possible. My relationships are not immune to my urgency. I want to have deep friendships and I want them now! But as with most things in life, things don’t work like that, friendships don’t happen overnight. Depth and intimacy develop over time.
Friendships will change as seasons change.
A lot of us will have a few friendships that will stand the test of time, but a lot of our friends will come and go. I used to feel bad when my friendships would change. But I have learned that just because a friendship changes, it doesn’t make that friendship less meaningful or less special. I deeply believe that God brings people into our life for specific seasons and for specific reasons.
Keep those truths in mind as we dig into the question:
“How do I make new friends?”
You have to set the tone.
Being vulnerable can be really hard. It is hard to be truly honest with people. But here’s the rub – if you want real, intimate friendships you will have to be the one to set the tone. You can’t expect others to be vulnerable if you aren’t willing to be vulnerable yourself. You will have to be the first one to give a truly honest response when asked “How are you doing?” I’m not saying that the first time you talk to someone you divulge all of your deepest secrets. I promise that that will backfire on you – people will run the other way. You start with simple, yet honest answers. Instead of automatically saying “good” when someone asks how you are doing, give a more thorough, honest answer. Here is an example “I’m pretty good. I’m a bit tired. I have a lot on my mind. Thanks for asking.” Someone may respond with follow up questions -that is great! Answer them as honestly as possible and a connection will be made.
You have to initiate.
I mentioned earlier that I am a pursuer. I often feel like I am the one initiating friendships. I am a friendly, outgoing person, so people may assume that it is easy for me to reach out to people. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not. No matter how confident you are, it is hard to put yourself out there. But I promise you, it is worth the effort. I’m not saying that you should initiate friendships with anyone and everyone – be thoughtful about it. Remember that we become like the people we spend time with.
You can’t give up quickly.
We went to a church for a long time that emphasized small groups and the importance of close friendships. Our pastor was always reminding us that if we tried one small group and it wasn’t a good fit – keep on trying, your people are out there. That mentality has served me well with my relationships. There have been times when I have joined a small group and have struggled to connect. Or I reach out to someone to get coffee and the conversation is awkward. That is going to happen. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. It just means you haven’t found your people yet. Keep on trying, put yourself out there.
On the flip side, be careful to not judge people or groups too quickly. As I mentioned, friendships take time and effort. Decide that no matter how awkward you feel, you are going to attend the same small group every week for 3 months. If the first time you hang out with someone is a bust, commit to two more get-togethers – allow yourself to be surprised. If I look at the people I am closest with now, I would have never guessed, based on our intitial encounters, that they would be the closest people to me.
So where do I find my people?
You may be willing to be vulnerable, initiate and persevere in friendships, but the question remains – where do I find the people? This will be easier for some of us than others. Some of us have plenty of people around us, from work, church or recreational activities, that we would love to get to know better. But there are some of you that are racking your brain to think of anyone that you would even want to get to know. You may be asking yourself “Where do I find these people?”
Here are a few suggestions:
–Church. Honestly, even if you are not a religious person, you can find some pretty awesome people at church.
–Volunteer. There are so many different ways and places to volunteer. If you google “Where can I volunteer in (town inserted here)?” you will come up with pages of options.
–Work. Is there anyone at work that you feel connected with? Ask them to grab a drink after work, you will have plenty to talk about.
–Your kids’ friends’ parents. Who do your kids hang out with? How well do you know their parents?
–Your neighbors. I deeply believe we could change the world if we all just loved our neighbor as yourself. Not only that, neighbors are great walking partners while social distancing.
–Join a gym. Gyms can be much more than just a place to exercise, they can be a place to build community. I have met some of my best friends at various gyms I have belonged to.
–Join a club/recreation activity. There are so many options. The great thing about joining a club is that you meet people with the same interests as yours.
We are going to pause here. Let’s consider this Part 1 of a 2 part series.
Next time we are going to talk about how to maintain the friendships we already have (while remaining socially distant). We are also going to talk about how and when to let go of certain friendships in our lives.
Because there is more,