I know this seems like such a common-sense thing, but it’s actually not! As I’ve lived more life and jumped into new communities, I’ve experienced firsthand and heard from so many others how hard it can be to make new, real, DEEP, LONG-LASTING friends.
We all want those friends we can experience life with, laugh with, who will love us despite our quirks, who we trust enough to be there at our absolute lowest and will celebrate with us in our highs.
And I totally understand what it’s like to not always have that. Throughout my life, I’ve definitely had those weird, lonely, transitional seasons where I wasn’t sure who my “people” were.
Maybe you just moved to a new city, or you’re at a new school, job, church, or maybe you just let busy-ness get in the way of having a social life. Maybe deep down you’re afraid of getting hurt or disappointed, so you keep people at a distance. Whatever it may be, you’re NOT ALONE and we’ve ALL been (or will be) there at some point. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way forever!
I want to encourage you with 6 practical steps I’ve learned about making those real, authentic, long-lasting kind of friends:
1. You’re gonna have to get out of your comfort zone – Shut down your Netflix, get off the couch, and go to some social events. Think of the kind of people you want in your life, and then put yourself in environments where those people are likely to be. You want selfless friends in your life? Sign up for some community service projects. Love playing sports? Join a rec team! Personally, church has always been a primary source of community for me, and about two years ago I started attending a new one. I didn’t really know anyone and it felt weird and awkward at first, but I knew I didn’t want to stay feeling lonely like that. So I committed to going to every event I could (even when it was scary because I had to go by myself and didn’t know anyone). But I kept pushing through and kept putting myself out there.
2. Making friends takes initiative – I was shy when I was little, and my dad used to always tell me, “Angela, you can’t wait for other people to come up to you. If you want friends, go out and make them.” It’s simple, but so true! Is it nice when you’re at a party and someone comes up to you and makes you feel welcome? Yes. But is that actually the norm? Unfortunately, no. If you want new friends, go out and make them! Step out of your comfort zone, go up to people, introduce yourself, show yourself friendly. If you find someone you want to get to know a little better, exchange numbers and make plans to go out to coffee or something!
3. Vulnerability bonds us with others – I learned in one of my psychology classes, “People will admire your strengths, but CONNECT with your weaknesses.” Be REAL. Life’s too short for surface-level conversations. Sure, it’s nice getting to know the other person’s opinion of the weather today or what they did this weekend. But find out what’s REALLY on their mind. Ask about their life story. What are they passionate about? What are their dreams? What are their struggles? It’s those real convos from the HEART that build the foundation for deep connection.
4. God’s got you. – Simple and true! A few years ago when I knew I needed some more close friends, I simply asked God to connect me with who He knew I needed in my life and who needed me in theirs. I made a lot of wonderful friends in that time, and felt like I was going on a zillion coffee dates every week. As time went on, I just naturally found myself and a few girls hanging out more and more. One night I was out at dinner with two of them and they just straight-up asked me, “Do you want to be best friends?” We laugh now about their straight-forwardedness (is that a word?), but it truly was God answering my prayers super literally. He came through and blessed me with some of the best friends. Which brings me to my next point…
5. COMMIT to connection – Commit. Commit. Commit. Taking someone from acquaintance to friend to close-like-family takes INTENTIONALITY, LOYALTY, and TIME. Life can get busy, but when you’ve made a good friend worth keeping, make plans to hang out often! This is especially important when building a new friendship. Commit to opening your heart up. Commit to trusting (even if it’s scary). Commit to being there for them. Be there to encourage. Share what’s REALLY going on in your heart. Be the kind of friend you want to have.
6. Don’t run when things get messy – The closer you get to someone, the more of them you’re going to see. That includes their best and their worst. You’re going to see their flaws. You’re probably going to get hurt. But if they’ve deemed themselves a good friend, do NOT let things drift just because some things about them bother you. If anything, it’s kind of an honor to see the imperfect sides of people because that means you’re close enough to see their whole selves.
The key is to TALK. COMMUNICATE. Get in the habit of being honest! This was a hard one for me, because I’m the type of person that would rather brush things off for the sake of keeping peace. But I’m learning how important it is to tell your friend when they do something that rubs you the wrong way. And let them be honest with you too. Honesty builds trust, and being able to talk through things with each other even strengthens the relationship. So again, COMMIT to connection.
So if you’re in a spot where you’re not sure who your “people” are right now, don’t stress. This season WON’T last forever. Promise!
Honestly, you’ve got this! Don’t overthink all of this. Don’t put a ton of pressure on yourself to make best friends right away. It’s going to happen SO naturally when you put yourself in situations to meet good people. Remember to be the kind of friend you want to have.
You’re amazing! You have so much to offer. And you’re never ever alone!
God’s got you, and feel free to reach out to me if you ever need an extra little push of encouragement!
P.S. – These fun pics were taken by the amazing Justina Burns @ http://instagram.com/justinalanaephotos ! I needed some group shots and these gem-of-friends agreed to help! Some are pictured and some aren’t, but I want to give a thank you to ALL of my best friends (pictured or not!) for loving me so well. Thanks for all the fun adventures over the years, wisdom, and for being my heart’s home in many ways. Y’all make life more rich.