“Jesus’ love compels us to do the unthinkable, awkward parts of initiating friendship — ‘And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’ We don’t live for ourselves any longer…”
By Bailey T. Hurley, excerpted from the book Together Is a Beautiful Place
Wishful thinking won’t turn a friendship into what you hope or dream it will look like. When you’re making or maintaining friends, you need to know what you’re committing to so the obstacles don’t deter you from the big picture—sharing life together.
Maybe you’ve already experienced this: giving up when schedules become too challenging to coordinate, getting tired of listening to their latest breakup story, or dealing with frustration when their kids constantly interrupt your conversations. Obstacles are part of any relationship. What matters is what we do with them.
It’s like the trite saying, “You get what you put in.” When I’m coaching other women about the friend-making process, I often recommend they commit to a certain time frame for building the friendship before they can officially say, “This isn’t going anywhere.” Give it three to six months of consistently showing up and being present. Then you can’t use the excuse that a friendship “just didn’t work out.” If you give the friendship your best effort and it still doesn’t work out, then you know you at least gave the other person multiple opportunities to develop a lasting friendship.
Photo credit: Surface
When I talked myself out of girls’ night in the past, I wasn’t quite committed to my friend-making process—the fact that I actually have to put myself out there to know people and let them know me. I often get stuck prejudging a person or a situation. As I anxiously wonder whether a person will like me, I self-protect by telling myself, They just aren’t my people or They probably won’t be very inclusive. But this holds me back from real connection with potential friends.
Over time, I’ve learned that I should never judge a potential friend based solely on my first impression of them because I am oftentimes wrong about those initial greetings. Also, I wouldn’t want people to judge me as a new friend based off how outgoing or friendly I was feeling that day. Choosing to commit to a new friend gives people the benefit of the doubt for “off ” days and social nervousness. Agreeing to see a new friendship through the awkward beginning stages leaves things open for a real friendship to take shape.
We can’t be surprised when we find ourselves needing to make new friends at age twenty-one, thirty-five, fifty, or even seventy. As friendship expert Shasta Nelson notes, “We can do everything right to build up friendships and still find ourselves in a place where we have to do it again. Life shifts. Our needs shift. Our friendships shift.” We are always in the business of being a friend. And so, to participate in this lifelong pursuit of friendship, we need to engage with the process of making and being a friend.
Photo credit: Helena Lopes
When I began to make community in Denver, I knew a nice first conversation wasn’t enough to create a friendship. I snagged phone numbers, scheduled walks in the park, and set up picnic dinners. I tried to remember birthdays and made sure to send snail mail to potential friends as we got to know one another. I knew there had to be more to friendship than just hoping women would knock on my door, begging to be my bestie. I needed to make those first moves myself if I wanted to create a meaningful community. I learned to pursue new friends in the same way I would want to be pursued—which included helping watch their kids, knowing their favorite coffee drink, and remembering the big and little moments of their lives. Some may say, “Well, you are just naturally friendly or extroverted.” Sometimes I am. But it’s really Jesus who helps us in the do-it-yourself stages of friendship.
Jesus’ love compels us to do the unthinkable, awkward parts of initiating friendship—“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” We don’t live for ourselves any longer: We live for Jesus and have confidence in what Jesus has done for us and
-the woman sitting across the table,
-the one next to our cubicle,
-the giggling group of girls inside,
-the friend waiting for our text response.
Photo credit: Nicolas Lobos
Remembering that Jesus has compassion for every woman—because we are all looking to be loved and accepted and known—makes engaging in friend-making less about how we look and more about sharing the love of Jesus with others. We can lay down our insecurities around committing to and engaging in new friendships because our intentions are motivated by serving others versus serving ourselves. Still, I won’t downplay how uncomfortable it can be to follow up with a new friend, hoping she feels the same! Yet, when the relationship feels right, someone will be honored by your initiative to bring her into the folds of friendship just like Jesus did for us.
Engaging with new friends won’t always go the way you want. But remember: Your personal worth is not on the chopping block every time you reach out to another person. When you feel rejected, God may be protecting you from a friend who would have not valued you or your time. My friend Kelsey always says, “Rejection is God’s protection.” I carry that saying with me often in these tense friend-making moments. I can step out trusting God is orchestrating my steps and relationships.
Featured image photo credit: Amir Hosseini
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Together Is a Beautiful Place by Bailey T. Hurley
Are you lonely? Do you struggle to find the real friends you long for? Here is your invitation to build lasting friendship through meaningful and intentional practices that anyone can do.
The older we get, the less we find ourselves spending time in the company of good friends. Organic friendship becomes nearly impossible—after all, there are all sorts of obligations tugging at our attention. Or we find ourselves getting frustrated with shallow, draining conversations. Or, most painful of all, we feel like no one wants us—and who wants to be rejected?
If you have found yourself desperately wanting connection but confused about why you are not experiencing it, you are not alone. And you don’t have to stay there.
As Christian women, our faith calls us to support one another on the path of growing as a follower of Jesus—a call that will connect us, create a solid foundation for trust, and bind us together in Jesus’ love, no matter what struggles we face on the road of friendship. Together Is a Beautiful Place offers practical habits that are sustainable, deep, and valuable.