Why was it so easy to make friends in college, and what makes it so hard now?
Back in the day at UCLA, all I had to do was take a walk down the dormitory hall and knock on a few doors to find buds to join me in my next adventure. There were kids in classes to befriend, people pursuing similar interests in sports and clubs, the Greek system, Campus Crusade and college kids in the cafeteria three times a day. On top of all the great people surrounding you, you also had the time and space for deep and authentic friendships.
But after graduation, that special space of friendship bliss disappears as you spread out and move for work and all these new responsibilities invade. If you are married or have children, your capacity to invest in new friendships shrinks even more as you care for and nurture your family. What was once an easy endeavor becomes darn right challenging as a grownup, even though we know on an innate level we need good friends and maybe (gasp) we should be trying a little bit harder. So how do you create deep friendships as an adult?
Creating Moments for Heart Connection
The hardest part about making and finding true friends as an adult is that now it takes real effort. No matter how awesome of a person you are, people don’t automatically reach out as much as you would like them to.
As an introvert, I know how hard it is to step out of your comfort zone and become an invitational person, but it’s necessary if you want your acquaintances to grow into deeper connections. You will need to lean into friendships and take risks if you don’t want to be lonely. Let the people you want to draw closer to know how much you admire and appreciate them, and then work up the courage to invite them to hang out.
A great way to make friends if you are new to an area is to join a Bible Study, a small group or a ministry you are excited about. These are the types of people who you will be able to share common interests and passions with. I joined a women’s Bible Study and a pastors’ wives small group a few years back when we moved, and now love these women more than I can explain. But it took me walking into an unfamiliar place, signing up for a study, parking my rear end down in a chair and getting honest and vulnerable with a group of unfamiliar faces to get to the deeper place of friendship I am now. Friendship takes an investment of time and energy.
Trust is a big deal for me in relationships because, as the pastor’s wife, I have to be careful about who I let my guard down with. Idle chatter and gossip for those in ministry can be very destructive. Because of that, I take confidentiality in a friendship very seriously.
One of the things I’ve learned is that vulnerability is key in all relationships, and it starts with me. Vulnerability is also a litmus test for trust. If I share my brokenness and real struggles upfront, I can then see how someone operates with my heart. What will they do with that information?
True friends are a vault for our secret dreams and failures. If I find out someone has gossiped or talked behind my back, I pull back a bit and file that friend away as an acquaintance and not an inner circle friend. Inner circle friends are special and far and few between. Inner circle friends will dry your tears and dust you off and put you back in the saddle when you fall down. These are the friends that will be there for you when you lose a parent or battle an illness. Fake friends will run when it gets hard. Try and discern which ones you want to do life with and invest in those people.
Having Each Other’s Backs
Friends make an effort to be there for one another. They ask questions about you and then ask some more. They are interested in you and let you know they care.
So if you see someone you want to grow closer to struggling with a life issue or an overwhelming circumstance, this is a great opportunity to step in and show you care. One of my closest friends was new to our neighborhood when she learned I had suffered a miscarriage. After I returned home from the hospital, a basket of goodies was left on my porch with a beautiful note from her explaining how she also had experienced infertility and she understood my pain. Her gesture meant so much to me and immediately bonded us as friends.
Going over and above to encourage and lift people up when they are down is a gift like no other. It will deepen your friendships if you are willing to step out, so get a little uncomfortable and take a risk.
“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” —Proverbs 18:24 (NIV)
In short, try to be the type of friend you would want to have. If you want to be included in activities, plan some activities and invite a new face. Take the time to call and follow up. Write encouraging notes just for the heck of it. Be thoughtful. And bring your real self to the table, leaving the image at the door. There is always that magic moment when you bond with a friend for life, so give yourself plenty of opportunities for God to do his best relational work.
You may also be interested in 3 Ways To Make Time For Friends When You Have A Packed Schedule