This month we are focusing on our health. There are so many factors that can affect our health both positively and negatively.
One factor I want to talk about in this episode is friendships.
Having friends can:
- Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
- Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
- Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
- Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
- Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
I have found some of these benefits to be true in my own life. So many times when I’ve had a stressful day, if I have a chance to visit with a friend or group of friends, my spirits are immediately lifted. Also, I’ve found wise counsel with friends that have helped me to make a better decision than I would have made on my own.
And when my father died last year, it was my friends who surrounded and supported me with love, a listening ear, and prayers. I’m an only child, so it was mostly just mom and me sitting at the hospital. So we were always eager to have friends stop by to sit with us while we waited to hear how my father was doing day after day for 11 days.
It was friends who were with us when my father had brain surgery during the middle of the night and when he ultimately passed away. Without my friends, I don’t think I would have managed to do as well as I did during that time.
The opposite is true as well, though. If we don’t have friends we can connect with on a consistent basis, then we can become lonely, discouraged, or even depressed.
I think it’s very important that we have friends who we can do life with, we can trust, and we can provide mutual support. That doesn’t mean we need a large number of friends. On the contrary, quality matters more than quantity.
I have heard it said that if you have one or two deep relationships with friends then you are very blessed. And I think that’s true.
One thing we have to guard against when we pursue and cultivate friendships is comparing the number of friends we have with the perceived number of friends others have. I say perceived because if you look at social media feeds you may see a woman who is always posting photos of herself and groups of women hanging out together. Chances are, all of those women are not her close friends. It can be discouraging, though, when we see photos like this, especially when we do not have a group of women to hang out with.
Pursuing and cultivating relationships takes a lot of work and time. Usually, friendships that run deep do not happen overnight. Although, you could meet someone you immediately click with and that starts a relationship that takes off. In my experience, though, that is rare.
Over my almost 49 years I’ve been blessed to have friends whom I’ve been able to share my struggles, travel, study the Bible, and just hang out with. However, I currently do not have a friend in my life that I see and talk to daily. Certainly not like I had back in my high school and college days.
I do have one friend group, though, that is meeting the needs for friendship, prayer, and support.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine and I discussed how we really didn’t have any friends we saw or communicated with consistently and we wanted to change that. So we invited 8 other women to join a small group in the hopes that we could form deeper friendships and just generally do life together.
We started out by doing a couple of mission projects together. Then we settled into a routine of eating dinner together the first Monday night of each month. And that’s basically where we’ve been for the last year and a half. Rarely can everyone be at dinner each time. However, I feel like God has put together the ones who needed to be there.
We have had some great conversations that probably wouldn’t have happened if all ten of us were there. Some months we have only had three or four that could attend. And those nights provided some of the deepest conversations that encouraged and lifted up everyone who attended.
The friend that started the group with me and I have learned how hard it is to develop deeper friendships. Just this last week at our dinner, I told the other ladies that I wanted us to find ways to go deeper in our friendships if that is something they wanted. However, by the time we wrapped up, it was decided that getting together once a month was all they really wanted to do.
Now, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to be supportive of each other or do other things together. Nor does it mean that we won’t be able to learn more about each other and become more supportive of each other. In fact, we did decide to be more intentional about posting on our Group Me page when we’re looking for someone to go to lunch, the movies, or any other activity with. I had mentioned I went to see the latest Star Wars movie by myself because no one in my family wanted to see it. Several of the women said they would have gone with me had they known I was going by myself.
What I think the women mean when they say once a month is good for them is that they are at a time in their lives where they are tired, dealing with their kids, some taking care of aging parents, and transitioning to different seasons of life. So getting out once a month is all they can commit to.
I get it. That’s why I love these ladies. We’re all dealing with the same things.
Maybe you’re wondering what to do if there seems to be no opportunity to develop and cultivate friendships. In my life, I have just naturally had opportunities to make friends. Whether it was through my children’s activities, school, church, or other social events I’ve been blessed to be able to make friends.
A resource I’ve come across that can help you develop and cultivate friendships is the Goal Guide for Fruitful Friendships that is produced by Cultivate What Matters. They do not make this particular goal guide any longer. But I just wanted you to know the source of what I’m about to share.
In this guide, they offer a list of 15 ways to meet potential new friends.
- Offer a new meal to a friend
- Use social media to your advantage! Ask for recommendations, and reach out to internet friends for get-togethers.
- Say the obvious: “I need a new friend. Can we get together?”
- Make your routine and then see who falls in your path
- Start a club
- Get outside where there are people. Do yard work, take a walk, or hang out on your porch.
- Get a hobby and meet people who share your interests.
- Ask to be a part of your existing friends’ other friend groups
- Notice things about people and then complement them
- Put yourself in situations where others might be new as well.
- Ask your mutual friends to set you up.
- Find your church family
- Ask someone for a recommendation, a recipe, or tips on the area you live in
- Bake cookies for a new neighbor
- Join a neighborhood committee or volunteer
I want to close with one more story. It involves the time of my life where it was scary and hard to make new friends.
We moved our kids out of public school to private school when they were entering the 3rd and 5th grades. We had so many friends and connections at our old school. When we moved to the new school, that also meant we were moving to a different home 30 minutes away from where we had been.
It was a difficult season because not only did my kids have to start over, but I did as well. I had to break in and find a new friend group at their school. It was not until my son joined the band in 6th grade that I finally found my friends. Now I have a couple I keep in regular contact with and several others that I see on occasion.
It was hard, but I’m glad I was able to make myself go to events and volunteer so I could meet these women.
So what about you? What does your friendship situation look like?