To my surprise, making friends is one of people’s deepest insecurities, fears and longings. We think it is an issue for little kids, but it’s not. To simply have a friend is one of the most affirming and life-giving things we can have. I have talked to hundreds of students, friends and acquaintances, many of them weeping, because they felt that they simply didn’t have a true friend. On top of that, they didn’t know how to get one.
If I’m honest, I have been in the same boat. I’ve spent many years longing for true friendship and feeling like it was unattainable for me.
In my journey, here’s what I’ve realised. Friendship happens through initiative. Someone took initiative. Jesus did it. Those who he called his friends were people he actually sought out. He loved the crowds but enjoyed friendship with the disciples. I remember a time in my life when I was so insecure, so afraid of being hurt by others that I simply didn’t have real friends.
I went through several years of blaming it on outside circumstances. I’m embarrassed to say, these are just a few of the lies that I used to hide myself from true friendship.
- There is no one around that I “click” with.
- People are so busy.
- No one understands me.
- No one seems interested in me, they have their own friend groups.
- I’m a leader (in a Christian org). No one will see me for me, they will just see me as a leader.
- I’m an introvert, I don’t need people.
- People can’t be trusted.
Lies, lies, lies. Some of them pathetic. Some of them truly sad. Some of them arrogant. It doesn’t matter if they were true or false, they kept me lonely and isolated.
It took years of some gentle and sometimes not so gentle correction from God. I have thankfully grown-up (a bit) and now have a multitude of true, sincere and loving friends.
Here is some of my process:
1. Admit I needed friends. I needed friends not because I was weak but because I was like God. God, in all eternity past and present, is in relationship in the trinity. God doesn’t do it on his own, neither should I. If I have no friends I will be lonely, that is a fact for me and everyone else.
2. Stop the excuses and lies. Here’s the truth: I don’t have friends because I have chosen not to have friends. I may have valid hurts that led me to this (and boy I do!), but I needed to admit this was a choice.
3. I opened myself up to hurt. You can not love deeply if you do not deeply risk the possibility to be hurt. If anyone tells you that healthy friendships will not hurt you, then they haven’t read the Bible. Even Jesus’s friends let him down. I will let others down, they will let me down. I could protect myself from hurt. But in the same action, I am preventing myself from loving and being loved. The only road to loving friendship is the road of vulnerability.
4. Repeat after me, “Anyone can be a possible friend”: I will not be friends with everyone (impossible and unhealthy) but I can possibly be friends with anyone. I stopped being a legalistic person and demanding people to meet a certain criteria for friendship. I don’t want it done to me and I shouldn’t do it to others. Some friends stick, some don’t, it’s ok. I now have friends from all stripes and colours of life. Some of my closest friends are NOTHING like me… what an unexpected blessing.
5. Take initiative, take initiative, take initiative. In the midst of doing all the above internal work I just stepped out and started taking initiative. It was scary! But I didn’t wait passively. I gathered friends. I invited people to coffee. I chose to be the first to open up. I did this over and over and over. Sometimes it was awkward and didn’t work. But I didn’t give up. I made a decision: even if no one invites me to their home, I will never stop inviting them in to mine. Here’s the gut-level honesty: It took a few years for people to reciprocate like I hoped. Years!! But I was a bull-dog and I didn’t stop (no matter how much I wanted to shut down). I now have loving, deep and life-giving friends… who also invite me over as much as I invite them! Phew!