I have fasted a lot of things these last couple of months – fasted from flights, restaurants, freedom – the list is long. But one of the hardest things to fast has been our friends. I have seen how “friend-poor” we really are as we’ve been locked inside.
When you look at our country, you see that this was a universal syndrome even before the virus hit. The average American hasn’t made a new friend in the last five years.* It is appalling that most men have just one close friend.
Loneliness is on the rise and social media doesn’t help: Gen Z tests as the loneliest generation.** What is going on with our friendships?
As David Whyte says, “a diminishing circle of friends is the first terrible diagnostic of a life in deep trouble: of overwork, of too much emphasis on a professional identity, of forgetting who will be there when our armored personalities run into the inevitable natural disasters and vulnerabilities found in even the most average existence.”
Look at your own life. How many friends do you have who see you for who you are? How many do you really trust? How many friendships have been tested and endured?
I have been fortunate to have a number of good friends from multiple walks of life. One thing I do is work hard to not lose friends. I’ve got family friends and college buddies that I text daily. I’ve got ministry friends and work friends, church friends and neighborhood friends. I try to hang on to them all. As Prov. 18:24 says, “a true friend sticks by you like family.”
How to make friends
To get friends, you’ve got to first be a friend. Learn to make deposits. Here are 4 ways:
1. Be intentional – Seek those who could be a friend and pursue them. Ask them for time. Pray for them. Help them when they are struggling. Remember the things that are important to them and ask them about those things. Give thoughtful gifts.
2. Invest deeply – Spend the time that friendships require. Be interested in them. Ask personal questions. Listen. Give. Show up at times when your friend needs you. Encourage them. Be vulnerable about the issues you wrestle with. Ask people about the hard issues in their lives. Choose to go deep rather than engaging in superficial conversation.
3. Reciprocate – Who does the giving? It should be balanced. Evaluate if you’ve got friends who give more to you than you give them. Make notes about the things that are important to them and find ways to invest. I am not a relational person by nature, but I try to pay attention when a person is reaching out and wanting time with me.
4. Be honest – Life is too short to skim along the surface. Let people know how much you appreciate them. Or if they’ve hurt you, have the courage to share that as well – do the work to salvage the friendship. And if you’ve failed them, then apologize for it. If you make promises, then be sure to follow through.
At the end of my father’s last year of life, I made an effort to call his close friends so they could say goodbye. Most of those friends came from a long time ago when he was a younger man. Almost none of his friends were around to say goodbye toward the end. Watching him go was hard. Watching him go like that made it harder.
I don’t want to end like that. I’ve committed to being a good friend. How about you?
* This study
** This study