I was just having a conversation with a neighbor a few days ago about friendship and including people into our lives. I’ve thought a lot about this topic over the years because although I feel like I am a good friend, I’m not necessarily the one putting myself out there to seek out new friendships. I get nervous. I’m not ever sure what to say or how to do it. And I am very comfortable with having a few close friends and many, many acquaintances.
Jason, on the other hand, can make friends with a person while they wait on a street corner for the light to turn green. It is his gift and talent. He has and makes friends everywhere. Thomas Hughes wrote:
Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts. It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.
In the last 16 years (almost 17 – I can’t believe it!) of our marriage, I have often used Jason somewhat as a crutch when it comes to this friend-making ability. When we go to a new place, he is in charge of making the friends and forging a path in the “building relationships” area. With him paving the way in this partnership of sorts, I then have more courage to follow along, using his strength to help me be more brave.
However, as we have recently moved to a new town, I have decided that I want to become better at doing this myself. I believe that people can change. It’s true that we come pre-wired, so to speak, with certain attributes and characteristics that make up the essence of who we are. On the other hand, I also believe that we each have the ability to adapt or change, improve or get rid of certain qualities that we don’t like while adding characteristics to ourselves that we want to have more of. With desire and hard work, we literally have the chance to become the best version of our own selves that we can be – no matter what our past has doled out for us or what our natural tendencies are.
So, with that in mind, I have worked on developing this quality of making friends in my life over the course of many years. I want to be more like Jason. I want to be more comfortable and open and able to create more meaningful relationships with those around me. Throughout this personal quest for the ability to make friends more easily, I have learned something. Having acquaintances is easy for me. I have a lot of those. I have business acquaintances, church acquaintances, neighborhood acquaintances, and so on. I try to be kind to all those I meet – whether they are the person at the checkout stand or someone I pass while taking Cole for a walk. That’s not the issue.
The trick for me that I have been working on is in developing those deeper, lasting relationships that mean more than just a wave or a hello in passing. And the hard part about that is one simple thing – it takes a lot of time to build a strong friendship. It takes effort. It takes moment after moment after moment, all piled on top of each other to create something more substantial than a friendly smile to an unknown stranger.
But I’m working on it. I am mustering up my inner courage and I am getting better at it. I am taking the initiative more to be “that friend” to others. I am stepping out of my comfort zone on purpose – with the understanding that if I truly want to become better at making new friends, I have to be willing to put in the time and effort to develop something with more meaning. How do you do it? Think about the best friendships you have – and they can include family because sometimes those are the hardest ones to maintain. What do you do to develop and cultivate meaningful friendships?
With those thoughts in mind, here’s today’s download. You can use it to make a card for a friend or maybe you are a little like me and you want to become better at creating strong friendships in your life. If so, perhaps you’ll want to print it out and frame it as a reminder of this inner characteristic you are trying to develop or strengthen.
The best friendships are built piece by piece, conversation by conversation, kindness by kindness, memory by memory. A million little things that each take a little time – but as that time passes, we emerge with more of our best selves invested in someone else’s life and deeper, stronger, more meaningful friendships.