3 Ways to Make Friends a
by Jennifer F. Riales
I know, this series is all about the introverts that would rather hang out with their dog than invest in friendships, right? But friends, we know that our hearts need connection! My hope*writer friend Jennifer Riales writes all about friendships and people-pleasing. Yes, she also battles the urge to want to hide under the covers instead of engaging with humans, but she offers great insight on how we can take tentative steps toward relationship to receive the love and grace our hearts need. She shares some awesome insights you can’t miss. (Check out how to connect with her at the bottom of this post!)
It’s chilly November and I’m attending a writing conference in North Carolina at six-months pregnant. I walk into the lobby of the church where it’s held and feel overwhelmed by all the voices, all the bodies of people moving in a rhythm to a dance that I seem to have forgotten the choreography to.
I feel like a child again, walking into a new classroom on the first day of school, full of unfamiliar faces, and part of me wants to shrink against the wall, unseen. As I stand in the doorway searching the crowd for a face I recognize, a familiar feeling begins to surface within me; a feeling I know all too well: loneliness.
For some of us the quarantine was a time to name that nagging feeling at the back of our mind; the one we learned to live with and regard as a normal part of life. I’ve heard it said by others that our extended time in isolation brought to light the loneliness and self-consciousness many of us lived with pre-quarantine, hidden just beneath the surface.
The quarantine gave us the time and space to process and name our loneliness, to acknowledge its existence in our lives. Sometimes creeps so quietly beneath the surface, we aren’t even sure what the feeling is following us around every day.
Surrounded by people, to-do's, and activities, we moved through our days without noticing the aches in our soul that begged for our attention. But this is not the way God intended us to live, barely scraping by in our friendships and neglecting our heart's needs.
Our hearts long for connection, but our brains keep one another at arm’s length because we can’t spare the time for anyone else. Keeping people just close enough and giving them just enough information to feel as if we’re connecting on a deep level deceives us into believing we aren’t lonely, just busy.
But you see, you don’t need to be alone to feel lonely. Loneliness is not a state of being without people around us, it’s a state of mind.
Have you ever heard the expression all alone in a crowded room?
I don’t have to be physically alone to be lonely. Quite often we feel lonely when we’re surrounded by people because we don’t invest our time in developing deep, meaningful relationships with people. I want to be close to people, but it’s hard to know who I can trust and who I shouldn’t.
The nagging feeling of loneliness is a reminder, a signal to my brain that I’m treading into painful waters from my past. Can I trust the God who led me to this person to make sure I won’t get hurt again as I try to invest in deeper friendships?
On one hand, we know this is far from what the Bible promises us. We know in our minds we will face opposition, hardship, and persecution for our faith. But what about with the people we trust with our hearts, our secrets, our lives? Do we know for sure God will keep us from going through the same hurtful things again and again with new people?
The simple answer is no. We get no guarantees this life will be pain-free. In fact, we are assured the opposite. The more this topic sits in my soul, the more I’m reminded of what my friend Jesus faced when He walked the lonely road to the cross.
He was betrayed, told he wasn’t what the people expected or wanted in a savior, and Jesus was hurt by his friends. When I burn my hand by touching a hot skillet, I know what to expect moving forward. I know where the heat is coming from, but it doesn’t stop me from using the same skillet on the same stovetop to cook breakfast for my family.
It takes time and effort and energy to cultivate deep, meaningful friendships, something not everyone wants to do. But investing our time, effort, and energy into our friendships is worth it, regardless of the risk.
As we begin to transition back into a more normal looking daily life in the post-quarantine period, what will look different in our lives to be more intentional about cultivating these relationships?
Talk to your friends and plan to spend time with them. Choose a date on the calendar and meet at your favorite coffee shop, go for a run or walk outdoors, have lunch while you catch up. Give them more than just a few minutes of your time. Don’t pick a date when you know you’ll be rushed. Pick a day when you have the time to sit, talk, and simply be, without being distracted by what’s next in your day.
Effort can look different for different friendships. It might look like remembering someone’s birthday by buying them their favorite coffee, surprising them with a fun activity, or planning a surprise party. Sometimes the effort looks like confronting a friend and enduring through a difficult situation. Putting effort into your friendships isn’t all fun and games all the time, it is work, but much like the work of mothering a child, it gives more than it takes.
It takes a lot of energy to keep a friendship alive. Much like a houseplant, if I forget to water it every day the leaves will turn brittle and lifeless. A conscious expenditure of energy is required to keep our friendships alive and thriving. It’s easier than ever before to check in with a friend, to keep each other accountable, or to send a reminder that you’re thinking of them. Get one the voice memo apps and send a message with your actual voice. Give them a call and leave a voicemail. Just do something.
It’s scary to walk into the unknowns of friendship, unsure of what you’ll find, what will happen, or what might be the outcome. Today, more than ever before, we live with thousands of uncertainties day-to-day, but one thing we can know for sure is God created us for one another. He created us for community, for relationship, for friendship.
How can you invest in your friendships without fear today?
Thanks for reading this awesome guest post for our series: I'd Rather Stay Home with My Dog. Below are the places you can connect with more of Jennifer's work!
Jennifer lives nestled alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway in Roanoke, Virginia with her little family of 3. She loves to read, to make her son giggle, and to take walks with her dog. You can typically find her talking about being a recovering people-pleaser and finding her worth in Jesus at www.jenniferfriales.com.
or check out her fun Quiz about what kind of people-pleaser you are!