Kindred-spirit friendships like the kind Anne of Green Gables found with her neighbor, Diana Barry, don't happen through Facebook updates or witty tweets of 140 characters or less. My closest friend wouldn't be my closest friend if we had not weathered the storms of life together. When waves of depression threatened to overtake me, my friend was there treading water beside me. As she struggled through the grief of losing her infant son, I swam silently alongside. When our marriages and children have brought disappointment, we have waded through it together. The deep and murky waters of our friendship hold vulnerability, sorrows, and frustrations that we would never post online for the world to see.
But, in contrast to deep and meaningful real-life friendship, many of us are drowning in shallow waters. We are struggling in acquaintanceships that will never deepen into fulfilling friendships . . . until we take an authentic journey into the storm together.
Here are five tips for creating authentic friendships in your life:
- Evaluate your daily life decisions. For example, ask yourself: How many of my weeknights are free for spontaneous invitations? What can be cut or postponed from my schedule? How many hours a day do I spend watching TV, using the computer, DVD player, and cell phone? What technologies that I'm using could be replaced with human contact?
- Limit your media usage to certain times of the day to free up more face time. For instance, you might check e-mail twice a day, turn off your cell phone in the evenings, or limit "screen time" (TV and computers) to weekends only.
- Choose to go deeper with God—and invite others to join you on your journey. Buy a good study Bible with commentary, read classic books by authors like C. S. Lewis, or listen to sermons and audiobooks while you do chores. And consider starting a book club with other women or hosting a Bible study in your neighborhood. Take advantage of opportunities to learn and grow at church. Join a moms' group or a Wednesday night class. Your acquaintanceships there can blossom into deeper friendships over time.
- When you meet other women, strive to go beyond, "How are you?" Ask about their interests and backgrounds: "What do you do for fun?" "Where did you grow up" "Have you read any good books lately?" Then get their phone number and follow up with an invitation to meet for coffee.
- Purposefully reach out to people through tangible forms of human contact. It may take a bit more time and effort, but we will bless others when we rely less on impersonal, electronic communication. You might invite female neighbors over for a one-hour, weekly "coffee talk." If you have children, start a walking group and visit with other moms while you push strollers around the block. Do you have kids in school? Join a school support organization. Start a "Moms in Touch" prayer group and pray for your child's school. Set up play dates for your younger children and invite the moms to stick around for tea and cookies. Turn off the TV, call the pizza delivery guy, and enjoy a casual dinner with another family. Invite guests to bring an appetizer or dessert and host a game night. Trade babysitting with friends for date nights, haircuts, parent-teacher conferences, and doctors' appointments.
Jenni Roney is a writer and speaker, blogger, Bible study leader, and co-leader of the MOMS group at Bethlehem Baptist Church. She lives in Northfield, Minnesota, with her husband and three boys. Jenni learned about friendship when her family moved nine times in eleven years.