Tuesday was one of those days. Like, one of those “ugly cry” kind of days. My husband called me on his way home from work, and I fell apart. Maybe it’s pregnancy hormones (have I mentioned that I’m expecting baby #2? Well…I am, and I’m excited, but I’m also a hormonal mess some days…). I just felt so…alone. This is a blog about becoming authentically happy, healthy people. Is it okay for me to admit that yesterday I didn’t feel happy? Pull up a chair and a cinnamon spice latte and let’s chat.
Do you remember in my last entry when I said that we were going to talk more about intentionally investing in community with other people? It is a critical branch to the proverbial “tree of happiness” that we are aiming to become. Our security and the root of authentic happiness, joy, and contentment is rooted in the unchanging God that made us and loves us. But soon after God created man, He declared that it was not good for man to be alone (see Genesis chapter 2 for the whole scoop).
In college it was so easy to be in community with people. I lived in an all-girl dorm, and so more often than not there was some kind of social event happening, some group of people to be with, etc. My roommate, Rachel, and I got along really well and built a great friendship and still keep in touch. But I wasn’t prepared for post-college, adult, real-world friendships.
Maybe adults in my life at the time warned me, but I wasn’t prepared for friendship to become hard. Real life hit, and suddenly it became much more challenging to have time for friends. Work, family, chores, errands…sometimes it’s all I can do to brush my teeth, let alone have meaningful time with other grown ups! Can I get a witness? But it’s important. Hear me: in order to be truly healthy people, we need to be intentionally invested in developing relationships with other people.We all need a safety net when “life happens.” We need people to celebrate our greatest joys with us, and to surround us in our deepest hurts.
So back to Tuesday. I was a hot mess. But it was Tuesday, which meant that in the evening I would get to be surrounding by some of the most accepting, loving, compassionate, gracious, hilarious people that I know; Tuesday night is Life Group night. It was such a relief to be surrounded by people that I have grown to trust with the most hurt, most raw parts of my heart and to look them in the eyes and say, “Man, today was rough.” Without blinking, those people just loved me, prayed for me, and said, “We’re with you.”
We live in a world full of people, and most of them feel alone. I’ve personally felt so alone at times that it drove me to really dark places that I never want to go back to. Most of us fear being rejected, fear being abandoned, fear being manipulated, or abused, or worse. But in order to truly break free, we have to fight the battle of loneliness, and “go all in” for the rewards of living in community with other people.
What are some ways that busy, tired adults can move beyond superficial relationships, and move into meaningful, supportive, safe friendships? Feel free to comment and share your own experiences and suggestions for other readers, and let’s have a conversation! Here a few suggestions that have helped me tremendously over the last few years to cultivate authentic, trusting relationships:
1. Commit to being the type of friend that you want to have.
A few years ago, Tim McGraw released his ballad “Live Like You Were Dying.” In it, a dying man says that if he could do his life all over again, he would be the type of friend that a friend would like to have. Whatever you think of Tim McGraw’s music, the man has a great point! Are we sitting around expecting from other people what we aren’t willing to give of ourselves?
2. Make the time.
Like most things in adulthood, we will never have enough time; we have to make the time. Invite someone over for dinner (I’m a firm believer that food is one of the best ways to build relationships. Break the ice while breaking the bread!). Once a week use your lunch break to make a phone call. Creativity might be needed, but the sacrifice produces incredible dividends!
3. Be available.
We live very scheduled, hyper-structured lives. Coming up in this series we are going to discuss building margin into our days in order to allow for the unexpected (I’m really excited about that conversation, by the way). If you really want meaningful relationships, you have to be open to the reality that some of the most important events in people’s lives are unscripted, unscheduled, and unexpected. Plan to be inconvenienced, but it is worth it.
4. Learn to be a great listener.
We have all had those friends who tap on the table, anxiously waiting to tell us all about their most recent events, while we are sharing the joys and hurts of our own lives. It’s irritating, isn’t it? Let’s break that cycle and cultivate listening ears and hearts. Are we really interested in our friends enough to lay aside our personal agendas in order to hear them, support them, and let them know that they are not alone? Trust me. This is one attribute that you want in a friend, so for the love of friendships everywhere, be willing to develop this in yourself too.
5. The little things matter.
Simple, thoughtful gestures can be the difference between a Facebook friend, and a meaningful friend that really “does life” alongside of you. A quick text or email offering sincere encouragement, remembering a birthday or major milestone, really being happy for their successes, or taking a cup of coffee to their office on a rough day…those kinds of things add up!
What about you? What means the most to you in a friendship? How do you battle loneliness in your own life? Let’s talk!