We were made to live in community. We do need each other. There are many reasons for forming friendships. Friendships change and evolve when you are my age and have lived in several places. Since I graduated from high school 49 years ago, I have lost track of my friends from high school. Rather than being friends, they were primarily acquaintances. I was heavily involved in the youth group at my church, and sadly I have lost contact with most of those folks. Time, distance, work, family, and life circumstances separated us. I have never lived in my hometown since I graduated from college. I do keep in touch with several college friends. My association with the college has allowed me to cross paths with them more regularly. I stay in contact with folks from all of my pastorates. So what is the power and necessity of friendship? How do you keep in touch with friends and make new friends?
Here are a few of my thoughts:
- To have friends, you have to be a friend. Like many things, your quest for friends cannot be a one-way street. The best way to find friends is by being friendly and helpful. Offer assistance and do your best to be the kind of friend you would like to have. This seems to be the formula for developing relationships with others.
- Be interested in others. People will gladly talk to you if you take a genuine interest in them. Ask them questions about their life and family; the words will flow freely.
- The challenge is creating the right environment. Susanne and I have spent the last few months in two places we had not lived before. This is one of the challenges of moving when you enter retirement. You leave behind old friends and must form new connections. We have visited and settled on a church, which has helped us become acquainted with a few people. Walking our dog has created opportunities to speak with fellow dog walkers.
- Friendships are not limited to the groups and activities we participate in; it is a starting place. Friendships, at times, flow from affinity groups. I have met some people playing pickleball, walking our dog, attending church, and even attending an HOA meeting.
- Proactively be alert to points of contact with others. I have noticed that they present themselves if I stay aware of my surroundings and look for opportunities to speak to others.
- The difference between friendship and acquaintances. An acquaintance is someone you have met and know slightly but not well. There are various kinds of friendships: casual, essential friends that are a regular part of our life, collaborators, associates, mentors, and mentees, to name a few.
Proverbs 17:17 says:” A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” One of the reasons why we cherish friendship is that a good friend sticks with us through all the issues of life. Tough times seem to microwave developing friendships. I can think of a couple of friends who walked with me through a difficult trial and remain close to this day. Jesus is the most significant model for friendship: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-14)
Sometimes we feel that our trials are many and our friends are few. Remember, Jesus promised to be our friend.
Today let us determine to be a friend, not just friendly, but a real friend, one who comes alongside and offers assistance, a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to help hold steady. I must be that kind of friend if I need those kinds of friends.