C. S. Lewis, in his book, The Four Loves, said friendship begins when one person says to another, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one!”
Problem is, for that to happen,
- We have to be around people—to allow space in our busy lives for real conversation and interaction with friends.
- We have to be around people—to stay in the moment, instead of letting 1001 other thoughts boss our brains around and distract us from the person we’re with.
How can we be a good friend, and invite friendship in return?
Schedule time with them.
I have a standing hangout time with one of my closest friends and our kids every few weeks, and a monthly dinner scheduled at a favorite local place with a larger group of our friends. It means making sacrifices, yes. I had to find another day to grocery shop for my family of 6 in order to get together with my friend and her kids. I choose to skip my Bible study once a month, in order to meet with the larger group of friends and keep up those relationships with women I’ve known for 10-15 years (a.k.a. who are SO WORTH IT!)
Yes, we can be ourselves, cry, share our struggles, and reveal exhaustion around friends. But we can also be a safe haven of laughter and play. One of my close friends reminds me of this often. Even in the thick of caring for her aging mother and young kids, she will start a conversation with something like: “What was the funniest thing that happened to you today?” It’s not an excuse to be false with each other or skirt the deep conversations, it’s simply an invitation to be silly and laugh as well as all that.
Learn their love language.
What puts a bigger smile on their face: kind words or an unexpected gift? A hug or offering to pick up the carpool an extra time this week? Sharing a moment over coffee or sending an email when she’s gone through a rough patch? Just as we can know and love our parents or spouse or kids in ways that best meet their need, we can love in ways that bless our friends in special ways. The more intentionally we love, the deeper the bond.
Love their weirdness.
I know I talk too much sometimes, get a little bossy, and have a competitive streak that puts some friends on edge. I’ve got friends who take responsibility for everything in a 5-mile radius and who can’t make up their minds for weeks (months!) on issues. We could drive each other batty! Or we could believe that if God made humans in His image—and that we’re fearfully and wonderfully made—there’s something of Him shining through our quirky friend. The former ends relationships. The latter makes them a treasure hunt, with each of us on the same team, looking for the gifts.
Yes, it’s work to have friends. It can seem, sometimes, like it’s not worth it when we’ve barely got enough energy for ourselves and our families. But it’s the kind of work that makes real the truth:
“Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one. They have a good return for their labor.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9, NLT
That’s music to this busy writer-coach-mama’s ears. And, I hope, for you today too.
What about you: which of the above is easiest for you? Which might be a good next step in your friendships?