When I moved to Lancaster a year ago, I didn’t know a soul. I only knew my uncle, his cat, and the people I had briefly met while interviewing at the job I was taking. I had big dreams to move out of my incredibly small town, find some new forever friends, and take the Lancaster social scene by storm.
But, what most people don’t realize until they actually move, is that moving far from your home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You may see social media post, after social media post of people bragging about their new apartments or homes, going out to new hot spots and coffee shops, getting dressed for their first day of work, but I am here to reassure you that moving far from home is not all rainbows and butterflies. More the opposite.
For me, it looked more like tear-filled nights missing my mom, my aging dog, and the bed I had always known. It was the great frustration of having to program the grocery store into my GPS because I barely knew where anything was. It was going to church by myself for months on end and crying in the parking lot because I desperately wanted friends to sit with or at least a boyfriend. Yes, it was so fun and exciting to finally get out of the small town I had always felt trapped in, but it also came with a price.
Like I stated in last month’s article, making friends in college and even in high school isn’t too difficult. We are thrown together with people who are our age, normally think similarly to us, and who are going through the same experiences we are.
Making friends after college is much different. Many of us start jobs where our colleagues may be our parent’s age or older. Our Sundays start by attending churches that are filled with faces that look unfamiliar. Many of us may be terrified at the thought of going to a young adults group by ourselves or asking strangers we met one time on “get to know you better,” coffee dates.
I think that the problem that many of us find when trying to make friends after college isn’t so much the fear of rejection or lack of people in our areas, but it’s the fact that we might not actually be as good of friends as we thought we were. Instead of moaning to our college friends or moms about how we’re not finding anyone we are “clicking” with, maybe we should spend more time figuring out if we’re even someone we’d want to be friends with.
Just like it’s not too hard to make friends in college, it’s not too hard to maintain those friendships either. Most of the time we are living within walking distance or halls from each other. Our social calendars are dictated by sorority or college events where we are entertained together. We have three meals a day to get to know others better, and we have class projects and study spots that encourage interaction. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone influencing our social calendars in the real world besides ourselves.
If we don’t put ourselves out there, we are going to be spending our Saturday nights with takeout and Netflix, not with a community. And though it’s all too easy to think about what we want in friendships, I think that sometimes we need to take a better look at how we are as friends. So, in today’s article, I want to talk a little bit about what to look for in a friend, but mostly how we should be friends to others. It’s been said that we attract people like us in friendships or even romantic relationships. Which means that if you’re a terrible friend, you won’t be finding any great friends anytime soon. So here are some steps you can take to assess how you are as a friend and to see how you can go about finding that community you may be missing from your college days.
Talk About Yourself Less
This is definitely a tough one for me because I love to talk and sadly talk about myself. But, after high school, I was super convicted that I was gossiping and talking about myself much more than regular people. So, if you are someone who wants to be a better friend, take stock of how much you talk about yourself. When you meet someone for the first time, try to challenge yourself to ask more questions than you answer. Some great questions to start with are:
- What do you do?/ Are you in school?
- How long have you lived in the area?
- What did you study in college/ where did you attend?
- Do you have any siblings?
- What church do you attend?
These are just basic questions that will hopefully open up a conversation for you to go deeper. The goal of any friendship is to get past these surface level conversations. But when you are making friends for the first time, be comfortable with the fact that you will have these seemingly more shallow conversations at first. After a while, and more questions on your part, you will go deeper.
Be The Invitation
Unfortunately, in the real world, people aren’t going to be lining up at work, or your church to invite you into their friend group. Most people are just like us and are afraid to make the first move in a friendship. So, instead of waiting and constantly grumbling that no one invites you anywhere, be the invitation. Make it a goal to invite a new friend or someone you want to get to know better to coffee once a month or week.
It can be really intimidating to ask someone to hang out for the first time, you may be afraid that you’ll get rejected. I know that I got rejected by a couple of people I asked to get to know better, but I didn’t let that keep me down. You can’t be friends with everyone, and if people are offended or put off by you wanting to get to know them better, they probably aren’t the people for you either.
And if you meet someone that you click with, ask them for their phone number and follow up. God gives us friends in the most unexpected places. It could be through other friends’ parties, at a cafe, in a young adults group, even in your yoga class. Be open and look for opportunities to meet new people everywhere you go.
It pains me to admit that I had a certain idea of the type of friend I wanted after college. I thought they needed to look like me, like my college friends, and act like them. But the beautiful thing about friendship is that it exposes us to the differences in others and challenges our beliefs. Yes, you should find similarities in people you want to be friends with. It will be too difficult to be friends with people you have absolutely nothing in common with. However, don’t write someone off because they seem a little “too out there” or don’t look like the rest of your sorority sisters.
You should be friends with people of all looks, personalities, shapes, and sizes. I know that I was superficial of this when I first started looking for friends, but I quickly threw it out the window. Be friends with someone based on how they are, not on how they look or what they can offer you. And give people more than one chance. Some of my best friends from college were people I thought were snobby when I first met them( they were just quiet). Just because someone rubs you the wrong way at first doesn’t mean they won’t be one of your good friends in a couple of months.
Pray that you will make great friends and that you will also become a better friend in the process. God is faithful, and I have seen in my own life how He has provided me with the people I’ve needed. Also, pray for the new friends you are making. This will help you to become closer to them as well. I know I have been slacking on this lately, but after the end of phone conversations or Skype sessions with far away friends, I always try to ask them how I can be praying for them.
Do the same with your new friends you are meeting. It can be intimidating, but it will make your friendship so much stronger to know that someone is praying for you and invite deeper conversations about what may be really going on in their lives. Praying brings us closer together, so don’t underestimate the power of asking someone what they need prayer for.
Realize Quickly Everyone Can’t Be Your Best Friend
This is a lesson I constantly have to keep learning the hard way. I am someone who likes to have a wide circle of friends. But, as I entered the working world and all that entails, I realized I have much more limited time than I did in college. I don’t have three meals a day which I can fill up with the different people I want to get to know better. I now have the weekends and weeknights to invest. And, if I’m not careful, I can burn myself out.
Part of growing up is realizing that it isn’t selfish to be more inclusive with who your close friends are or who you want to invest in. Honestly, it can be pretty selfless. You see, when I try to be close and best friends with everyone, it takes away from the ways I am able to invest and care for the friends I value the most.
I may push back conversations and hang out times with the people who are truly pouring into me as much as I am to them to give attention to someone who doesn’t matter as much. God expects us to love everyone, but He doesn’t expect everyone to become our bosom friend. So, I would encourage you to take stock of your friendships during this time of transition or when you start making friendships in your area. Who are the people you are content just running into from time to time at church, and who are the people you want to make an effort to see?
Likewise, when looking at faraway friends, who are the people who are continuing to reach out and put effort into me? Who are the friendships I really want to preserve? Who do I find myself praying for? By realizing that you can’t be best friends with every fun and nice person you meet at a young adults group, you will save a lot of time and energy to invest in the people who are or will become your people.
Here are some easy steps you can take this week or month to start growing in your friendships and forming a community wherever you located.
- Join a small group
- Ask a friend out for coffee, for hiking, even to an exercise class
- Ask a good friend from college to Skype or talk on the phone
- Pray for courage to make better friends and to become a better friend
- Ask a co-worker to go to a happy hour after work one day this week
- Sit next to someone your age at church or a young adult group and introduce yourself
- When you are waiting in line, strike up a conversation with whoever is in front of you.
- Go to public places to hang out even if you just want to cuddle your comforter and stay in
- Accept invitations even if you are tired and would rather stay in.
- Ask your friends honestly about your good friend qualities and also areas they think you could improve
As you can see, there a lot of elements to being a great friend. Friendships means sometimes we are going to succeed, and sometimes we are going to fail. Luckily, there are plenty of people in the world right now that we can be doing life with. God brings people into our jobs, churches, small groups, and vicinities for a specific purpose. Some come for seasons and some last for a lifetime. Focus this time on being a better friend, and I can guarantee that it won’t be long before you are surrounded by a healthy community.