Consider the most meaningful and fulfilling moments in your life. Do they have friendships running through them?
Through my life, every meaningful moment has been either a direct or indirect result of friendship.
I’ve told you that before, but I’d like to share why. This is a general list – I haven’t included specific examples of how each played out in my life. I hope this just gives you a glimpse into why I’m enthusiastic about making friends and developing deep connections with those around me… and why I encourage you to do the same.
1. Hanging out together
Studies show that hanging out with friends may reduce the risk of loneliness.
Sure, many prefer solitude over socializing, but no one prefers loneliness. You want to know and feel that others care about you. Friends care, but it all starts with hanging out, just being there.
How are you hanging out?
2. Learning to communicate
The more I hang out with friends, the easier it is for me to open up. In general, that’s probably true for you too. When you and I stop hanging out with others, we tend to retreat into our shells even more. We begin to forget the benefits of open communication and focus only on the fear.
Staying in near-constant contact, though, keeps us in practice.
How are you communicating?
3. Sharing ideas
Once the communication starts flowing, you end up trading ideas. Your friends can often tell you how reasonable your ideas are, or what you might need to do to rework them. That feedback then can help direct how you act on those ideas and how you set your goals. And your feedback can do the same for your friend.
How are you sharing ideas?
4. Building accountability
Ideas are worthless if you never act on them. One of the best ways to get that action going is to create goals around them and share those goals with your friends. Friends force you to actually work toward your goals.
That accountability only works, though, if you and your friend are willing to share with one another and call each other out when one’s going the wrong way. Otherwise, accountability is a charade.
How are you staying accountable?
5. Sharing stuff
Back when neighbors were neighbors, we used to share things… liberally. No one had a problem lending out a wheelbarrow. And perhaps more interestingly, no one had a problem asking to borrow that wheelbarrow either. Now, we know our neighbors enough to not trust them but not enough to trust them regardless.
When you and I build accountability back into our relationships, the opportunity to lend and give freely opens up, not because we have leverage to “get back” at our friends if they trash our stuff but because we care enough about them to share no matter what.
How are you sharing stuff?
6. Sharing friends
Some friends are wonderful just because of the other friends you make through them. Know what I mean?
On Facebook, I’ve set up lists to group my friends to keep up with them better. Most of the lists revolve around a location or organization, like church or college, but a couple of those groups center almost completely around a particular friend. After meeting that one person, I was exposed to all the others who eventually became my friends.
Not everyone can be that person, but most have at least a couple friends to share. Numbers aren’t as important as the deepness of the connections. I certainly love sharing friends (both on the giving and receiving end) better than sharing other stuff.
How are you sharing friends?
7. Learning new skills
As your connections grow, your friends will begin to teach you skills you never would have pursued or, in some cases, never even known about. One example that comes to mind for me is yo-yoing. A friend got into yo-yoing, so I followed along. The skills can be much more profound than yo-yoing, though.
How are you learning and teaching new skills?
8. Inspiring one another
Skills are tactics. They’re detailed, but usually fairly low-level actions. Inspiration is strategy. It changes how you live, not just how you act. Inspiration is where you go from learning yo-yo tricks to overhauling your career course to pursue professional entertainment.
Inspiration is hard to pinpoint, which is why we’re usually inspired by the lives of people we admire rather than their teachings. As friends influence one another through their specific ideas and skills, inspiration starts to form. We see the combination of all the details in a friend’s life and decide we want to imitate part of it. That’s when our overall, life strategies change.
How are being inspired… how are you inspiring?
9. Discipling one another
Inspiration only goes so far. From there we have to return to tactics, but this time we apply the tactics through a completely different lens. Once friends align at least some of their overall beliefs, they can feed off each other, teaching one another the details of life through a particular lens.
Christianity is a perfect example. When friends decide to submit to Christ’s leadership, they can share advice back and forth along their walk. I believe this is the most effective form of discipleship… the form Jesus commissioned.
How are you discipling?
10. Encouraging one another
For most of us, encouragement is what we need now. You and I don’t need new information – we need the courage to follow-through with what we already know. We need the courage to get back up after we fall down.
Friends give us that encouragement. Beyond simple companionship or instruction or inspiration, we need friends we relate to, care about, and as a result give us a reason to continue forward.
“Friendship is born in that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’ ” -C. S. Lewis
How are you encouraging?
(1) Go make a friend (in 10 days).
(2) Share some of the benefits of your friendships. Why do you make friends, or why do you keep developing them? Any personal examples?