Letting friendships develop, even when it doesn’t feel easy
We all sat around my living room, sharing vulnerably as we had been all summer, an unlikely group of friends, seemingly thrown together by divine hands-- because how else would we have all ended up together?
As the conversation turned to friendship, I began to see a trend, a sort-of truth emerging. It seemed like the older we got, the harder it was to find kindred spirits-- those friendships that came naturally and easily like when we were younger.
There are a lot of theories and research as to why that is. A couple of years ago, a New York Times article broke it down like this:
"As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added."
But the more the ladies in my home chatted about it, another more profound truth emerged. Some of the deeper friendships we have now as adults started out with people who were seemingly unlikely to be our friends. These friendships emerged and over time, grew roots and became true kindred spirit relationships.
And those three factors that Adams mentioned were definitely critical in the development of these adult relationships; in most of my own newer friendships, they are with people who I see frequently (despite all the challenges of busy schedules), live somewhat near, and with whom I've been able to be vulnerable.
This particular group of ladies I have, the women from my community group (a small group set up through my church), demonstrates great examples of these kind of friendships. If I were to describe an imaginary kindred spirit, she would probably look a lot like me-- similar life stage (or further ahead than me), shared interests or experiences, and that is probably how most of my friendships formed when I was younger.
But my newer friendships have surprised me. These women, who are different from me in a variety of ways, have become true heart-friends.
Here are a few ways I've seen these relationships develop into unlikely friendships, because as Anne Shirley said, “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
- Spending time together-- Preferably more than once a week, whether that's scheduled/regular, planned, or spontaneous.
- Staying in frequent contact-- texting and social media are great for this (and fun, too).
- Serving & blessing one another-- "Seeing the need before it is spoken," as one of my friends so eloquently said recently.
- Taking time to research/get to know her interests-- I recently learned that one of my husband's friends has been known to look up baseball stats in order to connect more with David; I just love this.
- Teaching her about something I like-- Chatting about blogging over coffee with an interested friend has been a fun way to grow a few friendships. Lending and borrowing favorite movies (or better yet, watching together) is another fun one.
- Finding commonalities-- there's gotta be something, whether it's something small like a shared love of ice cream, or something foundational like a shared faith-- nothing unites my little group more than our love of Christ.
- Figuring out the purpose-- I truly believe that every person is brought into our lives for a reason; seeking out what that providential reason might be will go a long way in how we grow in relationship with him or her.
- Breaking bread together at home-- Hospitality and enjoying a meal together go a long way, providing a less-intimidating environment where that letting-down-the-guard can begin in that relationship. This can happen anywhere really, but opening the home is also a great way for the new friend to really see who I am.
One of the most beautiful things about these unlikely friends is that they are able to offer me a different perspective and speak into my life in ways that someone more similar to me in life stage or preferences might be able to. They've opened my eyes to new things, too, and helped me grow in various areas. These friends who I might not have chosen or sought out have become real blessings in my life.
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