Transitions are hard. From deployment to moves to starting a new normal after COVID-19 quarantines, you can expect challenges to come at you left and right. Sometimes it feels like us versus the world. Sometimes that is true. But there is a way to push through, fight back, and end up on the other side better, stronger, and happier.
I watched a great movie with my best friend and husband recently, TAG which reminded me of the value of friendships in all circumstances. It got me thinking about my great friends across the country and the years we have been there to laugh, cry, and dance in the rain together. It helped me realize the importance of friendship in transition (be that deployment, move, health diagnosis, or something else entirely). Here are three things I have learned about creating friendships that last a lifetime.
1. Strength in Community
In life, support makes or breaks you. Without it, you walk a tight rope with no safety net. With it, you walk a tight rope with a smile. A good support system includes people who are willing to walk with you in your best and worst moments; people who know when to check in because they know you; people who know when to let you figure it out because they know you.
Ever notice how the most influential leaders surrounded themselves with a quality support system? Abraham Lincoln had his wife and Joshua Fry Speed. Martin Luther King, Jr. had his wife and Ralph David Abernathy. Gandhi had Charles Freer Abernathy. Jesus had the twelve, but within the one, he had the inner circle of three. If they could not face the challenges of this world alone, why do we think we can?
In Ecc. 4:9-12, the wise King Solomon said, “two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”
As we walk through life, we must remember we do not do so alone. Every part of our life touches another’s. It is ok to ask for help. It is ok to let people in. It is ok to spend the afternoon enjoying a cup of tea with a friend. Do life together. For more ideas on community, check out my blog on thriving during transitions.
2. Build Strong Friendships
I won’t fool you – the building is hard. Letting someone in to see the real you is difficult. But it is SO important to a quality life. But there are so many people out there in it for themselves, how do you know where to start?
- Start by choosing the people you want in your community. This could be family or friends. Church, community organizations, and volunteer groups are a wonderful place to start.
- Serve. Serving is a terrific way to see people for who they are. Are they someone who genuinely cares about the cause? Or are they someone who wants the limelight? Is this someone you want to invest in or have invest in you?
- Spend time with people. My favorite way to spend time with people is by strolling a farmers’ market, playing games, or having a nice cup of tea/coffee/wine (depending on circumstance). It is in the conversation you get to know people. If you cannot do these things, write letters (I love getting mail that is not a bill) or Zoom/Skype someone. Just take the time. Just like plants and a good wine, time makes relationships sweet.
- Don’t tell everything about yourself at the very start. Take time getting to know each other. Be honest (but smart). Not everyone is going to be quality; not everyone is going to be in your life forever; not everyone is going to safe with your information. If you wouldn’t want it blasted virally on social media, keep it to yourself until trust and need-to-know have been established.
- Don’t think a no is a no forever. Sometimes people are just busy (or stressed). They want to hang out and invest but have no idea where to start in the chaos of their mind and life. Keep the door open for future invites and be sure to check in on them to see if you can serve them. Sometimes knowing someone is out there who cares is just as important as spending time over a cup of Joe.
3. Be the Person You Want to Be Friends With
I have lived everywhere from CA to MD in big cities and small (having moved 25+ times in 20 years). I can say without hesitation, people are guarded, wary, and skeptical. They have every right to be. Today’s world is infested with social media telling us what we should look like, act like, be like. Let’s face it: magazines are photo-shopped -NOT REAL. Let’s own it: we put on social media the best of our lives and hide the not-so-great. Let’s take accountability: We prefer looking down at a screen than straight across at the face of who we speak to because…here is the killer….it is easier. Then we complain we have no real friends.
Tough love, but true. If we want genuine friends, we must, as Jesus said, “love our neighbors as ourselves.” What that looks like is different for everyone (because we are all uniquely and wonderfully made). But the basic principle is the same: treat people with respect and you will have respect. Treat people with love (thinking of them above yourself), and you will be surrounded by love. The best part of this, when you treat people the way you want to be treated, it opens doors to new people, possibilities, and brings joy. So, why not?
Friendships enrich your life and improve your health. You can find so much strength in quality communities. Building strong communities can help in transitions from life change moves to life-changing diagnoses. They provide places to laugh, cry, and be real in. Being wise in developing community and friends can ensure you have lasting friendships for life.
For more on developing friendships and community, check out my Facebook page.