The Art of Being a Friend

Everybody wants to have friends. In order to have friends though, of course it means that someone must be a friend. This is all very logical, but the being a friend side doesn’t seem to get talked about as much as the having a friend part. Being a friend takes hard work and intentionality, commitment and dedication, love and laughter. If it sounds like I’m confusing friendship with marriage, it’s because, particularly as a single person, I take friendship very seriously. Some friendships are only meant to be for a short season, but I truly believe that others can–and should–last years and years, and maybe even forever.

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Photo Credit: Flickr User penelope waits, Creative Commons

I’m not going to write a “How To Be a Good Friend” guide. First of all, I don’t think it’s that easy, and second, I have been (and I’m sure at times will continue to be) a really sucky friend. Maybe someday I’ll have it more figured out, but for now, I will simply offer these few observations about friendship.

  • There is no one right, perfect way to be a friend. People are wired differently, and therefore require different things from their friends. At the same time, different people are able to offer their friends different things. Some are good listeners, others are willing to give much-needed challenges, and others are good at bringing laughter when it’s needed. The way I’m a friend to Person A has to be different than the way I’m a friend to Person B, because they’re not the same.
  • Know when to lean in and when to lean back. This is something I’ve only recently been realizing, and I do not excel at it. The reality is that pretty much all of my friends have many wonderful people in their lives, and there will be phases where what they need most isn’t something I’m the best at offering. When that’s the case, I need to know it’s okay to lean back from that friendship for a while–not to walk away and abandon it completely, but to give space for others to give what I cannot. Being someone who feels deeply for other people and also has a natural inclination to want to fix things, leaning back feels very counterintuitive to me. Leaning in is important too, though. Even when life is messy and complicated and hard, my friends need to know I won’t shy away from that stuff even if it’s difficult to be in that space with them.
  • Shut up. This works in two ways: First, knowing how to stop talking and to instead listen well. There’s a difference between listening, merely letting a friend’s words hit my ears, and listening well, paying attention to what’s behind the words and to my friend themselves. Second, shutting up means knowing there are some stories that belong to my friends and are not mine to tell. Secrets obviously fall into this camp, but there is other information that, while maybe not a secret, isn’t mine to tell anyone else. Part of being a friend means being trustworthy without having to be asked to be so.

Friendship isn’t math or science. It can’t be reduced to stagnant formulas; it has to be allowed to breath, change, and take new shapes as time and circumstances dictate. So if we want to have good friends, we must also be willing to commit to being a good friend.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. How do you strive to be a good friend?

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How to Make Friends at Church (From the YALT Blog)

A few weeks ago, someone sent me a direct message on Twitter, asking if I wanted to become a contributor for the blog of the Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT), which is a ministry of the denomination I’ve grown up in and still consider myself, though perhaps somewhat loosely, a part of. I’d read posts there, and decided it seem a fine lot to join forces with–so here we are. This is the first of what will be monthly posts from me over there.

 

Making friends is pretty easy when we’re children. We find a few commonalities, such as liking to play in the sandbox or having the same favorite TV show, and away we go. As we get older, it becomes a bit more complex, but often we continue to have the common ground of the same school or at least the shared experience of being a student.

Things get trickier when we reach young adulthood. Some people may be working full time, while others are in grad school. Some may be married with children, living in a house they own, while others may be single and living with parents or roommates. And, in the Church, these differences often become even more pronounced. Some people walk in the door and head straight to the nursery or children’s worship rooms, while others head for the coffee cart or sanctuary. Most of us have probably had conversations where, once we get past our names, what we do, and maybe where we live, conversation seems to lag. With each change of life stage, from single to married and from married to married with kids, the gap seems to widen…and suddenly, greeting time before or after church becomes segmented and kind of awkward.

Keep reading…

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

How to Make Friends

It’s not a secret that I like people. More specifically, I like friends. I like having friends, I like being among friends, I like making friends. (Though I won’t go so far as to see there’s no such thing as having too many friends…more on that here.)

Yet now, as an official college graduate (my diploma finally arrived today-yay!), I find myself having to navigate a completely different way of making friends than I have known. Making friends in adult-land is currently a mysterious and baffling process.

As a small child, making friends is easy. You approach someone in the sandbox, and as long as they don’t steal your shovel or push you over, look at that-you made a friend. Over time, things get a bit more complicate. In elementary school different groups begin to emerge-the so-called “popular” kids and whatever other various groups that may crop up depending on the school. Middle school just gets ugly, and, particularly for girls, there are often long periods of time when you’re not really sure who’s your friend and who’s your frenemy and who’s your straight-up enemy. The drama may die down some in high school, or maybe just take different forms. Yet here there’s typically more selection for friends, so it becomes easier to group by interests than maybe just convenience.

Then there’s college. Friends made in college often become more like family, particularly if you live on-campus as I did for a little over half of my college career. Bonds become stronger when you live, study, eat, laugh, exercise, fight, and live mere feet from each other. It is not hard to rack up hundreds of hours of time spent together. These friendships often run very, very deep, and though they may not always be perfect, they are lovely things.

Now I find myself in a completely different phase of life. Though I strive to maintain many of the friendships I’ve had for years, there are other people I’d like to become friends with…but I really don’t know how that looks in this big-kid land I’ve stumbled into. With people who have full-time jobs and spouses and mortgages and children, where do I even begin to form a friendship?

Part of me is apprehensive, feeling too young and inexperienced to be able to relate to these people who seem to know how to do adulthood much better than I do. Most of me is baffled as to what friendships look like now. Clearly these are not the types of relationships that will be forged over late-night food runs and sitting in the same room Facebooking. Seeing as this is what I have known for the past 4 years, I find myself yet again in uncharted territory. I just didn’t expect it to be with friendship.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~