How to Successfully Make and Maintain Friendships as Adults
By Karen Whiting, Crosswalk.com
Dan had social media friends, but when his closest childhood friend moved nearby, that pulled him out of Covid depression. He also spent time visiting family, connecting with other friends, and continuing to be involved in church. He's happier, healthier, and more steadfast in his faith.
Value of Friends
Dan's outlook reflects the general results of studies that show friends are more important than we might think. Men have more trouble making and maintaining friends than women. Studies show many benefits of lasting friendships and why we should invest in friends.
The first step to making and keeping lifelong friends is valuing each individual. Get to know the person, invest time in the relationship, and show up. Barbara, one of my dear friends from childhood, says, "Once a friend, always a friend, across the time and miles." She lives that motto by always being willing to listen, sympathize, and rejoice with each of her friends. We don't live close by, but we stay connected with social media and calls. When I'm in her area, we meet up.
For each of your friends, think of your favorite quality of the person and how the individual adds joy to your life. As you get good news, who do you want to share it with because you know the person will rejoice with you? That's a mark of a good friend who blesses your life. You may have past friends you miss, but life interrupted, and yet, you can reach out and reignite the friendship.
People can get disconnected, but good friends will reconnect. During WW2, John and his buddies, who had spent years in a fife and drum Corp, were spread out around the globe. They reunited after the war. As they raised families, they had less time to spend together, but as the children hit their teen years, they came together and started playing and marching in parades together again. They played off and on for decades into their eighties and showed up for birthdays and funerals.
Social media makes it easier for people to reconnect and stay connected. As I moved around, I lost track of some friends as family life took a front seat, but online searches helped me reconnect, especially with a prayer partner Mary. When we found one another and talked by phone, we bridged the time gap quickly and were as close as ever. A few visits and many other calls and emails have kept us close.
Be understanding if the connection seems to die out, and be willing to jump back into the relationship when the timing is right. Send a card to say hello and follow up with a call or online greeting. Let things proceed from there and see if it works out. Otherwise, reach out to someone else. The timing needs to be right for both of you to make it happen. You can let the person know you're always open to catching up.
We need boundaries and mature perspectives to keep a friendship strong. Make sure you notice opportunities to develop a friendship. Some of the qualities that make friendships work include:
-Invest time in the relationship to nurture it. That means following the friend online, chatting on the phone, and getting together. Those actions show you care.
-Express appreciation for the friendship. A few words of thanks for being my friend can make a big difference.
-Let go when needed. You might need to give your friend space at times. We all have times we need to focus on work, family, or a problem and may need to withdraw a bit. That's the time to pray for your friend or send encouraging words.
-Talk from the heart with honesty with love. Gently letting a friend know they need to adjust an attitude or realize some actions are harmful takes courage. When such advice is for the best, it can also strengthen the relationship. Avoid being a critic or complainer, and give advice sparingly unless asked.
-Be accountable. Keep your word to meet up, pray, and be available.
-Live in peace. You may not always agree, but you can disagree without fighting. Accept the differences with love. Extend grace when needed.
-Be a positive force! Show affection, affirmation, acceptance, and approval. Encourage the friend when they are moving in a good direction. Overall, connect in spreading goodness through words and kind acts.
-Reattune when needed. When you have a falling out or mis-attunement, be ready to bridge the discord and find new harmony. Forgiveness goes a long way in smoothing out problems. Don't replay words that hurt, but forgive and remember your friend's heart. Discuss problems honestly and with maturity.
-Focus on being kind more than being right.
-Laughter and memories bond us together. Snap photos, share stories, and laugh at the little problems you overcome.
Benefits of Friendships
Dwell on all the ways friends bless your life, and be thankful for your positive relationships. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the first item after the basics of food and shelter is that we matter to someone. A sense of belonging is critical to our well-being. Friends help us realize we do matter. Knowing you matter increases your sense of purpose.
Other benefits include:
-Helps a person cope with trauma and loss
-Adds joy and laughter to life
-Helps a person feel accepted by someone who gets them
-Challenges a person to move out of his or her comfort zone and try new activities
-Energizes a person
-The friends who listen well affirm you
-Friends distract you when you feel hurt, sad, or upset
Consider your friends and note which benefits of knowing them you appreciate the most. They all enrich your life and keep it interesting.
Scriptures about Friendships
The verses may help you celebrate your friends and the reasons they are important:
We are always better together, so rejoice that friends support you.
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor; for if [either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Peace and harmony make life more pleasant. Cheerful words of friends encourage us and help us step out with faith. We should strive to maintain peace with friends. They are worth it!
It is truly wonderful when the people of God live together in peace. Psalm 133:1 CEV
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God. 1 Peter 4:8-10
Here are a few more to look up:
This one is full of reminders of our own attitudes and character we should nurture to be a good friend. It's a good one to pray.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also. In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:13-14
There's no set number of friends for better health, but generally, we all have room for a few new friends. Although if you've lost a friend or two, or loved ones, you may want to add someone new to your life to help fill the void.
Meet new people. Consider where you can meet people and how to introduce yourself. That starts with knowing what activities you enjoy and would be able to share with a new friend. If you like hiking, you can check out hiking clubs. If you are into genealogy and have ancestors who fought in an American war, look for groups related to the war, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Reflect on where you already go. If you attend church, meet people at the coffee time or join a ministry. If you head to the library often, see if they have a book club for your favorite genre that you can join. If you can walk in your neighborhood, do so at various times of day and see who you meet and strike up a conversation.
Invest in new friends. Ask new people about meeting up for tea or coffee, or invite them to stop by for a visit. Spend time chatting and getting to know their interests. Be willing to bless the person. If your neighbor likes gardening and you have a plant from which you can pass on a cutting, offer to give her one. If the person likes reading in the same genre as you, ask about swapping books already read. Once you find a common interest, fuel it with a kind action or encouraging words. Say yes to invites and ideas on how to spend time together.
Assess Your Friend Qualities
To make and keep friends, you need to be a good friend. Pause at times and ask if you're being a good friend or if there's something else you can do to encourage and grow your friendships.
Did I really listen? Can I remember what my friend said that matters to her? Did I learn something new about my friend? Is there a way I can bless her with words or actions based on things said?
How can I lend support? Did my friend share a problem? If so, can I be a sounding board? Did she ask for advice? If so, what can I offer? If not, let me remain a good listener and show empathy.
How can I sprinkle in joy? Is there a common interest about which I have a humorous story to share? Can I ask my friend to show or share more about her interests and then encourage that and show my approval of her talents or knowledge?
Do I show up when needed? Am I attentive?
Am I kind? Did I greet my friend with a smile and say an encouraging word before I left? Did I thank my friend for spending time with me?
Do I show appreciation for the friendship? What else can I do to show I value my friend?
These types of questions help you check how you measure up as a good friend and keep you on track to continue strengthening your relationship.
Make sure your foundation is strong and alter your expectation if you realize your friend has a need you overlooked in the past. Friendships add zest to life and create new memories all the time. May you be blessed with great friendships.
Bio: Karen Whiting enjoys friends far and near. She travels to her hometown in Connecticut in the summer to reconnect with old friends. Her newest book Growing a Peaceful Heart reminds us of ways to connect in peace and build harmony in relationships.
Karen Whiting is a mom, author, international speaker, writing coach, and former television host who loves sharing ideas to strengthen families. She has written Growing a Mother’s Heart: Devotions of Faith, Hope, and Love from Mothers Past, Present, and Future. Check out her new book 52 Weekly Devotions for Family Prayer that includes a different way to pray each week plus stories and activities to explore questions children ask about prayer She loves adventure including camel riding, scuba diving, treetop courses, and white water rafting plus time at home crafting and baking.