Finding friends and feeling like you belong somewhere can be hard. We talked yesterday in Part 1 about the importance of keeping our circles broken and reaching out, and the importance of acknowledging that not every friend will be the same, nor will we have the same types of friendships with everyone. Today, in Part 2, we’re continuing where we left off – why we need to be ok with not being as perfect as we wish we were.
(Miss yesterday’s post? Read it here.)
#3 – Be ok with your imperfections.
I am awful about assuming the worst sometimes – usually about myself. A friend never returns an invite, and I think I must be someone she doesn’t want to hang out with, or I get my feelings hurt when I stop and think about all the times I’ve reached out to someone to encourage but I get crickets when I’m looking for some encouragement for myself.
I’ve finally come to realize, after serving in women’s ministry for a few years now, that most of the time (there ARE exceptions), it’s not necessarily just you. We all have issues, don’t we ladies?
As women, we are overworked, overextended, overworried and overstimulated (I really wanted to say over-Pinterested).
We don’t invite people over because our homes don’t look like a magazine cover. And we’re afraid people will realize we have laundry. And dishes. And kids who make messes. Husbands too. (See the post from yesterday and the photo of this door below that also shows the floor. I tried REALLY HARD to get a close up of all the dust. My camera would not cooperate. And I was just a little relieved.)
We approach life through lists. Making friends and making time for friends is at the end of a verrrry long series of home improvement projects. And we’re still on number two. And I’m already REALLY tired.
We worry about what others will think about us. What if I make stupid jokes? What do I talk about? What CAN I talk about? What have I already been judged for? What WILL I be judged for?
Friends, can we just commit right now to not assume someone who is outgoing already has a ton of friends? Can we also promise we’ll stop assuming if a woman is quiet, that she must not be interested in conversation? Let’s be more willing to learn something about someone else, and worry less about not having anything in common.
I knew my friend Karim, a pediatrician and the mom of one of my son’s friends, for over a year before I found out by accident one day that she is an incredible cupcake baker, and only because she came over one day when I was trying to bake cupcakes myself. She offered some helpful tips and I remember thinking, how did I not know she knew this?
We struggle to trust. If you live in a large city, this may not feel as much of a problem, but since we moved back to our smaller hometown where so many still know each other from when they were in grade school, and probably your parents, inlaws, siblings and nieces and nephews, I’ve noticed this can definitely cause hesitation among some women. We’re fine talking about the weather or concerts or the latest books we’ve read but don’t ask me to talk about my marriage or the problems I’m having with my children. I don’t know who you know who I don’t want hearing about it.
We all want to make good impressions on the people around us because we all want to be liked. But when we’re so afraid of revealing a flaw that we won’t take a chance to make a friend, it’s time to reevaluate some things.
We are just too dang busy. That’s right, I said “dang.” It’s true! If you have a job outside the home, you’re busy. If you’re at home with your kids, you’re busy. If you do anything else outside working, home keeping, yard maintaining, church going, grocery shopping, appointment keeping – you are CRAZY busy.
For a long time, I was the world’s WORST at this.
When my friends called me, their first sentence out of their mouths was “I know you’re busy, but…” I wore it as a badge of honor. Being busy means you’re doing stuff, right? You’ve got places to be, people to cancel on, checklists to check off….
Eventually, though, I realized it’s not honoring to never have time for other people.
Jesus made time for people. We need to as well. That friend who can never meet for lunch or coffee? Maybe she can’t bring herself to do something fun when she has 20 other things she already feels guilty about not doing. So don’t decide or declare she’s just a “loner” or a “snob.” She may just have no idea how to juggle it all at the moment. You probably don’t either. (Or if you think you do, pray hard. God is really good at tripping us up when we become too confident or reliant on ourselves.) Then pray for your friend. Keep offering encouragement. And keep asking.
Why? Because one day, when she’s at the end of her proverbial busy rope, she may very well just say yes.
#4. Ask questions.
Since I’ve spent most of my professional career doing interviews with others so I can write stories about them, this isn’t usually hard for me. I realize this isn’t easy for everyone. Sometimes you just get stuck and you have no idea what to say. What’s too personal? What if I ask something dumb? What if we just run out of things to say?
Asking questions may not be very hard but I still relate in getting people to answer them. Earlier this week, I had a brief conversation with someone who answered “Good” to every question I asked. It’s difficult to have any kind of meaningful (or even memorable) talk when the ball keeps getting tossed out of bounds instead of back in your court. This is where great questions can help.
Some tips for question asking? Avoid using “Did” and “How” at the beginning of your questions (the mistake I made when I tried talking to my friend who was so “good” with everything).
Instead, ask questions that start with What.
“My Monday turned out a whole lot better than I expected it would. What was your best day this week?”(Follow up with Why?)
“I always feel like I never have enough time to plan meals, do you? What do you do when you’re juggling everything?”
Ask questions that start with When – (and follow up with a What).
“So when did you move to town – to church – to this school – to this job?”
“What brought you here?”
“I probably should know this (it’s ok to admit memory lapses – it means we’re human – and very distracted!), but when were your kids born?
What would you say has been the best thing about being their mom?”
If you still have trouble getting someone to open up and talk? Give grace, and pray for a new opportunity down the road.
#5. Never stop saying hello.
Someone once said to have friends, you must first be a friend.
Have you ever wished this wasn’t so true? Especially in those seasons of life when you feel like you’re the only one making an effort to begin with?
Why do I have to initiate everything, Lord? has often been my cry. Why can’t someone come to ME?
I get it. Sometimes our feelings of loneliness overwhelm our feelings to do something about it. So we just stop. We quit. We don’t try. Our expectations for others aren’t met, so our inclinations are to give up.
I once sat at lunch with a good friend of mine when we lived in Nashville and both of us talked about how lonely each of us felt and how we wished we had more friends. Did you catch that? We were sitting with a FRIEND! See how the enemy can play with our minds?
Here’s what I have to remember: It’s not about what someone else can do for me. God is quite capable of taking care of my needs. When I can remember that truth, I am less likely to turn inward instead of outward.
When I turn outward, I’m useable. I see things I won’t see if I’m staring at my proverbial belly button, lint picking and nit picking everything that is wrong in my life. When my focus is turned outward, God can use me to help encourage someone else – through a smile, an encouraging word, or a text that says “I’m praying for you.”
God uses us through our broken circles.
God uses us through our repeated “hellos” that will sometimes require just as much courage as the first time we say it.
God uses us when we pray that “He will supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19) so we can “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Today as I see text messages come across my phone from friends encouraging me, praying for me, or checking on me, I’m deeply reminded of the benefit that comes with a broken circle with unlimited room for one more.
And to think, almost all of those friendships began with a reluctant obedience to say hello.
And then with the courage to say hello again.
I know how hard and sometimes even painful it can be to reach out to others for a connection. Sometimes it just FEELS easier not to. But it can also feel extremely lonely. I’d love to hear from those of you who have found ways to overcome the fear of saying hello and reaching out to others. What are your tips for other women who struggle with this? What has worked for you? Share in the comments and let’s help each other pursue keeping our circles broken, so there is always room for one more.
With much love,
Sometimes before we can be a friend to others, there are areas in our lives God wants to work on first. Have you read my book, How Can I Possibly Forgive? Order a signed copy today from my store, OR right now for the month of July, when you sign up for Vyrso’s daily deals list, you can receive the ebook version FREE!