Making friends is hard.
I’d like to say that it’s just my season of life or the fact that I just moved to a new city, but really—no matter what season of life you’re in and what city you move to, friendship doesn’t always start out easily.
Because I’ve worked with students for awhile now, it’s become increasingly clear to me that the core goal of most students from sixth through twelfth grade is simply making friends. But for many people, that core life goal never really changes. If we are honest with ourselves, making friends and maintaining healthy friendships continues to be one of the most valuable things in life for all of us, and yet we struggle with it. We struggle to put ourselves out there, hoping people will “get” us when we choose to be vulnerable with them. We struggle to find people we can call to come over and sit with us when life is falling apart or just to go get Mexican food together on a Tuesday. We don’t just want to know people, we want to connect with people. See, making friends isn’t hard because meeting people is hard; making friends is hard because connecting with people is hard.
It’s true, God made us to connect with people—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Connecting with another person and building a true friendship takes a lot of time, energy, and vulnerability. But it also takes a lot of practice. Having moved and started over several times, I’ve learned my fair share of things not to do when trying to cultivate new friendships. So learn from my mistakes, friends! Here are five things not to do when building new friendships.
Don’t look for people just like you.
I used to think that in order to be my best friend, a girl should be in the same life stage as me or have a similar life to my own. But, in my own experience, some of my very best friends are women who are in a completely different season of life than I am. Their lives look totally different than mine, but that’s what makes it such a valuable friendship.
When you only look for friendship in women whose lives look just like yours, you miss out.
Don’t just go out; invite them in.
Sure, inviting someone to coffee or lunch is a great way to get to know them, but one of the best ways to let someone get
to know you is by inviting them into your home. You don’t have to deep clean your whole house, just light a candle and make a pot of coffee. It’s always easier to be yourself and have real conversation with someone when you’re in a familiar place. You don’t have to put your best foot forward; you just have to open your front door.
Don’t be easily offended.
I’ve almost missed out on a lot of awesome friendships because I was too easily offended. I’ve assumed someone was standoffish when really she was just having a bad day, and I’ve been convinced that someone didn’t like me simply because she got too busy to text me back. Everyone needs grace, and not every mistake is a reason to abandon the friendship. We all know how easy it is to misread a text message or forget someone’s birthday. Don’t be so easily offended. We can’t expect to build healthy friendships without giving out a lot of grace (Prov. 22:24–25).
Don’t look for a friend to fill a hole that only Jesus can fill.
The quickest way to feel let down by a friendship is expecting someone to meet needs that only Jesus can satisfy. Your friend isn’t Jesus and she won’t be able to withstand that kind of pressure. Ultimately, you will never be able to have healthy friendships if you don’t have a healthy relationship with Jesus. Only Jesus can know you and love you as deeply as your heart desires.
Don’t compare your friendships.
One of the worst things you can do to a friendship is compare it to one in the past (or present).
Every friendship is different and valuable in a unique way, but you will miss it if you’re looking for it to be a replica of a friendship you already have. It takes time to cultivate a new friendship and it’s unfair to compare it to one that you’ve have for years. It’s also unfair to compare your friendships to those that you see on Instagram. Instagram doesn’t tell the whole story and your friendship doesn’t need a bunch of “likes” to be validated.
And while there may be many ways not to make friends, there’s really only one right way to do it. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). According to Jesus’ example, true friendship requires sacrifice. Follow Jesus’ example and put others first. That’s how we can have healthy friendships that last.
Friendship may be hard, but life alone is harder. God made us for friendship, and that means He will make a way for friendship. So pray for friends! God will bring you the right people in the right time.
Taylor Cage is a newlywed living in Tulsa, OK doing student ministry alongside her husband, Baron. After college, she spent three years as a girls' minister and she's passionate about building gospel-centered community among girls of all ages. She's an avid reader, writer, and caffeine consumer. You can catch her telling cheesy jokes and taking long walks down the aisles at Target.