By Robin Jones Gunn
Women need women. We know that, but lately our list of go-to friends has been dwindling. We have plenty of social media friends but fewer face-to-face friends.
Have you noticed how our culture has made it possible to go through life without the need to connect with other women the way previous generations did? If we have problems, we go to a professional counselor. If we need a new recipe, we go online. If we need someone to watch our kids, we enroll them in a childcare program.
From the beginning of time women connected naturally within their daily routines. They shared in cooking, laundry, raising children, and gathering for celebrations. Now we order groceries to be delivered to our front door. We sit in school pick up lanes with the air conditioning on while we listen to podcasts.
A dozen potential friends could be all around us at a coffee shop, but our heads are down as we scroll through the images of other women’s seemingly flawless lives. Our birthdays come and go without a single card or cupcake with a friend while all our well wishes are posted on Facebook.
To have a friend we must BE a friend. Here are three “BE’s” to encourage you to fill the face-to-face gap in your social life.
What would happen if we made eye contact at the next gathering we attended? Or started a conversation in the grocery store line? Instead of pushing the button on the automatic garage door, what if we walked across the street and said a simple hello to our neighbor as she’s standing by her mailbox?
As great as FaceTime chats, Pinterest Boards and Instagram Stories are for keeping us updated and inspired, don’t you feel something is missing at the soul level?
We were created for the intimacy of close friendships. The eternal depth of our being longs to know and be known. We thrive when we’re in a circle of emotional support and encouragement. Women know how to speak truth into a friend’s life. Women are instinctively ready to offer support and understanding in difficult times. We love how it feels when we laugh till with cry with one of our Besties.
We need friends who make us laugh! Did you know that a good belly laugh decreases stress hormones and boosts your infection-fighting antibodies at a cellular level, which releases toxins from your liver? Laughing with a good friend is practically a work-out!
So, where are they, those belly-laugh buddies? How can we find them?
I always think of Ruth in the Old Testament and how she went the distance with Naomi back to Bethlehem. Ruth was intentional and didn’t turn back. You can be the one who takes the first step. Initiate a get-together. Invite a few friends to meet for coffee. Be brave. Be creative.
When you are intentional you can relax. And you’ll need to relax because the 12 year-old girl inside you will feel nervous. Essentially you are saying, “Do you want to be my friend?” You know that there’s always the risk that her answer will be “no.”
That’s OK. Ask anyway. You’re not 12 years old anymore. You know who your women are. You probably know way too much about personality types from podcasts and online tests. Take what you know, put it into motion and seek out your tribe. Adjust as you go but do something intentional to connect with other women.
Here’s a sobering statistic. You are not the only woman experiencing a shortage of friendships or finding herself in a new town starting over. A study from Duke University showed that over the past 20 years 60% more families move when their kids are school age. Most moms focus on helping their children find new friends but don’t make the same efforts to connect with their own circle of kindred spirits.
Time for some intentional nurturing of our friendships.
My husband is a counselor so I’ve heard a lot about boundaries over the last few decades. As much as I love what that teaching has done for many women, I’m troubled by a pattern I’ve seen developing in modern friendships. For some women, the power that came from setting a boundary led them to automatically closing themselves off from any relationship that was unfamiliar or uncomfortable. In an effort to be safe, they’ve also become isolated and locked down.
Making new friends requires us to venture into the unfamiliar and often uncomfortable. We must be willing to circulate in new groups and enter new conversations. Yes, we still retain our super-power of being able to walk away at any moment. But we need to step into the possibility first.
Keep in mind that being willing is not the same as complete abandon or over-commitment. You might still be stinging from a friendship where you were all in but she used her super-power and walked away. That doesn’t mean every attempt will have the same outcome.
Set your internal smart gauge so that you don’t get lost in what Susan Forward, PhD calls FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt). FOG can get pretty thick inside an unhealthy or unbalanced friendship. We’ve all navigated through FOG in a friendship at some time. The good news is that it is possible to have FOG – free relationships. Don’t give up!
Be willing to talk to someone at church that you wouldn’t normally talk to. Be willing to leave your phone in your purse, roll down your window and say hello to another mom in the pick up line. Be willing to have a few women over for a Favorite Things Party, a Bible Study or a Book Club.
If you are willing to take a small step toward a potential new friend instead of walking away or going into isolation, your life could change.
One of my close friends is from Kenya. She taught me the following African proverb and I found that it has become true in my life as I’ve been present, intentional, and willing to seek out and nurture my friendships with women: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Robin Jones Gunn is the best-selling Christian author of nearly 100 books, including several series for teen girls, the widely popular Christy Miller series, as well as Christian fiction for adult women and several nonfiction books. She authored Finding Father Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas, both of which have become popular Hallmark Christmas films. The third Father Christmas Hallmark movie was released in November 2018. Her books have sold over 5.5 million copies worldwide. She makes her home in Hawaii. For more information, visit christymillershop.com and robingunn.com.
This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of ParentLife. For more info or to order, click here.