Making adult friendships can be HARD, especially when we have many limitations (often self-inflicted) holding us back. I mean, I look at my toddler, who makes friends wherever she goes, and I know she doesn’t care about style, job, race, party, or popularity. She notices if you are kind, caring, and excited to be with her! As we grow older, we get more complex. But does what we want in friendship need to be so complex?
Here’s how I think about it: Do her words build up and support? (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Does our friendship encourage good character? (1 Corinthians 15:33) Are you kind? (1 Corinthians 15:33) Does she keep her word? (Proverbs 18:24) Do our husbands get along well? (Essential to me, and I know it is important to him with his friends’ wives). If we have a conflict, will you be honest with me? (Matthew 18:15-17) Do I have the capacity for a new friend? (Particularly now with my kiddos). Is her relationship with God her priority? To be clear, not all of my friends believe in God and pursue a relationship with him, but I’ve noticed the soul-level conversations are with friends who do.
I also pay attention to my energy after hanging out. Everyone has tough days. I know I certainly do. And sometimes, those off days are a whole season, so compassion is necessary. But I’ve learned that feeling spent consistently with someone, especially when there is no trial on either end, might mean that our communication styles or priorities are too different for a friendship! And to anyone who needs to hear this, hear this. You may owe everyone kindness, but you do not owe everyone friendship. This brings me to my last point, am I forcing this?
At the end of the day, good adult friendships are mutual. One person can plant the initial seed (aka reaching out), but it takes a joint effort to develop and sustain (what you water will grow!). Sometimes a swell person out there isn’t looking to make new connections because they are investing in the ones they already have! Sometimes it’s for some other reason that might be on their end that they need to work out. Don’t take it personally. You will find your people.
If you’re struggling with adult friendships right now, here are my questions:
What organizations are you a part of right now filled with people of similar interests or morals? Small groups at church & hobbies (remember those? :D) are great ways to meet people. Are you writing someone off because of any superficial reasons? Which good friendships in your life are you not investing in currently? Do you initiate bringing people together, or do you always wait for people to invite you? Are you holding onto harmful ones that are keeping you from making healthy ones? And lastly, is there something harmful you’re doing that could be pushing people away?
That last question is something I wrestled with at the beginning of college when I started trying to make adult friendships. The answer was YES – a tendency to gossip (Provers 16:28) and being stingy with forgiveness (Colossians 3:13). I worked hard at it, prayed for God to change my heart, and have seen how that work and my prayers have resulted in healthier friendships than ever that I am SO thankful for! I’m still learning lessons, but I am keen to work on myself because I know I have room to grow! What are your thoughts on adult friendships?