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How to Make Friends: 2 Key Ingredients for Developing Friendships that Last

two friends holding coffee cups

When Ryan and I were in our 20s, we moved from St. Louis back to Columbia. We had lived in Columbia as students, but now we were coming back as married, working professionals. 

Making friends in college was easy. I saw tons of people each day in class, in the campus ministry I was involved in, hanging out in our free time. But now, I was working all the time with a much more limited group of people, and I found myself increasingly lonely and unsure how to make friends in this new stage of life. 

One day, I was moaning to Ryan about my lack of friends, and he asked if there was anyone I thought I could be friends with if I had more time with them. I immediately said “Yes!” There was this one gal that I easily connected with and enjoyed. But I quickly followed my initial reaction with, “I’m sure she already has tons of friends. She seems really well connected.” 

My wise husband, having none of this, told me I would never know unless I reached out to her. He then dialed her phone number and handed me the phone! After chatting a bit, I invited her to come to the pool at our apartment complex the following week. Guess what? We totally hit it off and have been friends for over 20 years now.

Maybe you don’t have a story as embarrassing as this about making friends, but I’m sure all of us, no matter what age we are, can relate to times in our lives when we wished we had more friends or deeper friendships.

So, how do we go about moving relationships from shallow connections to more meaningful friendships? How do we begin to talk about the things that really matter?

Two Key Ingredients

Over the course of my life, there are two key ingredients that have helped me cultivate these kinds of friendships.

The first ingredient is time.

You can’t truncate this process. Meaningful friendships take regular, consistent inputs of face-to-face time. Why? Because it takes time to build trust. It takes time to listen and really get to know someone. To hear about their past, present, and future. To learn about what they are passionate about and why.

I know it can seem like there’s not enough hours in the day to do this. Or sometimes you are just too tired after a long week of work. That’s why joining a group where you see people regularly can help. A small group at church can be a great place to do this. 

Maybe you’re already in a small group. If so, take the initiative to get together with someone outside the group. I am still amazed at how much better I know someone and how much closer we are after just an hour or two walking on the trail or talking over a meal.

The second ingredient is vulnerability.

Opening up is scary. We all fear getting rejected. We want to look like we have it all together. But we can’t experience the deep connectedness that we long for with this kind of mask on. 

Why? Because it’s not real! 

No one is perfect and has it all together. This side of heaven, we are ALL struggling with something. Ironically, we like people who are authentic, but we fear being that way ourselves. 

One way to move toward more vulnerability in a friendship is to start asking, “How are you really doing?” 

Or perhaps it starts by answering more honestly when someone asks you.

When we share on this level, we identify with one another. We realize that we are not alone. It gives us room to follow up, to encourage with biblical truth, or to pray for them because we know what they are really going through. Some of the times when I’ve felt most known and loved were when a friend did these simple, yet profound, things for me. 

Pick Up the Phone

Just like getting in shape only happens with consistent exercise over time, meaningful friendships take work and can’t be rushed. Forging a friendship with someone who helps us follow Jesus needs unhurried time and mutual vulnerability. But the cost of being intentional in these ways is so worth it. 

If my husband hadn’t dialed the phone 20 years ago, I would never have known the joy of a friend that shares in life’s highs and lows, is there when a crisis happens, will pray for me as a wife and parent, who laughs with me about the events of the day, and encourages me to rest in God’s love and faithfulness. 

Good friends satisfy the deepest longings of our soul because we were made to connect in loving relationships with God and others. So, who should I pick up the phone and dial for you?

Connecting with others in real and meaningful ways can be challenging in the age of smartphones and social media. Learn more about how you can grow to treasure Jesus in a world of distraction.