These are my best friends.
They’re the people with whom I can laugh myself silly, be totally at ease or even cry on their shoulders.
But since my wedding two years ago, every single one of these beautiful ladies has moved away, leaving me alone here in upstate New York, relying on Skype dates for conversation. This has only made the idea of deep friendships even more meaningful to me. And that’s why, over the last year, I’ve been on a journey to make more deep friends who actually live near me.
But it’s hard! There are a lot of people I connect with on a lighthearted level—people with whom I can go shopping, binge-watch Netflix or grab a quick coffee. But how does one take those friendships to a deeper and more meaningful level, where you’re sharing the big things in your hearts and praying for each other?
Here are a few things I’ve been learning about how to go deeper in friendships.
1. Choose your deep friends wisely.
I’ve been realizing what a huge impact deep friends have on the person you become. I’ve started asking myself, “Do I like who I become when I hang out with this person? Do I become a person who loves God and others even more, or do I become someone who gossips and is obsessed with superficial things?” I want to strategically surround myself with deep friends who will help me become all that God wants me to be.
Also, there are some people you just don’t connect with on a deep level—not because there’s anything wrong with them or with you, but because you just don’t “click” or feel totally comfortable together. I try to keep this in mind, so I don’t spend months trying to force something that doesn’t happen fairly naturally.
2. Prioritize time with one or two friends.
There are so many things we could be doing at any given moment. If I’m being honest, it’s really easy for me to fill my time with lots of different people and things, and only see any given friend once a month. That’s why it’s important for me to choose one or two friends that I want to go deep with, and prioritize time with them. That doesn’t mean I’ll spend all my free time with them, or even see them every week. It just means that I schedule in time to see them regularly (for me, that usually means every other week).
3. Set aside time to talk about deep things.
I love the lighthearted part of relationships—shopping, talking, laughing, drinking coffee…it all makes me so happy. But to go deeper, sometimes I have to be intentional. So I’ll find a time and place conducive to heart-to-hearts and ask questions that take the conversation deeper, such as “What has God been teaching you lately?” “How is your marriage/relationship/singleness going?” “Is there anything I can pray for you about?” Sometimes I even ask these friends if they’d like to start a Bible study with me, or join a Bible study I’m already in.
4. Listen and follow up.
One of my biggest struggles is actually remembering what my friends tell me. (I have a really bad memory for details.) So what I try to do is actively listen—make eye contact, pay attention and ask questions. Then I make notes for myself. (Yes, I really do! Don’t judge me…I can’t remember anything otherwise!) I type into my phone what my friend wants prayer for, or I write a calendar notification on the day of my friend’s big test so I can pray for her and text her afterward to see how it went. Sometimes I’ll even send a card or care package during a difficult time in my friend’s life. I want my friends to feel cared for and loved, and the best ways I’ve found to do that are by listening and following up.
5. Be vulnerable.
This is the hardest part. As I get to know and trust a new friend, I slowly open up and share more of my struggles. I’ve learned that vulnerability is one of the biggest keys to going deeper. If we pretend to be perfect, we’ll never get anywhere in relationships. But vulnerability—being willing to share things that are messy and imperfect about our lives, and even ask for our friend’s wisdom and prayers—takes the relationship to a whole new level. It takes a lot of humility, but it’s worth it. And usually my vulnerability helps my friend feel comfortable opening up as well.
Okay girls, now I want to learn from you! What else helps you go deeper in your friendships?
[Images: Chelsea Ahl]