I have a saying that I adopted in college: “Friends are family.” It’s more of a way of life than just a saying. I developed some great friendships during my college years. It helped that most of those relationships came from a campus ministry I served with, connecting us further through our shared faith and service.
It’s almost like friendship came easy those days. I saw my friends every day, ate with them, studied with them, procrastinated then crammed with them…we experienced life together. But after those college years it’s not quite as easy to form those types of bonds. As we grow older and our lives get more complicated with work, relationships, children, and other things that monopolize our time, forming new, deep friendships doesn’t happen as naturally or rapidly.
Sure, we have new friendships, but are they the same? Is five minutes of chatting after church service or a brief conversation at the gym really a friendship? You may spend a bit more time with people than that, but I’d bet you have more surface-level friendships than family-like bonds.
That’s the case with me, and much of it is my fault. My temperament doesn’t require a lot of deep friendships. As long as I have that closeness with a few friends, I can get by. But as we go through life changes—moves & marriages; promotions & parenthood—time with that “family” is few and far between.
I haven’t been open to new, in-depth friendships as I should be. Why? They take work. Post-college life isn’t conducive to fast-developing friendships. It’s rare to form strong bonds quickly. I just don’t see people as frequently, nor do I have the downtime to invest in others. Deep friendships don’t just happen, they take intention.
I have to be more intentional. I have to intentionally engage in conversations so they go beyond the surface. It’s easy to shoot the breeze about work, weather, or some other worthless topic, but to stay in the conversation long enough so it ventures deeper, to more pertinent issues, takes commitment. It takes time. A drive-by conversation won’t get you there.
I have to have a greater interest in the person I’m trying to bond with. I have to ask questions that reveal who they are, not just what they do. We have enough facts about people (where they live, the work they do, their relationship status), but we don’t know their hearts. What are their passions, dreams, and concerns? What bothers them? How can we contribute to their lives?
Ultimately, in order to have friends like family, I have to open up more to people. As Brene´ Brown said, “Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, and the first thing I look for in you.” Revealing your true self is the only path to true friendship. As we open up, it opens doors to deeper relationships. As author and speaker Sheridan Voysey said: “When we take the risk to share, it opens up all manner of untold stories.” Friendship inherently takes risk. But we really have nothing to lose, and great friendships to gain.
So if you’re like me, and you know your friendships should have more depth, be intentional in going beyond the surface. It takes work, but the results are worth it.