This world can be a crazy place. Not always safe for people looking to nurture relationships. Hurt feelings and miscommunications can sink a ship of friendship before it has even really had time to test its mettle in open waters…and for people like me that step slowly into relationships and carry with them a very small inner circle of people that are close to them, those relationship perils can be overwhelming obstacles.
Consider in-person friend-making. As an adult, finding friendship feels an awful lot like dating. There’s awkward conversations…stress that comes with finding places to meet up to have those awkward conversations…the whole nine yards. And if you are lucky enough to find someone that shares your interests or points of view, it can be harder still to carve out matching times each week or each month to get together – especially if one or both of you has small children.
Online community building is rarely better. In fact, it can be much more difficult to dip in past surface level conversations to get to the meat of what someone on the other end of an Internet connection is really thinking or feeling. It is easier online to put up a polished façade and to really control how the world sees you…which can definitely be tempting at times, can’t it?
Whether you make friends online in a chat room or at a MOPS group or at BSF or at a pottery class or on a blog, the sad truth is that you are more likely to create interactions that are much wider than they are deep – you may get to know a lot about someone at a surface level, without ever really having the joy of getting to know them on a deep level. I’m talking about getting a chance to see past the good and the bad to where you share life amid the awesome and the ugly, too.
So what happens when you genuinely want to grow a friendship that is deep, and not wide?
I had a great late-night conversation with a good friend of mine yesterday about this…and to be honest, we were a bit divided. She thought she would be hesitant to dive into an online community since you run the risk of it being incredibly one-sided…is it really possible for, say, the Jen Hatmakers of the world to truly know and create deep meaningful relationships with those that read a blog, or for people to get past the inherent narcissism that follows social media platforms like the plague? To be honest, she made good points. While I had to agree with her that it was probably harder to make friends online than in person, I also tend to think that if your personality is one that isn’t put-off by an online setting you would probably truly be able to find great relationships on the Internet.
But we did agree that making friends can be tricky no matter the setting.
It requires time and sacrifice and the putting aside of expectations and assumptions and – sometimes – pride. The older we get and the more we dig deep into our families, the harder it can be to carve out time to nurture those relationships that really matter to us. And make no mistake about it…friendships need to be nurtured.
I’ve learned the best way to begin a new friendship is with brave vulnerability.
Rather than waiting for a friendship to start itself, some of my very best friendship began after I took initiative, risked rejection, and dropped the façade to reveal my true self.
Last year I attended Allume solo as a newbie.
To say I was nervous is an understatement. Every time I walked into a session and scanned the room for a seat, I wanted to throw up. This was definitely out of my comfort zone!
The first morning, I worked up the courage to introduce myself to Tiffany. Since that breakfast, Tiffany has become a treasured online friend. From afar, I’ve gotten to cheer for her as she bought her first home, and pray with her as she waits patiently for her husband to return from deployment in South Korea. More than a few times, Tiffany’s encouraging comments have pulled me out of a disheartened blogging rut. It makes me sad to think of what I would have missed out on, had I not been brave enough to introduce myself that morning.
I love that! The idea that we need to be brave enough to let our true selves shine through, and to step out of our comfort zones to find friendship – maybe even in unlikely places.
I hope you are encouraged to step out of your own comfort zones this week and take the plunge into creating new friendships or working harder to grow existing ones. After all – this community we were created to crave will not build itself, and as with all good things, when we work hard for them, they are all the more sweet in the end.