Upon moving to a new neighborhood, many of us have been greeted with warm welcomes and even warmer apple pies from folks across the street, fence, wall, or courtyard. As a result, friendships were made... some of the time. But why not most of the time? And how do we nurture those friendships when they do happen, long past the gobbling-up of apple pie? Not just in our neighborhoods, but all throughout our community?
With inspiration from the book of Proverbs, here are five tips for making (and keeping) friends:
1. Be the best listener this side of the Mississippi.
“Fools have no interest in understanding, they only want to air their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2 NLT).
Let’s be honest, we love talking about ourselves. The old quote, “Enough about me; what do you think about me?” hits a little too close to home for some of us. But when we focus on others—How are you feeling? Where did you go on vacation? What’s your favorite breakfast place?—people feel heard. Their voice matters!
Not only that, but learning about our friends, about what makes them, well... them, broadens our own perspectives about the world we share. And every time we seek to understand our friends, God begins transforming us from being me-me-me-focused into others-focused.
2. No matter how chipped your nail or important that email, look up, make eye contact with people, and smile!
“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart” (Proverbs 15:30a NLT).
When making new friends or nurturing the ones you’ve got, be quick to smile. If you want someone to know you care—I see you and I value you; I’m approachable and I’m friendly—flash those pearly whites. And since smiling is contagious, you’ll probably get one back. It’s a win-win! No wonder God has us smiling only a few weeks after we’re born. He knew our smiles would make us irresistible, deepening our attachments to those we love.
3. Cat got your tongue? Not sure what to say? Give your friend a compliment today!
If her banana bread is good, open-a-bakery-right-this-minute good, tell her. If you value the wisdom of a friend who is wiser-in-years than you, tell him. If she says to you, “Pretty sweater,” say to her, “Pretty earrings!” A sincere compliment can point our most solemn, worried, anxious friends in the direction of gratitude. Out of all the ways God chooses to encourage his children, the good words we say to each other are among them! He involves us—what a privilege!
So, go for it! Tell the overwhelmed guy down the street he’s an amazing dad, and be used by God today.
4. Give your friend YOU.
“A generous person will prosper, whoever refreshes others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25 NLT).
Helping a friend out of a financial pickle is a nice thing to do. Providing a meal for a neighbor is also a nice thing to do. But how tempting it is to stop there, to stop short of giving a piece of ourselves, something of our souls.
Think back to when a friend took time to get to know you and soon found herself entrusting you—gifting you—with her most fragile and broken parts. Did you find her transparency refreshing? Did you feel honored that she was able to relax enough to open up around you? Did it free you to become generous with your own heart in return? Poet Kahlil Gibran once wrote: “You give but little when you give of your possessions, it is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
5. Let common ground abound.
“The rich and poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2 NLT).
It doesn't matter if you’re rich or poor, brown or black, a pungent cheese lover or not a pungent cheese lover, we are all created by God. We bear His image. What a beautiful thing to have in common, right off the bat! What a sense of comfort, belonging, and community our made-from-God-ness brings to us. After all, we're in this together. “Better together,” as Pastor Rick Warren would say.
But how can we practice this in our day-to-day? Where to begin? We can start small: “Did you get BBQ sauce on your shirt? Look, I spilled ranch on mine!” Then perhaps: “You had to take geometry twice? I didn't pass until my third try.” Then beautifully moving on to deeper things: “You lost your mom to cancer? So did I.”
In conclusion, and to put it more succinctly, five tips for making (and keeping) friends can best be summed up with a saying from John Maxwell:
Believe in others before they believe in you. Serve others before they serve you. Add value to others before they add value to you.
Molly Parker cherishes her role as contributor and editor for Anchored Press Devotional Planners and for Sacred Holidays Bible studies. When Molly's not French-braiding hair or scolding her basset hound, she's eating cake, baking a cake, or thinking about cake, which is surprising considering she's worked in the fitness industry 25 years. Molly lives in Southern California with her husband and three children.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/lorenzoantonucci