Be an On-Purpose Friend
Intentional Friendship: Why It's Worth it to Work on Relationships in Your Life
People rarely drift into deep community. Psychologist Alan McGinnis, The Friendship Factor, notes that the number one rule for entering into deep friendships sounds deceptively simple: “Assign top priority to your relationships.” Ironically, we tend to devote massive amounts of time to making money, running errands, and succeeding at our jobs, but we neglect giving our most valuable possession--time--to the experience for which I believe humans were created: community.
If you think you can fit deep community into the cracks of an overloaded schedule, think again. There is little to no authenticity in trying to microwave friendship, parenting, or marriage. Maybe the biggest, single barrier to deep connections, for most of us, is the pace of our lives. Simply slowing down can be a huge catalyst to growing deeper in your friendships and relationships. Here are 6 reasons why real, genuine relationships require a slower pace of life (and are worth it):
1. (Real) Listening requires slowing down. You can’t listen in a hurry. What happens when you multi-task, text and drive, watch TV and pay your bills...something suffers. Details are missed. When human beings are involved, we risk making people feel unimportant when we are not fully tuned in.
2. Friend-ly does not equal friendship. As Lewis Smedes puts it, we have confused friends with “friendly people.” He says, “There is a world of difference between being friendly to someone because they’re useful to you, and being someone’s friend.” We live in a world of networking, contacts, and quid pro quos. You will encounter these relationships daily (telemarketers, colleagues, employers, etc), but when the relationship isn’t strategic anymore, the relationship is over, or in the least, disposable. Slowing down and strategically planning time with people who will be in our lives beyond quid pro quo, means we will invest in the right relationships.
3. To "mourn with those who mourn" requires slowing down. When our friends are suddenly thrust into crisis, major life change, trauma, depression--any real-life experience--we have to be present with them to walk with them. Slowing down to be with someone during the hard times keeps us from using bumper-sticker statements and speaking in slogans, “You need to get past this. You have a lot going for you. The best is yet to come.” Being present means giving your full attention to them, sitting with them (sometimes in silence), listening, and being mindful of that person in that moment. Presence makes all the difference when walking through hard times.
4. It’s difficult to genuinely celebrate with others at a hurried pace. Similarly, when someone is celebrating the highs of life--a promotion, a baby, a marriage, a vacation--a slow pace communicates that we celebrate in their successes and joys. When we hurry, we may send the unintended messages of jealousy, comparison, competition, or simply that we are too preoccupied with our own lives to celebrate with those we care about the most.
5. Vulnerability requires slowing down. What happens when we slow down and have real conversations, celebrate the highs, and mourn the lows with those we care about? We become vulnerable to our own pain, and our own past experiences. And when we allow ourselves to feel our own pain, we become more human and can connect more effectively. Vulnerability leads to mutual trust, and offers our relationship the reciprocating gift of trusting vulnerability and dependable faithfulness.
6. Healing comes from allowing others in. Lastly, when we can slow our pace and position ourselves for deeper relationships with those we care about the most, we get something back. This slowing may be a “labor” of love at first. It may just be a practice we commit to because we know it’s the right thing, but in the end, we can be just as much the benefactor to real connections with others. Human brokenness is universal and when we give and receive help, then healing becomes possible on both the giving and receiving sides.
If you want a deep friendship, you can’t always be the strong one. Sometimes you will have to let somebody else carry you. If you don’t feel like you have time to invest in friendships, perhaps re-evaluate the purpose of your interactions with others. If you don’t have someone in your life that will risk everything--all comfort and conveniences--perhaps speak to a trusted advisor, mentor, or life coach about what is holding you back.
One of life’s most rewarding experiences is carrying a friend in their biggest time of need. What barriers prevent you from slowing down and focusing on deepening the relationships in your life?
Written by: Dan Hall has a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a Masters of Divinity. With over 25 years of ministry experience, Dan has served as a Pastor, Church Planter, Transitional Leader, Mentor, and Coach. Follow more of his writing on his blog, Voce.