I was raised by a tribe of women. My mom beautifully modeled sacrificial friendship for me from a very young age and there wasn’t a time that I can remember where there weren’t at least two moms and a whole herd of kids gathered for everything. I adored my childhood. And I largely believe it was because of the women that had a hand in raising me and my siblings. As I grew up, this standard of community seemed inherent to me — I simply could not imagine life any other way.
My mom’s incredible tribe of women were doing life together. They were on the front lines of the battlefield of life, fighting side-by-side, with each other and for each other. I wanted the same thing in my life, and while I didn’t always have these types of friendships of my own, I was determined to find my people and establish my tribe of friends.
The older I get, though, I’m realizing how hard it really is for women to make deep lasting friendships. One of the main questions I get from the college girls in my bible study is “How do I find those friends?” That hurts my heart because it shouldn’t be this hard. But the reality is, these days — in this culture, time and pace — deep lasting friendship has become more of a challenge to find, hold on to and foster.
So if you’re like I was and you find yourself longing for those deep friendships, then here are five nuggets of wisdom for finding and fostering deep friendship that were modeled for me and successfully played out in my own life.
Do the work. Friendship is hard work; so often I hear people saying “I just wish God would give me friends.” And to that, I want to say “then do the work, girlfriend!” Friendships are hard work whether you’re keeping up with them or you don’t have them yet. If you want to find it, then you have to work for it. In most areas of life, but especially relationships, you cannot go on autopilot. Do the work.
Find friends where you would want them to be. What I mean by this is, if you are wondering where to find those people you will form deep and lasting relationships with, go to where you would want those friends to be. Are you an avid ultimate frisbee player? Sign up for a recreational league! Is your Faith your foundation and therefore an integral part of the relationships you want to keep? Get involved at church, join a life group or bible study and plug-in. Shared experiences bring people together and allow them to connect in a deeper way. It’s science. So find those life-long, like-minded friends by going to where you would want to hang out with them once you’re besties!
Keep showing up. Like I said before with doing the hard work, you got to just keep showing up. Even when it feels awkward, even when you’re embarrassed by something you said, even when you butt heads a bit, even when you feel on the outside and you assume they already have their group established, you keep showing up. If you think there is a chance for that friendship to grow into the deep, lasting relationship you long for, then sister, you got to keep showing up.
Be vulnerable. Whether it’s with your words or with of your needs, being vulnerable is the best way to break down the barriers and take mediocre acquaintances to deep friendships. People who say they long for friends but refuse to be vulnerable are truly just asking for acquaintances. If you’re asking for those deep lasting friendships that make up a true tribe, friend, you don’t get there by putting up walls. I loathe asking for help but I do it anyway because I know that my home team feels valued when they feel needed and it deepens the relationship. Every. Single. Time. Yes – it feels awkward at the beginning. It may make you and your new friend both feel a little uncomfortable at the start. But someone has to go first! And like most things in life, it gets easier the more you practice it.
Hold your friendships with open hands. Whether you have a few people or a lot of people, you do you! No matter where you are on the spectrum, you don’t get to one point without starting somewhere. And once you start making those friendships, remember to hold those friendships with open hands. Open hands are gentle, supportive, safe, and give whatever we’re holding permission to fly. I’ve had deep friendships that I thought were going to be with me forever, and the Lord moved me out of their tribe. Other times, you’ll need to allow others the grace and opportunity to join your tribe. Whether you’re being moved away from one group, joining another, or opening up your group to others, hold all friendships with the understanding that they are ultimately the Lord’s. A gift from Him to glorify Him. Hold them gently. Hold them graciously.
Friend, if you find yourself desiring these types of relationships, please hear me say that is a desire of your heart from the Lord and it is not wrong or selfish. God created Himself in perfection and He designed Himself to be a triune God — three in one. He was perfect and yet still wanted the community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As we are made in His image, we are also designed for relationship, for a community, for friendship. If you don’t yet have a tribe, my hope and prayer is that that you will be bold, hold fast to some of this advice, and bravely pursue people. And if you do have your tribe, throw up your praise hands, thank the Lord for the gift and be willing to let Him always add to your numbers.