“…And the biggest lie of all, is that we tell ourselves we don’t need friends.” ( A personal quote from a talk I gave recently.) I was not totally surprised, but still taken aback at the amount of feedback related directly to that comment.
We lead these unnatural lives going from home, to car, to work, to errands and carpool, speaking to people for the most part in terms of transactions. “How much does this cost?” “Thank you for watching my child” ” Can you volunteer for this event?”
And the cost is enormous. We’re lonely, and isolated and that stunts our social interactions even when we’re in a sea of people.
I’ve been through many evolutions with the topic of friends, growing with it as I get older. I share it with you here, because maybe we’re not that different from one another.
I’ve always been surrounded by people and involved in community. But being with people and developing intimate relationships is not the same thing.
How do we go from interacting with dozens of people each day to creating meaningful relationships?
[Note to dear old friends – This is a generalization. Thank G-d, I’ve been blessed to have you in my life and as I’ve grown, my ability to be a friend has grown too.]
It took me a long time to learn. Many of my old relationships were lopsided.
I would either be friends with lovely people but not share myself fully, thinking they would never understand me. (Yup, trust issues there.)
Or, exclusively befriend people who I could give to.
(Again, trust issues – I could give to someone without having to share myself.)
Around ten years ago, my newly widowed sister in law, Chev, moved to Baltimore so that she could be near family. Being in her presence, basking in that unconditional, respectful, deeply intimate relationship opened things up for me. I began to be willing to relate at a deeper level, to bring more of myself to the friendship then a plate of cookies.
However, after being gifted that lesson, two years later she got married to her amazing husband, Paul and moved away to South Africa.
So there I was. And I needed to make friends.
And I was ready.
I began making coffee dates. I realized that one of the reasons (aside for deep familial love) that my friendship with Chev grew was because we spent every Shabbos together. I needed to physically spend time with people if I was going to become friends with them.
So onwards I forged. If I had a great conversation with someone I would invite them out for a coffee sometime the next week. At the time it took a lot of courage.
How’d it go?
The coffee dates were nice enough but I forgot something key – you have to get together a second time!
Somehow I just thought a friendship would morph straight from the muffins at the bagel shop. That’s not how it works. I still have a special connection with the people I spent time with, but we didn’t ever explore the relationship further.
Then I met Aviva. Her kids were homeschooling at the time and it was the first I’d ever heard of it. My heart was exploding with the idea.
I called her the next day and asked her for information. And the next and the next. I began to home-school my kids. I would have done with her the same as I did with my other new friends; lost touch, not taken it further.
Except, that one fine day she knocked on the door, came over with her (then) 6 kids and spent the afternoon.
And a day or two later she invited my kids over.
I mean it when I say this, if she would not have made the effort our new friendship would have withered away into nothingness instead of lasting for all these years. I learned so much from that.
Which brings me up to date. These days G-d has brought amazing people into my life. The experience of being in a true friendship has opened me up to all types of people and has made me willing to trust more.
What I still need to work on is a new trap that I’ve fallen into; Being busy. Which is kind of where I think a lot of us are. We’re doing so much that investing in friendships take a back seat. But we need it. A friend is an invaluable commodity, sharing our lives is natural and important.
It takes a looong time to realize we’re not in high school anymore and you have to go out of your way to make friends.
Don’t be shy to say to yourself, “I want to make more friends.” This is really important stuff!
Below is the technical guide. The real first step is that you have to be the best you can be; a loving, non judgmental, caring, positive person with room in your heart for another. That’s a whole other discussion.
How to Make Friends In busy Community Life
1. Train yourself to have a good eye.Look for the positive traits in other people, comment on them. Look for the positive traits in yourself, enjoy them.
2. Take note of which traits you value.
3. Look for people with those traits.
4. When you find them, strike up a conversation. Be sincerely interested. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Share a little bit of yourself (that’s the trust part) and see how it goes.
* Here’s where friendship and a date differ. You don’t have to have an immediate click in order to pursue a friendship. You’re not looking for romance, you’re looking for someone you can trust, a good person.
5.Pursue the friendship; Give them a Good Shabbos call, posting on their FB wall doesn’t count. Invite them over or visit them. Bring over random flowers or a lovely scented candle.If there’s something you both like – offer to do it together. How about learning Torah or taking a power walk together?
It make seem awkward, but that’s how it’s done. To get to know a person takes actual time investment.
Above all, in these fast paced times, don’t wait for a better time to pursue a friendship. There is no better time. The time is now:)