Once you have found friends with whom you can share your heart, how do you grow a friendship?
In the past year or so, these are some of the things I have learned (and am still learning) about growing a friendship.
You must be purposeful.
Relationships rarely just happen on their own. You need to be purposeful and plan at times. Set regular times in the calendar. Call when you haven’t heard from someone in a while. Send a text, or better yet, a card or a letter to let them know you are thinking about them. Ask how they’re doing, and really want to know.
You must be present.
In the screen age, I find that this is more challenging. We are used to texting rather than calling (even I prefer a text to a phone call). But there is nothing like face to face, sit down for coffee heart-to-heart chat. And put the screens down. If you can, turn off your ringer so you’re not checking notifications every two minutes. I know it’s hard, because our phones have become an appendage, but try. I read last week that the message you send if you’re looking at your phone while talking to another person is “You are not enough for me right now, at this moment.” Even if that’s not our intention, is that really the message we want to send? Look people in the eye. It can be disconcerting – people don’t look each other in the eye any more. Try active listening – ask open-ended questions, and really listen to their answers instead of planning what you’re going to say next.
You must be vulnerable.
Take down your guard. I’m not saying that you have to do this all at once, but piece by piece, share your story. Share your flaws and your imperfections. As you open up, they just might open up, too. If you’re scared, it’s okay to say it. We are all just garden variety humans trying to get through life together. Don’t pretend that you are something other than that.
You must have grace.
Have grace when your expectations are not met, or when you’re disappointed. It is scary to put yourself out there, and being rejected, or feeling like you’ve been rejected, hurts. If someone is late for a coffee date, or if they don’t return your phone call or text, give them grace. Lives are busy, and we don’t know what is happening in their lives. Maybe they’re just forgetful. Maybe they’re just flaky. Maybe they are trying to scrape together every last bit of patience to deal with their kids. Maybe they just got in a fight with their significant other. Be forgiving and show grace, and don’t take it personally. It’s not all about you. Life happens. Move on and try again.
You must show up.
The most important thing you can do is just show up. Even if it takes you seven coffee dates before you can share your story, show up. Being vulnerable is scary, but just show up. Be there. Be available. Not just physically, but emotionally. Be present. If you know you are both going to be dropping your kids off at school, buy an extra coffee and just talk in the school parking lot for five minutes. If their child is sick, bring over some crackers and ginger ale. I love the phrase that author Bob Goff uses in his book, Love Does. “Be love with skin on”. Just show up.
What does it mean to JUST SHOW UP?