I don’t think many of us aspire to be a mediocre friend. As a general rule, we don’t usually set out to fill our lives with superficial, surface-level friends or to fill our address book with a long list of acquaintances. It just sort of happens. Life gets busy, filled up with activities and obligations, or we get burned once or twice by someone we let get too close. Those we were close to at one time drift away either because they moved away or because we entered a different stage of life. We hang on to superficial relationships because, in many ways, they are just easier. They don’t threaten to break us. They are just what’s there.
But what if we took the time to start cultivating real relationships in our lives? What if we refused to settle for mediocrity and instead took the time to nurture friendships that were real and honest and true? What if becoming unstuffed meant choosing quality over quantity in our personal lives, not just with the objects in our homes? How would that change our outlook on life?
It takes effort and intention to be a good friend and to cultivate real relationships in your life. Here are a few practical ideas to help get you started:
There is no reason to sit around waiting for someone else to make the first move. The same goes for the friends you already have—you must nurture those friendships or they will go away. It takes very little effort to send out a quick text message every now and then. At the very least, start there.
A big part of taking the initiative to improve your relationships means taking the time to be intentional about who you are reaching out to. Don’t make your list too long; remember, this is about quality, not necessarily quantity.
Prioritize Face-to-Face Friendships.
Sometimes we can spend so much energy investing in old friends or acquaintances via Facebook or Instagram that we neglect friendships we could make or deepen in real life right now. Make an effort to spend less time online and more time chatting with the people in your face-to-face world.
So much of social media is about putting your own life on display, hoping to elicit a response. Try turning this dynamic on its head. Instead of being so eager to share your own trials, tribulations, and triumphs, focus on the person you are connecting with.
Nothing changes the way we feel about someone or makes us care for them more deeply than praying for them regularly.
Be willing to talk about the hard stuff, both in your life and theirs.
Make Time for Friendship.
Remember the most basic rule of friendship? In order to have a friend, you must be a friend.
When it comes to the real relationships in your life, try not to waste your time on bitterness because you are feeling left out. Because as it turns out, that friend you think may have forgotten all about you is feeling just as busy, overwhelmed, or neglected as you are. The reality is that we all tend to get wrapped up in our own little worlds and forget to nurture our friendships the way we should. Even so, reaching out without expecting anything in return — taking time to cultivate real relationships — is one of the most important things we will ever do.
- Cultivate Real Relationships
Make a small list of people with whom you’d like to cultivate real relationships. Put an action plan in place to make it happen! Send a text to a friend asking for prayer requests, or invite a friend out to coffee. Be intentional and reserve time to allow your friendship to flourish.
- Find Balance in a Chaotic World
Stress chips away at our psyches, making us feel helpless and despondent, or angry and bitter. It eats away at our health, contributing to physical pain, problems sleeping, weight gain, and much more. Some of the best antidotes to stress are the most basic: sleep, exercise, and downtime. Try these tips to help combat stress.
Sleep: Be consistent. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day—even on the weekends and holidays—help our bodies reinforce a regular sleep-wake cycle. Eventually our bodies will just “know” when it is time to go to bed, which makes it much easier to fall asleep. Our bodies will also know when it is time to rise—often before our alarm even goes off—allowing us to wake up completely refreshed.
Exercise: Go for a walk (or a bike ride). The easiest way to incorporate more steps and movement into your day is to simply take a walk: whether it’s a brisk twenty minutes first thing in the morning, a quick trip around the block during your lunch break, or a relaxing stroll with your spouse and kids after dinner. The more you make it a part of your regular routine, the easier it will be.
Downtime: Keep your weekends free. We discovered that staying home is actually pretty great. While we still go out on occasion, we have now made a much bigger effort to keep our weekend plans as unscheduled as possible. The girls play; my husband and I talk; and we all end the weekend feeling refreshed and rejuvenated instead of exhausted. The simple act of planning to do nothing has made all the difference in the world.
Watch Session Three of Unstuffed
* * *
Have you made it a New Year’s resolution to slow down, get intentional, and cultivate meaningful friendships this year – to move beyond the surface and go deep in your relationships? Join the conversation on the blog!