While today I’m quite content on the friend front in my town of Colorado Springs, it certainly wasn’t always that way. When we moved here twelve years ago, we knew a few folks — friends we still have today. However, it took us a full decade to connect with a wider circle of people and for me to feel like I was at home here, apart from my own family, of course.
A decade is a mighty long time, y’all.
I’ve lived in places where it didn’t take nearly that long, but here it did. More often than not, the miracle of making community just takes longer than I think it should. Is it worth it? Oh, yes. But as is often the case, quality doesn’t mean quickly.
While I relish this garden of flowering friendships in my day-to-day life, it’s not the same story on other fronts. In my work life, I don’t have friendships to the degree I once did. Oh, I still enjoy great relationships with work folks, but many of the relationships I worked hard to cultivate for the last decade aren’t what they used to be. And even as I’ve prayed and reached out and put all kinds of effort into widening my circle, I haven’t experienced the success of connection I’d hoped for. In this field, I feel a little untethered and a lot lonely as I try to create the expansive sense of belonging I once enjoyed.
As a former military wife who spent repeated years making new community, I learned quite a bit about what to do and what not to do to make friends. I’m by no means perfect at it! But I know that you can do many of the “right” things and still see little reward.
And that can cause no small amount of frustration.
In an effort to understand why things are the way they are in my own life, I’ve had to form some honest answers to a couple of questions. If your own friendship landscape looks too barren for your liking — whether that be in your neighborhood, at work, at church, or elsewhere — I welcome you to consider your own answers to these questions alongside me.
First, is it possible I’m discounting some places I do already belong because I’m spending too much time lamenting where I don’t?
I am guilty of ignoring people in places I do belong because I’m spending too much time missing folks who used to be around but aren’t anymore. I genuinely lament the loss of these folks. After all, I really like them and loved their creative energy and personality in my life. It’s okay for me to be sad that these relationships have changed. At the same time, I need to eventually turn the page, accept that things are different, and move forward accordingly.
The truth is that friendships — like the leaves of trees within seasons — change and grow, or change and fade. I’ve been the one to step away from a friendship before, certainly. Not because there was anything wrong with the other person, but because something affected what I could give to that friendship. There was no good guy or bad guy, just the realities of life! In turn, other people have every right to step away from a friendship with me. Like any other relationship, it takes both parties’ investment for it to grow. I can’t do the work for both of us.
Be that as it may, I can take a gratitude-laced look at those places I do belong today and turn my energies towards nurturing the people there, even as I’d like to still nurture new relationships too.
And this leads me to the second question:
If I’m putting forth sincere effort to connect with folks yet making little progress, is it possible I’m going through this less-than-ideal friendship season because the Lord simply wants my attention elsewhere?
I’ve discovered that there are times when the Lord, in His divine, knows-all-things wisdom, temporarily winnows one area of our lives in order to widen our focus on another. Whether we need to tend to some things within our family, our hearts, or our relationship with Him, God helps meet that need by removing some of our distractions. I sense this is the case in my own life right now, but it won’t be the case forever. God’s heart is for us to have our people — no one is the exception to that. But for now, I will tend to the areas He directs me towards.
Whatever your answer are to these questions, know that the way things are right now doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. While self-awareness and an honest evaluation of our own actions in friendships are always good things to consider, everyone goes through seasons when friends are few or relationships disappoint us — even Jesus. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.”
There is an appointed time for friendship droughts to begin, yes.
But there’s also an appointed time for them to end, praise be.
While we wait for our own to end, may we be mindful to give others grace and give ourselves grace too.
If you could use a bit more practical direction on how to find your place and people, check out one of my OG (in)courage articles here or my book Back Roads to Belonging: Unexpected Paths to Finding Your Place and Your People.
Thank you so much for your insight and encouragement.
This was so beautiful! Thanks, Kristen!
Kristen Strong says
Thank *you*, Allison. xo
Kristen Strong says
You’re so welcome, Jen. xo
Kristen, that was so timely and helpful for me. I appreciate your perspective and will surely be asking myself those questions. Thank you.
Kristen Strong says
I’m so glad, Madeline, and I’m so glad to have you along in the question asking!
Kathy Cheek says
I’ve always wished cultivating friendships wasn’t so hard, but the few kindred spirits that really get us are so worth the effort!
Several weeks ago, I had lunch with my very good friend and then we went to HomeGoods to browse, and we had fun going through all the fall decor, admiring all the pretty items. A couple weeks later I went with a different friend, and she took off to the other side of the store leaving me wandering the aisles trying to find her. I just thought it was funny. The kindred spirit friend browsed the aisles with me, the casual friend had other ideas. But I am thankful for casual relationships too.
I appreciate your thoughts on friendships and the changes we go through with those relationships.
Kristen Strong says
I’ve wished the same, Kathy, and agree with you all the way around. Your HomeGoods story is an excellent picture of both types of friendships!
Thank you for sharing here *and* for the kind words!
Thank you, Kristen! I am in a bit of a friendship drought right now. Between politics and the pandemic, friendships have fallen apart. Sadly. I have some ideas for reaching out. Thank you for yours.
Kristen Strong says
Irene, thank you for sharing here! We do live in a time when even longstanding friendships can change due to polarizing topics. I get that. Yet there are always ways to reach out and toward another, and I love that you have such a heart to do just that. (In the comment below, Angela gave some fantastic additional ideas for reaching out, too!)
When my husband and I were in our 20’s,30’s and 40’s we were blessed with an abundance of friends. Because of the nature of his job, we moved around a lot, but because we were young it didn’t seem to be a problem.
Now that we’re retired we’re struggling to have any!
It’s so tough! Any ideas from you sweet ladies would be welcome.
I have followed you Kristen for a long time! Love your writing.
You may have tried all of these, but since you asked for suggestions…
1. Volunteer somewhere (nonprofit, school, Church team, community cleanup, botanical garden,library, voting location,hospital, meals on wheels, senior center, etc)
2. Try a book club
3. Join the historical society or any other local club where you live
4. See if your library or community center has any classes for adults (cooking, art, yoga, and more are all offered at mine)
5. Get a dog! For real, I’ve been amazed how many people both in my neighborhood and everywhere I take her will stop and talk to me just because of my dog. I only got my first dog 2 years ago, so I had no idea what icebreakers they were! You can also take your dog to a dog park and meet people there. There is a regular group of friendly retired people who meet with their dogs at my local dog park.
Sorry this is so long! I’ve been going through all of these myself as we just moved again in 2020. It’s a lot of work seeking out new friendships. May God bless your efforts with sweet new friends!
Kristen, you always speak to my heart. It’s too bad we all live so far apart.
Thank you friend for talking the time to thoughtfully write out these suggestions! Yes, I actually delivered Meals on Wheels for a decade and was awarded a certificate for my dedication to the program when we lived in Vermont. I will try the other suggestions you mentioned. Bless you and thank you kindly.
Kristen Strong says
Dee, I so appreciate your vulnerable question here…AND the reality of what you struggle. I know many a person who says making friends in their 50+ years is harder than when they were younger. I *love* what Angela shared below! I would add to that the principal of show up, open up, and pray up.
Show up–show up where other people are. (Angela’s suggestions are so helpful here!) Just making an excuse to stop by a neighbor’s house–because you need to borrow an egg or perhaps you made some kind of treat you’d like to share–can help one to “cross the awkward bridge” and connect with someone else.
Open up your house–invite someone over for coffee, dessert, or dinner.
Pray up–you’re probably already doing this, but ask God to cross your path with a person or three who would make a great friend!
I hope that helps at least a little! xo
Thank you for this. Needed it. Waving at you from Fort Collins! 🙂
Kristen Strong says
Waving back to you, Debbie!!
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Kirsten thank you for this post. I had a few friends in school not that many. As was never that popular. I didn’t ever want to be. Still don’t. But some of the friends I had in school. Are all living there own lives and Married with kids some of them. I wish today we stayed friends. We could meet up for coffee now and then. But they don’t seem to want to. I say it is because they are busy with their marriage life and their kids. But I have two friends they do keep in touch with me. That used to live 15 miles away from where I live. They now live 86 miles away from me. I don’t see them that much. But they do keep in touch with my texts and emails. Plus if going to down in the town were I live. They will contact me to meet up for lunch which is nice. They are so kind. It good to catch up with them. I have another friend that lives only 20 miles from me. She is also so good to me. But don’t see her that often because she lives on her own. By the time she gets home from work and has her own things to do. So when we do meet up it is lovely too. All theses friends are special to me and I fortunate they are saved. If I need prayer they will pray for me. All I have to do is text them or email them. They know if they need prayer from me. They just have to do same. So it lovely all these friend even know I don’t see them that often especially the ones that live 86 miles away. That use when only live 20 miles away see more of. As we meet even with me being married as the one that 86 miles away are not married. We meet one a month and I did enjoy that. But I know season change. I wish I prayed about this in the past another friend. Who was saved that lived were I live. We could see either more. As miss my friends that did live here that I don’t see that often and the one that is that is busy. That I also don’t see that often. As I said to God in the past. I love a another friend to go now then for coffee or lunch or prayer walks or just chat to that is saved that I could see more often. But it’s never happened. My Husband said Dawn you got me. You don’t need anyone else. If no one else wants to be your friend. Spend time with you that is there loss. As my friends that now live 86 miles away. One sister as two sisters. One of the sisters has friend that live on 2 miles up the road from were I live and I have tried to be friends with her. But she never wanted to know. I just at one time let it get to me. Thought what wrong with me. I can’t get another friend. Why does no one want to know me. Then God said Dawn don’t let it get to you. You are special and special to your Husband and me. You never forget that. You have friends that care even about you even if busy our live far away. When you remember that is more special as they care. Keep in touch than looking for another friend to see more often to go for coffee or lunch with. As when you see those friends that live far away or the one that you don’t see that often. You are special to them and the time you have with them is special. They enjoy being in your company. That made me see that is far more important. Than wanting another friend and if God wants me to have another friend know God will send me one. That made me happy again. Love Dawn Ferguson-Little keeping you all in prayer incourage. Xx
Beth Williams says
Making friends can be hard for me. Like a lot of people I’m an introvert & a little shy. Add to that growing up around older people (parents were 40 when I was born). It took me 18 years to develop some really close friendships at church. Treasure our times together. But sadly a new chapter/season has come into my life. Hubby & I will be changing churches in January due to our pastor retiring, my new full time job & the long drive out there. Fortunately we will be attending the church of hubby’s youth & I’ve already made some good friends there.
Friendships wax & wane depending on the season you or the others are in. That was/is true for me with coworkers. Had good friends at one job & now we seem to have drifted away. At my last job I had a couple of really good friends. I do my best to stay in contact with them. Miss them, but one retired & the other took another job at different hospital.
Prayers for everyone to develop some good friends. Angela’s ideas for making friends is great. I volunteer with a food bank one day a week & have made some good friends that I keep up with & pray for. You never know where the friends will come from. It’s alright to lament the ending of one friendship, but be on the look out for others in your sphere of influence–work, volunteer, church, community center classes or whatever.