Going to the college I went to for the undergraduate years was definitely not Plan A.
Plan A was that a close friend and I had both been accepted at Michigan State. We were going to be roommates.
I knew it wasn’t meant to be.
It was a good school with a psych program. That wasn’t it.
It was that my future roommate wanted a chance to let her hair down and have some wild fun. And what’s more, she wanted me to show her the ropes!
And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was those empty, rank-based friendships and cliques that had ultimately left me unsatisfied in the first place when I had rededicated my life to Christ about a year before.
It was time for Plan B, which I hoped didn’t mean b-o-r-i-n-g.
So there I was, a few months later, having decided against MSU and at the unexciting EMU (Eastern Michigan U) with my new ideology. Peaceful but totally and utterly clueless about how to make a true friend.
Where does one go to find good friendships that aren’t about selfishness, the party lifestyle, or social rank?
Good question for any adult too, right?
Many of you tell me in sessions that you still feel this empty ache of a life without meaningful, godly friendships.
That you’ve been so wounded by friends in the past that you have closed your heart off to them.
Or that your friends have been ultimately about partying and empty dating relationships like mine were.
Proverbs 12:26 says that the righteous choose their friends carefully. But what does that look like?
I want to flesh out a game plan for you today.
In my case, I joined a Christian fellowship group on campus for starters which was a great place to begin (This is similar to going to a church and joining a small group but at college).
However, when I got into the group, and I must prepare you, I was in for a shock.
Most of them seemed like they had never even see a PG-13 movie and they definitely didn’t share my interest in music, clothes, movies, sports, etc.
And some of them even hung out with and enjoyed their parents! 🙂 (Please let that be my kids someday!)
At our get-to-know-you meeting, many of them talked about how they had been misunderstood in high school and were so excited to finally be rid of the immaturity of cliques. Gulp.
They also talked about their prayer requests, their professional dreams and their family concerns.
In short, they were ten times more mature than me spiritually and professionally.
I was however, surprised to see that one of them was the painfully awkward student from Psychology 101 whose bad habits caused constant snickering. Others were involved in complicated card games (before Pokemon was en vogue), cross-stitch and the like. And all of them wore thick glasses or strange ensembles of clothes without consequence.
In other words, they were comfortable with who they were.
Hmmmmm. That was just weird.
I decided to stick around.
I was used to pretending to be flippant and fun, masking my gifts. These guys were helping others and serving God.
And not just for the college application or the permission slip.
And I just knew this was the group I needed even though it was definitely not the one I wanted.
No acting better than others here. They wouldn’t even notice.
No social games.
Just people trying to study, getting to know God better, and following their dreams.
And hopefully not picking their noses anymore in psych class 🙂
Yes, this was a safe place to do my growing.
When others suggested I join the “cooler” Christian group on campus, I was like, “No thanks, being a Christian isn’t really cool and thinking I was cool is what got me in trouble….”
So I did what anyone may do if they wanted to grow…
I took my homecoming court crown off the shelf and put it away, dusted off my old fifth grade classes and got comfy for the next four years!
OK, I left those glasses, LOL. I still have them though.
But seriously, if you too find yourself fortunate enough to meet friends in a great setting like I did, I’m sure you will run into some surprises also. However, you can still be you even in this new env’t.
As for me, I still worked at the super fast-paced campus coffee shop and Starbucks which felt waaaay more congruent with my personality.
But this group was my core group during this growing season for my entire college career.
And this sweet group of individuals were just what I needed to grow; they studied, had innocent fun, didn’t go to frat parties (of course), and I followed suit. It was good clean living, even if a little B as in boring sometimes.
Why did I stick it out? Because within the boundaries of these healthier and more godly friendships, my academic and spiritual life flourished like never before. And I felt God’s pleasure and peace upon me. I felt Him growing me into a more compassionate and serious young woman. And I needed this badly.
In your case, you too may need to walk away from something really fun that isn’t good for you, like cliques, addictions, wild living, gambling, flirtations, etc.
By the time I graduated (with high grades of course with this set of friends :), I had been through the refiner’s fire of friendships. I was no longer tempted by cliques or partying at all.
But I did begin to earnestly pray for kindred spirit types of friendships, people who are like-minded and really “got me.”
I didn’t cut the others off, but our lack of shared hobbies and interests over the years did naturally separate us (and most friendships have seasons, as you probably know, while a few are lifetime).
It took a few more tries, since I apparently had a penchant for attracting female stalkers…
But that’s another blog altogether.
And best of all, the prayer was answered!
Now I have a few friends who are goal-oriented, caring and compassionate, super fun and love to laugh, and really kindred spirits.
When someone I know seems cliquey, I shy away, knowing it just isn’t for me. My friends come in all shapes, sizes and ages and I like that.
And because it took me so long to find the friends I’ve made, I’ve tried to treat my friendships with greater respect and honor.
They’ve helped me through grief, career changes, family stuff, marriage stuff, work stuff, and when the going gets tough in my world, one or two of them is always in a place to step up the support. They are as much a part of mental health wellness as any other part of self-care, maybe more! I try to be that for them also.
And that part is huge.
If you get nothing else from this email today, get this. To gain a friend, be a friend.
I hope this note finds you well and ready to pursue healthy relationships at whatever the cost.
You are certain of godly success when you keep awesome company!
As a recap, I’ve included the 7 Steps I’ve learned about fantastic friendships below! You can find this on my blog here also per usual along with many of my other emails!
Here are several awesome steps for both making and keeping great friends!
- Put aside relationships that tear you down in your faith, discourage you in a godly lifestyle, or in your motivation toward your dreams.
- Find a safe group of people to connect with, to share your prayer needs with, and to identify with as God’s family.
- Allow God to teach you what you need to do and to be in friendships before you expect amazing, reciprocal, quality friendships. Be patient here. It took me four years but those years were so valuable for character building.
- When you’ve got it down, pray for God to give you a kindred spirit or two as friends!
- When you have these friends, treat them like gold. Help them. Allow them to help you. Laugh together, mourn together, be accountable to each other, pray together and just be real together.
- Remember not to push too hard in friendships for someone’s attentiveness or approval. That’s a major turn-off unless the feeling is highly mutual! 🙂 Their non-verbals will lead you to see whether you should move toward and away from them if you pay attention.
- It’s OK to work together, but don’t use your business relationship manipulatively to guilt a friend into helping you or doing you favors! If they help you, allow that to be from earnest desire and not guilt.
Love Living Intentionally With You,