Many of you may have noticed that I like listening to the oldies based upon some of my articles. One such song recently aired on the radio and the title was fitting for this month’s topic. It seems like developing and keeping friendships among women, especially African American women, can be challenging. I hear it all of the time from women across the various socioeconomic statuses and generations. Some women exclaim that they only have male friends or that women keep confusion going so they do not bother with them or because of past hurts it is easier to be alone. Others fear that their trust will be broken or that their love relationships will be compromised or they will become the topic of office gossip. Still others wonder if their would be friend has ulterior motives or is she genuinely interested in friendship. All of these are roadblocks to developing healthy friendships among women. It is not that these risks are not real but it is in the DNA of humanity to be in relationship with one another and women in particular thrive in the social context of friendship. Learning to be open to cultivating new friendships as well as maintaining current ones is important to one’s well-being. People live longer when they have friends. Their mental health is better. Their spiritual life is more enriching and their overall health is improved. These are the benefits of friendship.
So how can we become better friends and begin new friendships? First we must do as Proverbs 18:24 so aptly puts it, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” (NKJ). We have to send positive vibes and body language to those we desire to be in relationship with. Actions help persons determine your intentions and being friendly is one sure sign to others that you may be open to getting to know them. Another verse in Proverbs defines what true friendship is all about when it declares, “A friend loves at all times.” (17:17, NIV). This means that even when people disappoint you as a friend, you are to love them like Jesus loves you. Love does not mean to take abuse from someone but to deal with them gingerly and prayerfully. Developing new friendships can be difficult as we age but it is not impossible. Join groups that have interests you enjoy and see if you make connections with others who are like-minded. It is also possible to make friends with persons totally out of your normal circle. Jesus made it a point to be with people that were of different backgrounds and cultures. In fact, people chided him for his openness and he responded, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” If Jesus can expand his circle of friends to include people with mixed motives and impure intentions but keep his integrity and maintain his character, then so can we.
Friendship is the key to expanding the Kingdom. Making new disciples in the twenty-first century is going to take more than distributing tracks and mailing people cd’s. People are looking for relationships. That is why social media web sites like Facebook, My Space, Linkedin, etc. are so popular. It is a new way of making friends without the work of what real friendship is all about. The time for excuses for not having friends is over. If Jesus can call us his friends what makes us think we are better than others when it comes to establishing friendships. If Abraham can be called a friend of God, what makes you selective in who you will befriend? The reality is that we all have flaws and making and keeping friends can be challenging. The challenge is worth it when you consider the benefits. Christians should be friendship magnets. Jesus said people would know we were his disciples by our love. Loving others through friendships and other relationships is doable. Stop making excuses for why we can’t be friends and start making opportunities for cultivating friendships.