"People with deep and lasting friendships may be introverts, extroverts, young, old, dull, intelligent, homely, good-looking, but the one characteristic they all have in common is openness." —Alan Loy McGinnis
As of March 2019, wikiHow now has instructions on how to find good friends as an adult, in 15 steps no less.
The internet as well as our families are full of advice about how to find friends, but for believers, finding good friends can feel a bit tough because the Bible isn’t exactly an instruction manual for procuring friendship.
Besides, building new friendships sometimes seems like navigating a minefield.
Hard to Find and Easy to Lose
Let’s face it: Making friends gets progressively harder as an adult. As a little kid, all I had to do was walk up to another kid on the playground and say, “Hey, you like horses? Cool. I can draw horses. Want to see my school notebook? I’ll draw you a horse. With a purple mane and stars shooting past it.”
Ta-da! New friend acquired.
Finding friends as an adult is more difficult, and there are a couple of logical reasons for this.
First, we don’t meet as many new people. We work with the same people day in and day out and don’t exactly graduate to another grade, have new classes each semester or get offered a nigh infinite smorgasbord of clubs or summer camps to attend.
Second and seemingly paradoxically, people often don’t stick around long enough for us to get close to them. It was hot elementary school gossip if a new kid showed up or left midyear. At work, it’s par for the course if someone you like has to move because they or their spouse got a new job or they suddenly have family responsibilities that take them out of the picture for a while.
Third, fear of either rejection or secretly toxic people holds us back. Like wedding stories for people who attend a lot of those, most people have a friend story about “The Rotten One.” All it takes is one bad encounter with an emotional mooch or the jealous-judgmental tank to make the most generous person gun-shy afterwards.
For Christians, a good friend should also encourage us toward God, which is pretty much impossible for another person to do if they don’t believe in God or don’t trust him themselves. That narrows the pool of potential buddies even further.
Honestly, life would be so much easier if we didn’t need friends. It was also be lonely and so much more boring.
Helping Us Live Longer and Better
Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Gary Wilkerson takes this one step further to say that it’s essential to have close friends. “If you don't have at least five good friends, then you're missing something. I've also heard it said that if I didn't know about your heart, your character, your nature and you just introduced me to your five closest friends, I could tell what you're like...”
These people will shape who we are, as a great deal of research has demonstrated.
Psychological Science posted a study that showed that befriending self-disciplined people often increases an individual’s self-control. The Journal of Consumer Research noted that people with close relationships are less likely to take unnecessary or unwise financial risks. Conversely, a variety of studies have found that having lots of social media “friends” actually increases stress and anxiety.
Medical professionals are even finding that having friends—those not through social media—has significant health benefits. An Australian study found that participants with strong social networks tended to live 22 percent longer than those without.
When research focused solely on women, the results were even more startling. A group of UCLA researchers found that serious health issues decreased by 60 percent for women who had at least one close, healthy friendship.
“Sweet friendships refresh the soul and awaken our hearts with joy, for good friends are like the anointing oil” (Proverbs 27:9 TPT).
Seek Out the Real Stuff
Solid friendships, which are tricky to find at the best of times, can sometimes get overlooked for lesser substitutes in the Christian community.
“Even Christian fellowship is different than really having intimate friends,” Gary Wilkerson pointed out in his podcasts. “Belonging to a small group is not necessarily having friends. You can hide in a small group almost as well as you can hide in a mega church.”
Opening up to a stranger may trigger a lot of your anxieties, and it may feel exhausting if you’re not an especially extroverted individual or if you’re working at a particularly draining job. Still, very little is as worthwhile as this pursuit.
“True friends are hard to find,” Kelly Needham wrote on Desiring God.
“They stick closer than family, and often know you better. They pray bigger things for you than you pray for yourself. They believe with you when your faith is weak. They make space for you when life falls apart, and they rejoice with you when all is well. Most importantly, true friends remind you in every encounter who and what is most important.”
On this the Bible pretty clearly agrees.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17 NLT).
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13).
Since having friends is so important, how do we go about finding them?
Be Brave and Be Real.
First, off start with prayer. That may seem really basic, but God knows how much you need a friend. One of the first things that he says about humanity is, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
He already knows, far better than we do, how much we need others we can trust.
Second, approach new people. Talk to them. Get to know them. Church is usually a solid bet, but some of my best and truest friends I’ve met in college classes, at another friend’s house party, in an Armenian bakery or because they saw me walking and offered me a ride to wherever I was going.
Seeking out someone to be your friend can be a really intimidating process, one that’s often filled with a lot of failed attempts, and that’s okay.
Sometimes people are busy and genuinely don’t have time. Occasionally you may move the friendship along faster than the other person is ready for and expect too much, too soon. You also have to make peace with the fact that you may like someone, but the feeling may not be mutual.
Third, be willing to invest in a new relationship. People will devote huge amounts of time, money and energy into dating a potential romantic interest but never bother to “date” potential friends. Go do new things together. Have an adventure. Pray regularly with each other. Be brave and be honest.
Building new relationships is risky; you’ll make mistakes, and not everyone will like you, but it’s 100 percent worth it.
One day, you’ll be able to stand back and say, “God brought this really cool person into my life, and together we’ve built a great friendship.”