“Sometimes our relationships wither because we don’t cultivate them. What would happen to a garden if we only tended it when it came to mind? Like working the ground, you and I need to create patterns, or habits, for connecting with people.”
I’ll challenge you in moment, but first, an encouragement: if you are aware that you struggle to forge friendships, then you’re further along than you may feel. Our culture is experiencing a friendship famine—at least in terms of true friendship. Many don’t even realize they’ve been on a starvation diet of deep relationships. So, be heartened that you realize your need. Awareness is progress.
But how do you move forward from here? I’ll share a few things you should know, and a few steps you should take.
First, you need to know that your ache for friendship doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, but that something is right with you. God said that it was “not good” that Adam was alone (Gen. 2:18). The deepest problem in the world is sin, but the first problem was solitude. So, if you want better friendships, of course it’s partly because you’re broken—as we all are—but it’s also, and most deeply, because you’re human. You were made for friendship.
You also need to know that you’re not alone. The truth is, many people feel disconnected or lonely. Data shows a steep decline in close relationships in America. The UK recently appointed a Minister for Loneliness. Rent-a-friend is an increasingly global business. And while social media helps us increase our connections, many of us are still left without any true companions.
Finally, you need to know that forging friendship is especially hard for men today. Many of us are mobile—maybe school or relocation for work moved you hundreds of miles from friends. Many of us also don’t build relational margin into our schedules, so we always feel too full for friendship. And as we connect more digitally, we find ourselves connecting less deeply. We can add to all of this that men in our culture find it hard to share deeply or express affection and affirmation. So, mobility, busyness, and technology team up with our relational shortcomings as men to make deep connection quite difficult.
But each one of us can take a step into the lost joys of real friendship. What can you do? More than can, what must you do? I say must because we need to take clear, concrete steps. That’s the only way life will change. And, men, let’s face it: we are often far too passive when it comes to forging friendships. Let’s put the same effort into friendship that we put into sports, family, or working out. Here are five steps.