Recently while preparing to advise middle school girls, I found myself stumped when it came to writing about making friends. I knew to tell them that making and keeping good friendships could be difficult, but beyond stating the problem, I had difficulty providing an answer to the friend-finding problem present in those years. Having the self-perceived gift of gab, I'm usually able to put a bright spin on just about anything, but my secret loneliness reminded me that I couldn't tell young girls how to make friends when I presently feel isolated.
In my state of writer’s block, I turned to Facebook to escape my self-pity. I asked ladies if (and when) there was a period where making friends proved difficult, giving them choices of elementary, middle school high school or adulthood. Then I clicked on Facebook constantly waiting to hear something more than crickets.
I received more than 30 lengthy responses, full of insight. Twenty-something of those who answered said that adulthood has been the hardest time in their lives when it comes to having good friendships.
It's not so much that people are unfriendly or purposely exclusionary in my observation. Women have great intentions of going to coffee. Most have mastered the art of small talk after church or when you see someone in the store or at a meeting. We text and use social media to type out heart-felt prayers for acquaintances who are having surgery or are going through a tough time.
Adult friendships are often feebly fashioned through surface encounters and good intentions.
Close friendships are hard to come by because:
We’re crunched for time- We're busy with life and family.
We lack the energy- I know women who have spent countless hours preparing for women's events and then were too tired to go. Friendships require emotional energy to go there with someone who is struggling. Our emotional energy is usually already lacking.
Unintentional exclusion happens- People naturally flow to those they have commonality with. Ladies who grew up together, whose children participate in like activities, and those with common interests will more easily congregate. These women aren't usually thinking, “I won't be friends with her, she's not from here.”
We often still battle insecurity- Some women believe they don't fit in so they don't try. Others have tried making friends and perceive rejection when in fact a failed attempt at friendly encounter may have been just that, a failed attempt, or a miscommunication.
Friendship can be messy- Several women relayed stories of previous failed friendships saying they had no room in their life for extra trouble.
Of seclusion- I know women who have closed themselves off because of private struggle intended to stay private. Others haven't felt support when they did share their private pain.
Lack of commonality- One of my friends mentioned the difficulty of being surrounded by women with children when she and her husband have none. Her proximal relationships didn't hold important commonality.
Surface friendships- Social media, both a burden and a blessing, makes it possible for you to have more than a thousand friends. Because of this, we are spread thin and have less room for depth.
Difficulty in making, and keeping, close friendships for women can be a problem without a simple cure. This appears to be even more prevalent amongst pastor's wives. In the next blog, we'll explore a common dynamic of pastor wives; women who are surrounded by people and loneliness.
Kristi Burden and her husband, Jason, currently reside with their three children in Nederland, TX, where they serve at First Baptist Church. She's a professional pillow fluffer, a Dr Pepper and Facebook junkie and a collector of unexpected beauty. She's so grateful for grace that she wants to share it.