IS IT WEIRD TO HAVE FRIENDSHIP HABITS?! Absolutely not! Brainstorming a rhythm for how we will grow as a friend can help give us vision for where we’d like to see our friendships in a month, a year or five years and setting intentional steps to pursue that vision. When we aren’t intentional about pursuing our friends or we aren’t sure what we really want our friendships to become; then in a couple of years we may still be exactly where we started with acquaintance-level friendships.
Not only that but things change. The friendship habits that worked in college don’t work as a wife and mother. The friendship habits even from a year ago are different today. And even with big changes like moving, having kids, getting married or starting a new job there are also little changes that impact our friendships. Each season, I have to reevaluate how I can engage with my friends and our ever-changing schedules.
So, how do I set these new friendship plans and make decisions that will grow my friendships?
To set friendship habits, you need a foundation of what you believe a good friend does. When someone asks me to define friendship, I often begin to describe a friend I already have. My neighbor is a rock star friend. She is always welcoming other women into her circle, is friendly and open to rearranging her schedule to spend time with you even with two kids. Sometimes, she even sends me letters in the mail, even though we live a block from each other, because she knows I LOVE snail mail. She’s thoughtful, kind, encouraging and vulnerable.
So, when I think of what kind of friend I’d like to be, I think of her and the qualities I would love to grow and reflect more of.
If you need a few more good friendship definitions, you can read my article on “Six qualities a great friend practices.”
Sacrifice Some Comforts
Like any new habit, you need to shift what you’re currently doing to see results. There are a few barriers to your friendships that you live with day-to-day. One of my comforts is wanting social things “easy” for me and Hunter. Does it fit with our nap schedule? Is it kid friendly? Can he run around without strangers giving us dirty looks? Sometimes, plans work out for us but, other times it’s not convenient to go out. But, my friends are important to me, so we get ourselves together and go. I am always happy I did and my friends feel loved that I made the effort.
So maybe your comforts are staying home in your pjs on the couch instead of going to meet a new friend or you feel tired after work so you don’t go to small group. These small decisions add up to big unhealthy habits in our friendships. As you assess how you can be a good friend in this season, take a look at some of your social comforts and challenge yourself to choose friend time over “things that feel safe and easy.”
Know Your Boundaries
It’s important to talk about boundaries because we cannot be everything and do everything for our friends. So, we evaluate our time, resources and commitments. Things change, work projects change, family needs change, finances change—it is okay to take these into consideration when making plans to build your friendships.
What are your limits? To see fruit grow from this exercise, you have to stay realistic. One of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff, wrote a book called Finish which is all about making goals that you are actually going to finish. In his research, he learned that making reasonable goals motivate you to do more than “out of reach” goals. For example, if you are determined to have coffee with one friend a month, that seems do-able right? And if you did it twice, you are feeling so good about yourself that you are more motivated to do more. On the other hand, if you plan to make a meal for a mom every week for three months and on week two you are already giving up. You are going to quit this habit immediately and feel like a total friendship failure—nobody wants that! Set yourself up for success. Know what you can or cannot do and write some habits that make sense for your season. (Note: remember that these limits are hopefully only for a season. At some point, the limitation may become an excuse. Stay aware of that when the new year comes and it is time to evaluate our friendship habits again.)
Now, grab some paper and brainstorm ways that you can love your friends in this season. If you are needing some extra creative juices, I wrote a list of friendship habits you can explore here.