Healthy Habits

Prioritizing Friendship: Rediscovering Meaningful Connections in a Busy World

“There is great joy in knowing you matter to someone, and they matter to you.” by Major Amy Reardon
High Five

Let us take a moment to consider the typical American life. Most of us are very busy. We work, raise children, walk the dog, attend events centering around our church or children or jobs, run errands, cook, repair broken things, hit the gym, and clean the house. Even many retired people I know seem to keep their plates full with church functions, hobbies, helping with grandchildren – you name it. When I say that the average American leads a busy life, I’m not telling you anything new.  

When we aren’t rushing about, we are often just exhausted and want to silo at home with a book or by streaming a movie. We also value our family time and want to be sure it is protected. Alone time and family time are both healthy and essential. But between the daily grind and the desperate need to decompress, one of life’s greatest joys is often put on the back burner: friendship.  

We keep up with our friends by checking social media, but genuine exchanges are rarer than ever. A member of Gen Z recently told me that it is an open joke in their generation that it is a relief when friends cancel plans.  

The less time we have for each other, our relationships become more artificial. We mistake acquaintance for friendship. Have you ever said “love ya” to someone, but you would never actually say “I love you” to that person? Have you ever felt like you know someone through social media, but when you are in the same room, you realize you barely know that person? Have you ever claimed someone as a friend, but one day, it dawns on you that you don’t even know how many children they have? I’m not suggesting we put space between ourselves and those we don’t know well—quite the opposite. I think the healthy thing to do is make friendship mean something. To do this, we need to invest some time in one another to know the person – not just their reputation or image. Sometimes, this starts by saying, “You know, to be honest, I don’t know you as well as I’d like.” 

While it is concerning that we struggle to build genuine friendships, it is even more troublesome when we let good friendships go. We must make a conscious effort to maintain a relationship with those we deeply value and want to keep as friends throughout our lives. It doesn’t happen automatically because friendship takes time. We live in a transient world, meaning increased effort is needed to nurture friendships. Gone are the days when people lived in the same neighborhoods or towns and attended the same churches for most of their lives. Fortunately, we also live in an age where we can text, call, Facetime and even send packages without entering a store or post office. When I was a young girl, my family moved across the country, and I could only keep in touch with friends via letter and the rare, costly, long-distance phone call. Now, I can talk to friends who have moved to lands I’ve never even visited as though they were in the same room.  

Why is maintaining good friendships such a healthy thing to do? Getting through life without strong relationships is possible, and many people have done just that. But it doesn’t seem to be God’s design. Here are a few of the many reasons it’s important to have close friends: 

Jesus modeled it. Jesus had many followers but twelve very close disciples whom He loved. Within that elite circle were three with whom He was especially close – Peter, James, and John. His desire to have them stay awake and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane indicates that they were not just His students; they were His friends, and He needed them. If even the Son of God needed friends, I suspect we do, too.

We are the body of Christ; we function better together. Assuming we have chosen fellow Christians as our closest confidants, Scripture teaches that we are each different parts of the same body. We bring different things to the table, which means we are better together. We are like pieces of the same puzzle – so very different and yet utterly suited to fit together. 

A good friend holds you accountable. I recently told a friend how upset I was over a conversation with my husband. I was not at all pleased with something he said to me. She responded with love but was direct: “Is there any truth in what he said?” When a friend has the relationship currency to say something like that, it is a strong bond. It makes you a better person and representation of Christ.  

There is great joy in knowing you matter to someone and they matter to you. If you’re old enough to remember the terrorist attacks of September 11th, you may remember one positive outcome. Friends called each other. People reconnected. The world changed that day, and we remembered how much we valued the people in our lives. It is a gift to know that beyond all the distractions life offers, someone loves you, and you love them. Love is our highest value. After all, God Himself is love! So, it is a gift to be cherished, not neglected. 

It is a chance to be Christ in the flesh for someone and vice versa. I remember when a friend called me after receiving some terrible news. She was utterly broken. She was such a strong woman, and I had never seen her cry until that moment. It was an honor to speak the words of Christ to her that day. When you go through hard times, you don’t want to be alone, and sometimes you need a voice outside your family. There is nothing like a friend to bandage you up when bleeding.  

So here’s my healthy tip: contact a friend without delay. Plan a FaceTime call or ask her to walk with you if she’s near. Set aside an hour on the weekends for phone calls and sending cards (everyone loves snail mail!). Take the lead – let your friends know that they are worth your time. You’ll probably find yourself paid back in kind.