Reflecting God’s own triune nature, we are created to live in loving community with others as well as with God. Too much isolation can lead to loneliness, depression, and sense of abandonment. Our perceptions can become distorted. A healthy pastor will seek to cultivate and maintain ongoing connection with others including other pastors. A circle of close friends can help ensure mutual support, encouragement, laughter, fun, and accountability.
Take 5 minutes to read and reflect about how God might be speaking to you right now about your need for friendship. Here are 5 suggestions for cultivating friendships adapted from The Friendship Factor by Alan McGinnis:
- Make having friends a high priority. We tend to put less emphasis on creating friendships as we age. We settle into our work and ministry. Making friends may not be different from any other accomplishment. It takes intentionality. For many of us, we do not have friends because we do not seek friends. Yet we are created for friendship and without it we wither. Do you have one person with whom you can have fun? If not, can you identify one person whom you would like to cultivate a deeper friendship? If you do not have a good friend, can you make it a priority to cultivate friendship with at least one other person this week?
- Learn to be transparent. The essence of transparency is when you are willing to reveal what you are really thinking. There is no facade. Transparent people do not wear masks. This is what is meant by “being authentic.” Being transparent with others increases the likelihood that they will be transparent with you. Jesus was transparent (see John 15:15). How transparent are you?
- Dare to talk about your affection. People who have friends often express their feelings of warmth, love, and care toward others. They tell others what they like about them. They are willing to say, “I will miss you” rather than, “See you later.” They do not believe they are being sentimental, but are expressing true feelings of affection. When others sense this love from you, they will tend to love you back. Do you find it hard to express your affection for others? Is there a potential friend to whom you can begin to express your admiration and care?
- Do acts of kindness. People who have friends do small acts of kindness for others. Acts of kindness show that you do not take others for granted. People feel appreciated when you do something nice for them, something unexpected. A small gift. A kind gesture. Others are more likely to return your kindness. Acts of kindness are a way to forge a friendship. It takes practice to be mindful of others. Is there someone you would like to draw closer to in friendship? What act of kindness can you do for that person, perhaps today?
- Allow for space. Sometimes people lose friends because they are too controlling. Close friends know how to respect boundaries. They are secure enough to know that by providing space, they actually strengthen the friendship and will not lose the other. They allow the other to have freedom to make choices and to live their own lives. How controlling do you think you are with your friendships? Are you willing to allow your friends the space to be themselves?
These insights about cultivating friendship and other suggestions for creating healthy relationships can be found in the following resources:
- Alan Loy McGinnis (2004). The Friendship Factor. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.
- Mel Silberman (2000). People Smart. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.