There’s a great joke that says, “The greatest miracle ever recorded in the Bible that nobody ever talks about is that Jesus Christ had 12 close friends in his 30’s.”
Today, that definitely seems a bit odd in our culture. A culture in which there is a friendship famine that persists throughout western culture, including in the church.
According to research by the Survey Center on American Life:
“Many Americans do not have a large number of close friends. Close to half (49 percent) of Americans report having three or fewer. More than one-third (36 percent) of Americans report having several close friends—between four and nine. Thirteen percent of Americans say they have 10 or more close friends, which is roughly the same proportion of the public that has no close friends (12 percent).
The number of close friendships Americans have appears to have declined considerably over the past several decades. In 1990, less than one-third (27 percent) said they had three or fewer close friends, while about as many (33 percent) reported having 10 or more close friends. Only 3 percent said they did not have any close friends.”
Most Americans report having a best friend. Nearly six in 10 (59 percent) Americans say they have one person they consider their best friend. Forty percent say they do not. …
However, fewer Americans have a best friend today than they once did. In 1990, three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans reported having a best friend, a dramatic decline over the past three decades.”
Less than half of men report being satisfied with their friendships, and only about 1 in 5 said they had received emotional support from a friend in the last week, compared with 4 in 10 women.
According to psychologists, increasingly men turn to their romantic partners for their sense of friendship. But this can be dangerous for both the partners.
“It may seem like a good solution, but it works neither for the men nor the women they look to… Putting everything on a romantic partner can strain a relationship, he said, whether it is going to a female partner exclusively for emotional support or depending on her to cultivate friendships and get-togethers for holidays and weekends. It is crucial to have multiple people to go to for support for different perspectives….”
I can personally relate to this. In much of my 20’s I had a pretty healthy friend group. I was pretty successful socially, and never lacked someone to hangout with.
Then I moved across town, got married, and then COVID happened. All of this put a great strain on a lot of my friendships, and many of them pretty much withered up and died. Then when my world was rocked when my ex and I decided to get a divorce, I was very close to deciding to simply leave North Carolina, and to move back to Virginia to be with my parents and start life over from up there.
But I quickly had a change of heart, as suddenly news of my divorce sent shockwaves through my social circles. People saw me suffering and wanted to help. And friendships that had withered over the years suddenly began to flourish again, and those with whom I only had become casual acquaintances with suddenly became good friends.
So what can we do to make friends as adults?
I recommend getting a divorce! (Kidding)
Well, pretty much the same things we did as kids. As children we were all pretty much tossed onto a giant playground together, we were forced to socialize in close proximity to others, and we eventually connected with those who we deemed the most likable. Unfortunately as we get older, our sense of community has become eroded in our culture, and the 9 to 5 grind that most people engage in (especially when spouses and kids enter the picture), make it very difficult to form new friendships. We might make friends with the parents of our kids. But sometimes many fail to do that, especially as the kids get older, and less dependent.
7 Keys To Making Friends As An Adult
1. Be intentional— it seldom happens by accident. You have to put yourself out there.
2. Find an existing community of something that interests you , and get involved with that. Whenever possible, volunteer to help out. And if such a community doesn’t already exist where you are located– try starting something up yourself.
3. Invite others to participate in whatever mutual activities you both enjoy. You’ll often have to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone before you can sit across from each other and look someone in the eye.
4. Eat and drink something together, at a table! As I’ve stressed throughout this podcast, there are few things more fundamentally human, and few things more spiritual, than sharing a common meal together. This is true not only in religious practices, but just as a function of what it means to be human.
5. Open up with others. Be authentic, be vulnerable, take the risk, share your heart, share your mind.
6. Be patient. Some of us, depending on our personality type, will make friends easier than others. But regardless of your personality, making friends takes intentional effort, time, energy, and investment. Most friendships seldom strike up over night, and like a plant, often takes time before anything meaningful grows.
7. Practice love and forgiveness. At some point if you care about someone long enough, you both will get on each others nerves. Mole hills can become mountains, and for friendships to thrive in the long term, you are going to have to learn to truly love others, and practice the art of forgiveness.