…Have you heard the expression? It’s one of the phrases we use as a lens here at Gather. When you boil the many meanings down to just one, it essentially means joy in everything, or joy in life. While we all know that our main source of joy cannot be fulfilled from anything fleeting, we can confidently say that there are various aspects of life that can contribute to joy; one of the most significant being meaningful relationships. From childhood to adulthood, so much changes in this area specifically. This mystery and reality breaks my heart. What changes is that we lose the focus of living in community, and culture no longer gives us permission to spend life in groups of people that we can rest in, grow with, enjoy life with, and belong to…or not as a priority at least.
As we progress out of our school recess years, out of high school parties, and out of gathering in your dorm lounge in college, something changes. Reality is, many of these friends end up moving away. However, the alternate reality here is that we are told that in order to succeed, our focus must shift from living in community, to living in independence. As I’ve come to talk to so many of you, and even those in my immediate circle, what I’ve come to find is that people throughout all stages of their adult years continuously say one thing, “I don’t know how to make friends as an adult”.
It was when my husband and I were 23 years old, having freshly moved across the world to volunteer in Chiang Mai Thailand, that we were faced with this exact question. Feeling the sting of not having community, but the full awareness of its importance, we began to dive in and observe. What we learned was not only through what happened around our table, it was through the way others loved and befriended us as well. Through this season of intentional, meaningful, and fierce friendship we learned just how critical friendship is for well-being, and how to make friends as adults.
When we moved to Chiang Mai, we entered into a community with hundreds of international workers. All different organizations, religious backgrounds, and seasons of life. For a while, after we realized that community isn’t something that just ‘happens’, we felt this compelling pull to ‘go first’. We use this phrase a lot in our business as well, the concept of ‘you go first, hospitality’ is critical in making friends as adults. Essentially, this is how it works…take that person you see at the gym every week, that couple you always sit next to in church, or the girl you’ve been following on instagram. ASK THEM TO HANG OUT.
Go get coffee. Invite them over for dinner. ANYTHING. JUST ASK.
They may say no and that’s ok. What I can’t stress enough is that everyone is waiting for an invitation and by going first you are bridging the gap. Ask and ask again.
We realized how hard it can be to invite someone over that you don’t really know. Or even more, how sometimes new relationships aren’t natural. What we started to do was to throw parties, a lot of parties, and invite anyone we met. I’ll write more about this in upcoming posts, but buy pizzas, light the bonfire, turn on some music, or organize a group game. Whatever you do, I assure you that this is one of the best ways to break the ice! Invite 5 people, 10 couples, I don’t care! What you’ll find is that some people will become friends with each other while others will draw closer to you. You’re capable and I will assure you that it doesn’t take much at all for you to feel comfortable as a host and for guests to feel comfortable in your home. This has always been my most ‘successful’ way of building community. Oftentimes, the crowd dwindles down to just a few people. Those people in many cases have become my dearest friends.
We are surrounded by people, hundreds of them. Some we see more than others. Some we have commonalities with, others will likely stay acquaintances. Whatever it may be, we all can identify the people that we are interested in getting to know better. While every relationship needs to have times of laughs and light-hearted activities, everyone still needs to be known. Deep connections cannot be developed from surface level relationships. One of the best ways to show someone that you care about them and want to walk alongside them is by remembering.
Have you heard about something they are celebrating? Have they shared with you about something they are mourning? GO THERE with them, make the time! I promise you that there is time, and more than that I promise you that taking the time will change you too! Send a note, give a gift, acknowledge that more than enjoying wine and cheese together, you SEE them.
Friendships are hard, and relationships can be complicated. We’ve all had different experiences in friendships and I’m right there with you. I promise though, that by going first you are taking the first steps to bringing joy back into an area of your life that may be a little desolate. Nothing has single handedly changed my life more than the friendships we had while we were in Thailand. On the contrary, nothing has created a deeper sting for me than loneliness. For the rest of my life, and through every aspect of our business, I want to live, inspire, and equip community because of it.
It’s time, it’s time to engage in friendship again. Going first is probably one of the most frightening things you can do. What’s on the other side though, is worth every second of quivering. You are worth valuable friendships, you are capable of being an intentional friend, and you have the power to change a community through it all. We’re here cheering you on.
Are you looking to develop skills to help you feel more confident as a host? We would love to have you at our table for one of our workshops! Consider this a personal invitation