Starting over: making friends in a new place

I think I have a case of meet-new-people fatigue. Now I’m an extreme extrovert, so I never believed this day would come. 

But it came. 

In fact, I was actually talked out by the time my husband came home last night. Talk about a first. 

I have met new neighbors, new moms, new colleagues, new teachers, new church members, new everyone. 

I feel like everyone and their brother knows three things about me: I grew up in California, we lived in Kazakhstan for seven years and my husband is starting a PhD program. 

And I know three similar things about the persons in the crowds that surround me.

But how do you go from the meet-and-greet stage to real friendship?

Since I’m not on the other side of the present story I can’t claim to be a true expert, but I’m going throw  out a few do’s and don’ts I’ve found to be true. Here goes: 

1. Don’t give up on relationships before they start. The “I’m only going to be here for a little while so why try to make friends?” attitude is the enemy of authentic relationships. It’s tough being in a new place. It can bring out our insecurities, which makes us want to withdraw or blame others. But neither will bring us the result we are looking for. 

2. Be a giver. Instead of thinking about how miserable we are, we can look around us. I guarantee there are other people feeling just like us, maybe even more so. And with some risk we can reach out. Nothing makes us feel better than giving – whether it be spiritually, emotionally or financially. Like Jesus said, “it’s more blessed to give than receive.” 

3. Don’t be a martyr. Yes, we should give. Yes, we should lay our lives down for those God has given us. But no, we should not lie to ourselves or those around us about our lack of needs, shoving anger or frustration into a deep pit that will a) make us sick and/or b) boil over at a later time. There is a song by Rich Mullins that I love: “We are not as strong as we think we are…” 

4. Pray specifically. If we want friends, we should ask God. Sounds simple enough but I think a lot of us might have two barriers. First, we don’t want to admit that we want friends. It sounds so needy or pathetic. But the Scripture is clear: if you don’t ask, you don’t receive. Second, we don’t want to be specific in our prayer. It is easier to pray for strength to endure or God’s will to be done, whatever that is. Praying specifically is risky. What if God doesn’t answer? What is He says no? (Well, He might. See point No. 4.) But we won’t know if God has answered unless we are specific. 

4. Remember that God has a plan. If we have accepted God’s offer of forgiveness for sins through Jesus, and agreed to follow His ways, then we know that God is working in our lives.  And sometimes He is working through the hard things. Personally, I have found that in the times of the greatest pressure God is working the biggest changes in me. He is reaching to things in my heart that I don’t want to face or that I don’t even know need to change. But He is God, and I’ve given Him permission (even asked!) for Him to transform me. Yes, friendships would be great! But really, our relationship with Jesus Christ is what matters the most. 

With God’s help I’m going to try and take my own advice. How will it go? I’ll keep you posted…

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