What if you were known for how great you are at loving people? Great friendships are possible for anyone, but the most meaningful friendships are built and maintained with time and commitment. It's easy to put time into our families, our kids, our careers, and our hobbies, but do we put as much energy into our friendships? Here are 7 ways to help strengthen our friendships.
- Pray for them: There is so much power in prayer. If you have a friend that is going through a hard time, pray for them. If a friend has a big job interview, or a tough conversation coming up with a child or spouse – say a prayer for them. Let them know you're praying for them and asking them about any specific prayer requests they may have.
- Read the same book together and talk about it: Life often takes friendships down different paths and to different places. We've found that one of the greatest ways to stay connected with those friends is to read the same book or devotional and find time to chat about it. Learning is rewarding, but it is even better with a friend.
- Take time: With all the things we juggle in our lives, it can be hard to carve out some quality time for our friends. Weeks and months can pass without seeing each other. We want to encourage you to set a goal to take time every month to connect with a friendship that you value. It could be a 20-minute coffee date, a long dinner date, or even a weekend trip. It's not necessarily about the quantity, but the quality.
- Send thoughtful texts: Remember the big days and show support during the difficult days. Whatever moments matter to them are great moments to send a thoughtful text and just let them know you're thinking of them and you're grateful that they're in your life.
- Keep a tradition: Whether it's a restaurant, trip, or activity, build on good memories by making them traditions special to your friends and the times you've spent together. It'll be a great way to reflect on past memories and continue to make new ones.
- Compliment them: True friends lift us up, support us, and encourage us to be the best version of ourselves. A genuine, unexpected compliment is a simple, but meaningful way to do all 3.
- Find a way to go out of your way: Do something unexpectedly awesome. This could mean showing up to help your friend move into their new home, it could be bringing them soup when they're sick. Come up with your most thoughtful and creative way to go out of your way, and go make memories!
Imagine a young hockey team that is headed for a championship season. A kinship has spread through the team members, their parents, and their siblings, as well.
One kid, in particular, has become the envy of the rest. His dad had purchased his son the latest hockey gear, complete with a limited edition carbon fiber hockey stick and custom skates. The boy and his siblings have an entire room inside their home where they can play video games and watch TV. If they don’t want to join their parents for meals, microwaveable macaroni-and-cheese dinners ensure they are fed. On birthdays and holidays, the quality time that was non-existent the year prior was made up for in expensive gifts and the newest gadgets.
But does this 12-year-old really have it all? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Most of us recognize the sad reality of the situation.
But look a little closer. How many times do we engage in the same types of behaviors when we fail to cultivate the core of our family and prioritize what truly matters? We talk but don’t always listen. We have good intentions but let things get in the way of our true priorities. Our children grow up, they move away and we wonder why they can’t seem to make it home for the holidays.
Restoring balance in our families builds a foundation of love that is always, unconditional and no matter what. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Share your values with your children. Lead by example, respect one another, forgive others when things don’t go well, and support one another through good times and bad. Create traditions that strengthen your family’s identity and core values. Harness the pure love from healthy family relationships so everyone feels safe, secure, and loved.
- Pay attention to how your loved ones like to be loved. Take care of the people you love. Make their lives easier. Give without a thought of receiving. Show them they’re special in ways that make them feel the most special.
- Spend time together. Teach your children the importance of cherishing moments, not things. Whether you gather for family meals, head to the beach, or catch your daughter’s basketball game, make proximity a priority. When you talk to your loved ones, make sure to listen with your eyes. Work together, whether you are serving food at the local shelter, volunteering at your church, or raking leaves for a neighbor. No matter what you do, it will be time well invested.
- Share the love with your extended family. Even if grandparents don’t live nearby, build those relationships by crafting family scrapbooks, sharing vacations, retelling the stories you’ve heard a hundred times, or giving them a call to let them know how much you appreciate them. Get into the habit of complimenting the ones you love and magnify their strengths. The world needs more of that.
What strategies have worked for you? How have you strengthened the core of your family despite schedules that often send you running in separate directions? Where did you find common ground? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
You are awesome. You might not realize it yet, but it’s true.
How can we possibly know? Because we’ve seen – and experienced ourselves – the potential we all hold inside to achieve the life we dream of and deserve.
Inside of you, right now, lies all you need to fully embrace life and move forward with purpose. So why settle for the ordinary when so much more is within reach? Here are a few things you can do right now to help reveal the "awesomeness" that is within you.
- Set aside time for yourself, away from the craziness of life, and act on it. Think about it for a moment: What would you do if you knew for sure anything was possible? Where in the 7 F's of Oola – fitness, finance, family, field, faith, friends, and fun – do you need more balance and growth? Write down a goal and the steps you can take to make it happen. Put on your superhero cape and become the person God uniquely created you to be.
- Do one thing that will bring you closer to your OolaLife. Successfully achieving a goal has a way of restoring belief in ourselves and motivates us to succeed again. It’s like a domino effect. The pieces falling into place as we recognize our potential and face the doubts that kept it captive. Move forward with purpose and look back with gratitude. As Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series, so perfectly put it, you’re living the OolaLife.
- As you grow in your OolaLife, you’re sure to notice the unrealized potential in others around you. A few kind words, an attitude of gratitude or simply leading by example, have the power to encourage those around you to embrace positive change. Who knows what they might achieve with your inspiration? A better “you”, makes a better family, a better community, and ultimately a better world.
I'm not sure at what point in my life “friends” became somewhat of a dirty word.
I grew up in the '90s and survived many 3-way call sting operations where two of your girlfriends turned against you. At the end of each episode, there would be a slight confrontation and then we'd be hanging out again at the park and having slumber parties.
Another confusing aspect of friendship was the labels. I grew up thinking you had one or two Best Friends and the rest were just Good Friends.
My understanding of Best Friend’s Characteristics:
know everything about you
have your back
encourage you through the good, the bad, and even the ugly.
And Good Friends:
know you a little
go for coffee now and then
talk about day-to-day things like kids, work, or family.
I never intended to label my friends, it's just the way things were. And my best friends were Best Friends Forever, no matter what!
But what happens when a lifelong best friend turns out to be someone who contributes to anxiety or self-doubt? Or you grow apart and don't follow the same values anymore? Then one day you realize you're the only one still holding on to that half of the Best Friends Forever pendant you exchanged years ago.
When I was working through the Oola program I experienced a bit of awakening with this F word. I decided to remove the labels from my friendships.
Then when I looked at the people in my life I realized I was holding on to some pretty toxic friendships. I ended up breaking apart from some friends in order to propel forward in my life. It wasn't easy but it also wasn't as hard as I imagined.
I decided to join groups that aligned with my interests. So in the summer of 2020, I participated in an Oola for Women's book club. We were a small group of local women who gathered weekly to read and talk.
I was surprised to find out I wasn’t the only one who struggled with the category of friends. We all struggled to discuss this. I was amazed and felt so connected to the other women. We named our newfound friendship the “Frat Pack”. We laughed, cried, and worked through our friendship horror stories together. This was exactly what I needed as I mourned losing a lifelong friendship. With this group of women, I gained the confidence to move forward.
Life is such a beautiful journey. It’s okay to make uncomfortable changes. Maybe you need to take off the labels you attached to friends. Be honest with the evaluation of your relationships. If you need to walk away from some that have become toxic have faith that there are others waiting to fill the void.