We live in a society where there is this odd pressure to perform, to be “on” all the time. It’s hard with social media using edited snapshots of our lives as the effort to connect to other people. It makes it easy to hold people at a distance, and for them to hold you at a distance as well. It feels like the more “connected” I am, the more lonely I get.
So, I want to share the four steps I tend to use when pursuing an authentic relationship. And you don’t have to use them, but if you are feeling frustrated in this culture in finding close relationships, perhaps this will help.
1. Be the kind of Authentic Friend that you want to have. Typically, if you live life surrounded by passions that truly move you, you will find like-minded people in that same field. But it’s not just about interests. It’s also about the level or depth of authenticity I want to have. If I want to be around non-judgmental, “here’s all the dirt” kind of friends, then I have to be that kind of person. If I want to be accepted where I am in the journey, then I need to accept others where they are on their journey. And make sure you are the same person wherever you go. You never know where those interactions may lead or who is listening, because you might be missing out on those friendships you desperately want.
2. Be intentional about the relationship. When you get to know a person long enough, and realize that you want to have that open, authentic friendship with them, tell them. Have those awkward conversations. In the past, I’ve ideally thought that just spending a lot of time with people, or telling them a deep secret, will communicate the intentions of a deeper friendship. But I find that a deeper friendship truly develops when I lay all the cards on the table and say, “Look, I really like hanging out with you, and I want to have the kind of friendship with you where we share all the skeletons, secrets and struggles, and we react with encouragement, support, and acceptance.”
It doesn’t always have to be that deep though. It could be as simple as, “I’m wondering if we could hang out at lunch every Monday and just spend time together, get to know each other more.” I find that laying out the expectations helps the friendship more than vague games of will they, won’t they be a real friend.
3. Accept rejection for what it is. It is hard to put everything out there only to be shut down in the end. However, that rejection is so much more honest than dancing around the relationship until someone stops returning the other one’s calls. Sometimes the rejection may just be bad timing. One person may just have a lot on their plate, or is going through a transition, or just simply needs to work on internal issues before accepting that request. Authentic relationships are vulnerable and require work from both people involved. It’s hard to really open up when you feel swallowed by life in general.
And it’s just as important to be honest in rejecting others, too. I’m sometimes afraid to say no because I don’t want to hurt the other person or be left out of something in the future. However, it’s important to communicate where you stand as it is to know where they stand as well.
4. And of course, bring God into the relationship. I would put this at number one, but really, it fits into all three of the above steps. We learn to be authentic from our God who is the author of authenticity. We are intentional because he showed us intentionality in his pursuit of us. He handles rejection pretty much on a daily basis, and can be there for us when we go through our own rejection.
Friendships are messy, whether on the playground, at our jobs, or in our communities. But authentic relationships are another way God is glorified in how he works through brokenness to restore us. And those relationships can help us continue the journey together, living life in the Kingdom.