One of my current favorite shows to watch is a series called Alone. It’s a reality series in which 10 contestants are placed by themselves in the Canadian wilderness with only a handful of supplies. They are challenged to create shelter, catch food, survive the harsh weather and occasionally fend off aggressive wildlife. There’s no electricity, cell phones or any way to communicate with the outside world (other than an emergency radio). The person who stays out the longest (sometimes six months or more) wins $500,000.
While some contestants wind up dropping out due to injury or other health concerns (there are regular medical checks of the contestants), and some wind up “tapping out” because they can’t find enough food or survive the cold, when it gets down to the last few contestants, it’s almost always the same thing that determines who wins and loses: who can stand the loneliness.
THE NEED FOR COMPANIONSHIP
I have to admit, I like being alone sometimes. It gives me time to think, reflect on life and just relax. I’m not the kind of person who needs to go to a party every weekend or be on the phone talking to friends every day. I like those things, but I’m content to be by myself much of the time. However, I recognize that’s not always good for me.
Proverbs 27:9 tells us, “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.” All of us need advice from time to time, whether we like to admit it or not. Good advice from a good friend is sweet indeed. Sometimes though, it’s not what we want to hear. Consider how Jonathan had to tell David that he needed to run for his life because Saul was angry with him (1 Samuel 20). Good advice is sweet, even if a little unpleasant in the moment.
But friends do more than give advice. They provide encouragement too. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul talks about the hard times that Christians face. Like the trials encountered by those in the wilderness on Alone, it’s a natural part of life that we are going to face. He reminds us that as faithful people we shouldn’t view these trials with the fear and worry that some do. Then, in verse 11 he says, “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” Many translations actually render the word “comfort” as “encourage.” Regardless of which word used, the point is very clear—we need to encourage others during difficult times.
Another great thing about friends is that they often help us to be better people. Hebrews 10:23 states, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” The writer (likely Paul) is reminding us that we need to remain faithful to God and His teachings, because He is faithful to us. He then follows this admonishment in verse 24 with “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” He points out that we can help stir one another to action to be more loving and to do good things. Many of you probably just got back from a UYC summer camp and experienced this firsthand. How much easier was it to “be good” when you were surrounded by people who were also trying to be better people and follow Jesus Christ’s example?
Of course, while we all need good advice, encouragement and help being motivated to do good things, we should remember that others need that as well. Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” The friends you have need all of these things just as much, or perhaps even more, than you do.
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS
Okay, so you’re probably thinking, Everybody wants to have friends. But how do I make friends? Below are a few tips that will not only make it easier to make friends, but will also help ensure that you’re making good friends. The Feast of Tabernacles is just around the corner, and it will be a great place to try them out!
1. TO MAKE A FRIEND, BE A FRIEND
One of the hardest things about meeting new people is making the first step. While you don’t know if the new person you start talking to will wind up being a friend or not, you’ll never know if you don’t at least try to have a conversation with them.
Proverbs 18:24 tells us, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” This doesn’t mean that you should fake being nice when you talk to people, but it does mean you have to put some effort into making yourself available for new friendships. A warm smile and simple question like “Hi, how are you today?” or maybe, “Did you do anything interesting this summer?” are good ways to get a conversation started.
2. FISH WHERE THE FISH ARE AT
As simple as it might sound, you wouldn’t go fishing in a mud puddle, would you? If any fish are in there at all, they’d be very small, and probably not good to eat. You’d be far better off to pick a nice mountain stream or a pristine lake.
Similarly, you probably won’t find the best people to be friends with at just a random encounter in the store, or worse yet, hanging around at a place you probably shouldn’t be at like a vape shop. You’d be far better off going somewhere where people with similar interests hang out. Maybe a library, a county fair, or better yet, the teen hospitality room at the Feast of Tabernacles.
3. BE BALANCED
When it comes to having a conversation, try to make sure you’re not the one doing all the talking. While some people have problems making friends because they don’t say enough, others have trouble because they say too much. Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” While it’s not necessarily a sin to talk too much, it’s wise to refrain every now and then and let other people share their thoughts and experiences.
4. DON’T FORCE IT
One last thing to consider in your effort to make friends—you can’t force anyone to like you, nor should you. If someone doesn’t seem that interested in getting to know you, don’t let it bother you. Maybe they’re having a bad day, or maybe they wouldn’t be the greatest influence on you. Going back to the fishing analogy, there are plenty of other fish in the sea!
Making new friends can be difficult for some of us. I’m not the most outgoing person myself, and reaching out and introducing myself to new people has never been super easy. But by putting a little thought into how you go about it, you might just find your new best friend!