The Friendship Factor: Get Closer To Those You Care For

If we build more windows and fewer walls, we will have more friends.Friendship is one of the most rewarding aspects of life, but real, deep friendships don’t just naturally come along. When I was growing up, we moved many times, and it was difficult for me to really build deep friendships. Plus, I wasn’t comfortable with “being real” about myself.

I first read The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis when I was in college (yep, way back in the 1980s) and my copy of the book is now dog-eared, highlighted and well-used. It gave me some concrete steps to develop deep friendships, and of course, living in one place for more than 20 years has helped too!

No matter what your life story has been, you probably have experienced at least some difficulty in a relationship. I don’t think any of us are exempt from that. Subtitled “How to Get Closer to the People You Care For,” The Friendship Factor asks you these questions:

  • Do you have at least one person nearby whom you can call on in times of personal distress?
  • Do you have several people whom you can visit with little advance warning without apology?
  • Do you have people who will lend you money if you need it, or those who will care for you in practical ways if the need arises?

McGinnis writes that if your response is largely negative, it may be that “your friendships are being impeded by your social life! Some people immerse themselves in such a whirl of parties and social affairs that there is no opportunity to establish a close relationship.”

Here are four (plus one!) of my favorite tips from McGinnis that I have used and will continue to be purposeful about as I develop friendships with both young and old:

  1. Assign top priority to your relationships. “Why do we seldom relate at such a deep level? Why is there such a shortage of friendship? One simple reason: We do not devote ourselves sufficiently to it. If our relationships are the most valuable commodity we can own in this world, one would expect that everyone everywhere would assign friendship highest priority.”
  2. Cultivate transparency. “People with deep and lasting friendships may be introverts, extroverts, young, old, dull, intelligent, homely, good-looking; but the one characteristic they always have in common is openness. The human personality has a natural built-in inclination to reveal itself. When that inclination is blocked and we close ourselves to others, we get into emotional difficulties.”
  3. Dare to talk about your affection. “For fear of seeming sentimental, many of us hold back expressions of warmth and thereby miss out on rich and profound friendships. We say ‘thanks’ when we mean ‘God bless you’ and ‘so long’ when we mean ‘I’ll miss you a lot.’ Why are we so reluctant to say openly that we care for another? There is the possibility that our overture of warmth will not be reciprocated and we will be rejected…. But those who are loved widely are usually those who throw caution to the winds and declare their love freely.”
  4. Learn the gestures of love. “The best relationships are built upon the accumulated layers of acts of kindness. Small acts of kindness demonstrate that you haven’t taken your loved one for granted.”
  5. Create space in your relationships. McGinnis writes about the tendency to control others, and he says this villain frequently masquerades as love. “The overly protective mother will say, ‘Honey, I’m just doing this for your own good,’ and the man who constantly corrects his friend thinks, ‘It’s all for his benefit.’ But the effect is always to suffocate, and I have never known a person who did not try to flee from manipulators. Those who have successful friendships allow their loved ones room. Rather than possessing their friends, they try to help them expand and grow and become free.”

I’m thankful for learning these steps to deeper friendships, and I hope they help you too!

Purchase a copy of The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis on Amazon. It’s also available for Kindle. 

 

 

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Set Yourself Free: 4 Practices From A Recovering Worryholic

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Worry. Anxiety. Sleepless Nights.

Sound familiar?

I’m a Type A Perfectionist, and I’ve spent too many nights, waking up:

  • hoping my plans for the next day go OK
  • wondering if I offended someone with what I said
  • worrying about the safety of my loved ones
  • pondering over exact details of this and that
  • And on and on and on.

And what did all the worrying accomplish? Zilch. Nothing. Nada. Just many tired days filled with yawns, Diet Coke, restless legs and cat naps.

From the time I was a teen, I can remember counting sheep and memorizing scripture to try to soothe those worrisome thoughts. Now that I’m in my 50s, I’ve gone through a period of transformation. I’m working to be the person God made me to be. I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin. I’m trying to live a life of joy, peace and mercy.

Here are four life practices for “setting myself free”:

1. Focus on work and activities that bring me joy.

My identity was always placed on my work. What was I accomplishing? How was I advancing? But much of that work placed me in stressful positions that didn’t bring me joy.

What brought me joy was working with students. Teaching. Motivating. Encouraging. One of my favorite days of the year is graduation, and I always reflect on what my students have accomplished and how they have matured since they walked into class as freshmen. That brings me happiness. So I gave up several directorial roles (and the additional salary) and went back full-time to the classroom. I’m poorer financially, but much richer personally.

2. Stop trying to please other people.

In addition to my perfectionist tendencies, I’ve also been a people pleaser — trying to please anyone and everyone around me. That’s hard work — and it’s impossible.

Now I focus on pleasing those I’m closest to. Sure I would like everyone to like me. But as much as I’ve tried, that’s impossible. Other people have their own issues, their own backgrounds, their own insecurities — and not everyone is going to like me. So my goal each day is to live with integrity and to support those near me. That’s doable!

3. Enjoy a prayer walk several days per week.

Oh my goodness. This practice has truly changed my outlook. I walk. I think. I pray. I meditate.

I’ve made this practice a priority. In cold weather. In hot weather. When I tell myself, I don’t have time, I make time. Being still and meditating is difficult for a Type A person like me, but a walking meditation works.

I try to “see the sky,” which helps me put life into perspective. That nagging worry becomes the cardinal flying in the sky. I don’t focus on the cardinal flitting in and out, up and down. I focus on the permanence and beauty of the sky.

As I walk, I pray for those who are suffering and grieving. I pray for my daughter to make wise decisions in her life. I pray for family and friends. I pray for myself to stop and “be” and not just “do.”

4. Control my thoughts and rest in God.

I’ve learned that anxiety is a lifestyle. It’s a habit, an addiction, even a sin? Over time, I’ve learned to rely on the following techniques to change my thinking.

I memorize scriptures, such as:

 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” Psalm 62:5-8 
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6: 25-34
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer…” Philippians 4: 6-7
“Do not let your hearts be troubled….” John 14: 1-4

I reflect on quotes like these:

“If you pray why worry. If you worry, why pray?”
“Worrying is praying about what you don’t want to happen.”
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

Truly all that has helped, but nothing has helped me more than resting. Resting in the promise of God. I surrender. I unclench my hands and open my palms to the sky. I rest in Him. So now when worrisome thoughts enter my head, I address them with, “No. Not today. Not now. I rely on my God.”

 

4 Beliefs I Wish My College Students Knew About Themselves

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Recently, I’ve had conversations with several students who are nearing graduation. They all are feeling uncertain about “life after college” and struggling with self-doubt and fear. I’ve given pep talks to each of them, and here’s what I want them — and others like them— to know. 

  1. You are unique. According to the 2015 U.S. Census, only one in three adults held a bachelor’s degree or higher. By already being an almost college graduate, you are special. Don’t minimize what you bring to the table. Employers want you and your new ideas and perspectives. Remember that.
  2. You are creative. In my field of study, mass communication, creativity counts. And by your writing, photography, design, you have proven that you are creative. Don’t fall into the fallacy of comparing yourself to others. One of my favorite quotes is: “Comparison is the thief of happiness.” Believe in your own work. Have the attitude that you will continue to stretch your own creativity too.
  3. You are persistent. To earn a college degree, you have to have your smarts about you, but you also have to persevere. You have proven that you can withstand trial, disappointment, stress and, of course, those sleepless nights. Employers are looking for people just like you!
  4. You are mindful. Take one day at a time. If there’s one lesson I could go back and tell my 22-year-old self when I graduated from college, it would be to trust the journey. Don’t only think about the destination. Be mindful about who you are trying to be each and every day. If yesterday was a bad day or a ho-hum day, chalk it up to life and keep learning. One day at a time. One step at a time.

So that’s 4 Thoughts About Living a Fuller Life. Remember who you were when you entered your first college class, and compare that to who you are today. You’ve grown. You’ve matured. You’ve risen. Keep doing that!