I consider myself a rather ambitious person. One who loves feeling efficient and admits an obsession for maximizing the hours of my day to accomplish the most humanly possible. Though I may revel in my to-do list, accomplishments, and victories in getting things done at the end of the day, too often I have found myself unable to recall any authentic interactions had with other individuals. This gradual realization has caused me to see that there is so much more to life than the achievement of my daily tasks, and provoked my asking where and how people fit in.
After what seemed like years on a hamster wheel, my husband and I recognized that we didn’t have many deep friendships, even though we had hundreds of friends. There was certainly the desire to be with people, but not the time to create the needed intersections. Our days were full of really “good” things: family responsibilities, studies, volunteer work, etc., but we didn’t seem to have many deep mutual relationships to show for it. Had we become that disconnected from people? Our schedules were so full that there was no margin in which to cultivate deeper relationships.
We felt so convicted, not to mention lonely.
If our being too busy was indeed the culprit keeping us from deeper community, we wanted to try making the changes necessary to encourage reengagement. Therefore, we began thoughtfully eliminating things from our schedules in hopes to carve out windows of time for nurturing friendships again. It wasn’t easy to decide what sacrifices to make, yet we were highly motivated in the task. We were growing weary of putting people off, giving the well-intentioned, yet empty promise, “Let’s get together soon…” when we crossed paths with people who showed an authentic desire to connect. We wanted to be people known for being accessible, not just those busy people who got a lot done.
We began planning dinners, making our home a more hospitable space, returning phone calls promptly, and pursuing people. We were initiating more than ever before, asking what seemed like everyone we met if they wanted to get together. I wish I could say that by changing our schedules and making these heartfelt adjustments, community quickly commenced … but it didn’t. To our surprise and admitted disappointment, we found ourselves being turned down consistently. As much as we thought the problem of disconnection affected us uniquely, we soon realized many are just as busy as we had been; evidence of a cultural epidemic.
Rather than continuing to chase others down, we decided to change our strategy and use the newly reclaimed time to invest more intentionally in our own family. We began pursuing things we found life-giving to us, but hadn’t taken the time previously to pursue: gardening, taking walks, cooking, playing games, overall enjoying the new season we had entered. There was a gradual life change taking place, a deeper calm and peace resonating in our hearts and minds.
We were becoming more centered and thoughtful people, while also gaining control of our runaway lives.
After about a year, we began looking outward again, attempting once more to invite people around us into our space and family happenings. One by one, relationships began to seed much more naturally. Perhaps if it had not happened this way, we would easily have filled our schedules again with surface social outings instead of building relationships gradually and with greater intent. We had even gone so far as to give much consideration into creating a short and long list of people we felt drawn to connect to. It wasn’t an exclusive group, but in the time of Facebook friend lists easily breaking a thousand, we needed tangible relationships and guidance for investing more deeply into those already within our reach. When spare time came, we would look at our list and thoughtfully invite.
This relational strategy led us to develop and nurture some of the closest friendships we have ever known and maintain to this day.
If you are finding yourself in a season similar to the one I described, busy and disconnected, consider making the changes needed to allow the time to live more organically—reinstating the margin needed for relationships to have a chance to thrive. From what I have experienced, authentic human interaction doesn’t seem to thrive in well calculated moments, rather in the spontaneous interruptions. Look at your schedule thoughtfully and try eliminating the things you feel you can let go of. Once you begin, it will become easier to discern. Then make your accessibility known to others by initiating connection. Building deep authentic friendships is a slow and gradual process. Make note of those people within close proximity that you want to intentionally reach out to in this season and begin pursuing them. In the meantime, invest in things you find life-giving and before you realize it, you will be developing a truer version of yourself to offer in deeper friendship to others.
You’ll also like Simple Ways to Build Small Town Community in the Big City, Drop the Social Media Cape, and Breaking Up in a Digital World