Picking people over perfection

RELATIONSHIPS | 7 mins

One of the first things to cross my mind when I wake in the morning is my to-do list.

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It’s overwhelmingly long considering the amount of time I have. In fact, it often feels like my time is in dangerously short supply.

If I were guessing, I’d say your time, to-do list, and mornings might be a lot like mine. And, like me, I bet one of the first things you sacrifice in the name of saving time and crossing things off your list is people. I’m not proud of that fact. I actually like people. I want to be around them and to cultivate meaningful and deep relationships. But it feels like everything is stacked against that, especially time.

But what if I told you, when it comes to making friends, time actually isn’t your enemy? You already have enough time in your day—24 hours to be exact—to engage in friendships that will change your life. Instead of more time, we just need to learn to use the time we already have more wisely.

Your normal life is the most attractive thing to your friends or potential friends. I understand if you don’t believe me, but I’ve found it be true, over and over again. We’re all old enough and wise enough to know social media is a lie. It’s a pretty lie, but a lie nonetheless. You don’t need to be attending the most important social events to have friends. You don’t need a picture-perfect house or spouse or children in order to invite people into your space. You don’t have to be doing interesting things in order for people to want to spend time with you. In fact, people who are interested in others are actually the most interesting people to be around. We’re not too busy for friendships, we’re just too busy trying to make our lives look interesting enough for others to take notice.

Below are three ideas about how to open up your life to friendship without having to sacrifice sleep or work to do so.

1) Open Your Calendar
The easiest way to invite someone into your life isn’t to plan a new event—it’s to invite them into something you’re already doing. Were you already planning to go the baseball game on Thursday night? Invite some friends to tag along. Are you dying to see the new superhero movie? See if anyone else in your circle feels the same way. Will you eat lunch today? Don’t do it alone. I’m pretty positive grocery shopping, car maintenance, and yard work are infinitely more enjoyable when you don’t do it alone. We’re so hungry for relationships, people will gladly help you sow grass seed or pick up sticks or hold the ladder while you clean your gutters. Could you do those things by yourself? Of course. It’s not actually about needing the help—it’s about the conversations you’ll have as you spend that time together.

I’ve experienced this first hand with a neighbor of mine. Every time there’s a home baseball game, he sits on his back porch, smoking cigars and following his favorite team. He’s given me an open invitation to join him. When I smell the cigar smoke wafting over to my back yard, it’s a reminder that he’s free and ready to chat. He already knows where he’ll be, and he’s invited me into that space. It cost him nothing on his calendar, and yet a new friendship is growing there.

2) Open Your Place
I’m convinced our homes are the biggest missed opportunities for friendship. You could make a list a mile long of the reasons not to invite people into your home—the broken ceiling fan, the stains on the couch, the basement is too cold, the kids have too many toys out on the floor. Here’s the truth: no one cares. Seriously. You care about those things. Literally no one else does. Know why? They don’t have to live in your house. If your basement is too cold, it doesn’t stress them because they get to go home at the end of the night. If your piles of laundry are out, they don’t care, because it’s not their responsibility to put it away.

Our homes are the biggest tools we have in creating relationships. I have three kids. Our house is usually a mess. And yet, one night a week, a handful of guys come over and invade my living room. We read scripture together; pray together; laugh together; and spend time among the toys and laundry. Because our home is a safe place for them to land, they don’t care what it looks like when they arrive.

Your home is a safe place for you. If it becomes a safe place for others, deep friendships will inevitably follow. Punch perfectionism in the mouth and open your front door. Good things will walk through.

3) Open Your Life
Honesty creates relationships. I understand there is a need for caution as you begin to share parts of your life with others—not everything is intended for public consumption. But after you’ve identified people you want to grow in relationship with—perhaps from opening your calendar and your home—there will be an opportunity to more fully open your life to them. This will create depth in relationship like almost nothing else can. The more other people know about your joys and heartaches, your excitement, and your pain points, the deeper and more meaningful the relationships will become.

Opening your life looks different for each of us, and for each relationship we find ourselves investing in. For some, maybe it means being honest about your confusion around raising kids or dealing with in-laws. It could be as simple as bringing a meal to a friend who has just experienced a loss in their family or the addition of a new baby. For others, maybe it means losing your pride and asking for a ride to the garage when your car is in the shop. There was a period of time when we were a one-car family and I was forced to bum rides frequently. Believe it or not, I actually miss it because of the opportunity for community it created.

This step is risky. What if you share your doubts and no one else can relate? What if you ask for a ride and they say “no?” What if you bring a meal and the exchange is awkward? Those are real possibilities. But an affirming “me too,” a chance to chat in the car on your way to the garage, and the tired smile of a new parent are real possibilities as well. Friendships are worth the risk. It won’t always work in your favor. But when it does, the result will absolutely be worth the effort.

You can do this. You can have deep, meaningful, and long-lasting relationships. Chances are, there are people in your life waiting for someone to take a chance on them—to open their calendar or home or life. One simple move just may change your (and their) life forever.

Written by Chuck Mingo on May 14, 2019