Admit it. You still love The Office.
There hasn’t been a new episode in seven years, and you still quote it. In fact, you’ve probably watched an episode recently. An article from last year named it Netflix’s most popular content. How can a workplace comedy made for traditional TV dominate in the world of streaming, nearly a decade after it closed shop? I believe it’s because The Office perfectly encapsulates one of your (and my) deepest desires—real, authentic community.
I know, I know. You think you love The Office for Michael Scott’s one-liners (“That’s what she said.”) You think you keep coming back for Dwight’s erratic behavior (“Assistant TO the regional manager.”) Or Jim and Pam’s perfect love story (“Plan A was marrying her a long time ago. Pretty much the day I met her.”) Sure, you laugh at Stanley’s sass, Andy’s obliviousness, and whatever it is that Creed does. But we come back to The Office, almost instinctively, because it gives us a sense of community that so many of us are lacking.
We’re the loneliest generation in history. Even with social media. Even with FaceTime. Even with cell phones and email and the Internet. We’re hyperconnected, and we’re alone, and it’s killing us.
Even before the pandemic drove nearly all of us indoors for more time than we ever thought possible, our generation was suffering. Every negative social indicator was rising: mental illness, suicide rates, drug and alcohol abuse. Technology convinced us life could be done from our couch, but it robbed us of what made life sloppily meaningful: our relationships. So we run back to a comedy that crams 20ish people into a tiny workspace because it scratches an itch we’ve forgotten how to reach.
I get it. Most days, you barely like people. I’m an introvert who’d (usually) rather be reading a book than having a conversation. But the fact remains. We were made to need each other. As hard as you try, you cannot be an island. I believe it’s written into us, on a fundamental level, to ache for community—people who support us, love us, and challenge us. It’s literally on the first page of one of our oldest books, the Bible.
In the story of creation, found in Genesis 1, God makes the world. He crafts the sun and moon, the sea and the shore, and all the animals, birds, and plants. He calls it all good. Then, He made a man, Adam, and called him “very good.” Not until God saw the man living alone did He call anything “not good.” Enter community, in the form of Eve. Not even Adam, in the perfection of a newly created world, was destined to live alone.
So, no matter how many friends have hurt you (me too), you need community. No matter how many times people have let you down (me too), you need community. No matter how easy it seems to just shut the door and do life alone (me too), you need community.
Because a picture is still worth a thousand words, The Office can actually help us here. In those 201 episodes, we get to see what friendship, what community, could (and should) look like. I recently took my first spin through the entire series. Here’s what I learned about friendships from the staff at Dunder-Mifflin.
If Dunder-Mifflin were a real workplace, one thing would be certain: you’d never leave without having laughed. Every single episode is full of hilarious moments, from Prison Mike to Kevin’s chili.
That’s a good thing because a comedy that doesn’t make you laugh isn’t going to last long. The same is true for friendships. You need people around you that help lighten the load of life. People who make you smile and laugh add a heaping helping of levity. Why? Because life is freaking hard. It’ll kill you.
Obviously, there are times we need friends to help shoulder our burdens. We need friends that will cry with us, get angry with us, hope with us. But the fact remains, a relationship that only stays serious is what you want from a mortgage lender. With a friend, you need a pick-me-up.
The Bible says the same, in its book of wisdom, Proverbs.
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Find a friend who makes you laugh. Be a friend that doesn’t dry up the bones of the people you’re connected to. There’s a time for sharing heaviness and hurt. But there should be just as much time (or even more) for fun and laughter.
FRIENDS SHOW UP
Weddings, funerals, celebrations, intense moments of hurt and suffering—friends are there. The biggest moments in your life should be times you share with others.
In The Office, as much as the coworkers pick on each other, they show up when it matters. Jim and Pam’s wedding is full of Dunder-Mifflin staff. Who are the first people to visit Meredith when Michael hits her with his car? Dunder-Mifflin staff. Who comes to the hospital after Angela and Pam have their babies (even if the new moms didn’t want them there)? Dunder-Mifflin staff.
Back to that wisdom book. Proverbs 17:17 says:
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Catch that? Friends love at all times. When there’s extra cash and when the money runs out. When you’re celebrating a win and when you’re mourning a defeat. When you’re on top of the world, and when you feel buried beneath it.
Who shows up for you? Or even better than that, who is waiting for you to show up?
Obviously, The Office is fictionalized television, and many of the things that happen on the show would get you fired in a heartbeat in a real work environment. Even still, the employees at Dunder-Mifflin show an incredible capacity to forgive each other. In a world where it’s much easier to cut someone off than to deal with hurt or disappointment, this is radical.
Oscar forgives Michael for publicly outing him in regards to his sexuality. Stanley seems to quickly move beyond the fact that work publicizes his affair. Angela and Andy learn to coexist. Even Roy and Jim patch things up.
Fictional examples, but the truth remains—there will come a time when a friend will hurt you. Bury and forget won’t work. It requires conversation. It requires grace. It requires bravery. And if you want to persist in the friendship, it requires forgiveness.
Even if you don’t (and there are absolutely times for friendships to end), forgiveness frees you from the chains of the past. You do the work of forgiveness for yourself, to move on into new territory. Sometimes it’s with the friendship intact. Other times, it’s not. But one thing is certain: any and every relationship will require it at some time.
I see you, Proverbs 17:9:
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.
FRIENDS SUPPORT AND CHALLENGE
Good friends support you. They believe in you and your dreams. They encourage. They send meals. Shoot, they’ll even buy a copy of your experimental bluegrass-hip-hop album. (Thankfully, that was just a phase.)
And good friends will challenge you. They don’t clap while you willingly walk into a mistake. They offer perspective when you want to ignore reality. They call you back when you step out of line.
Good friends support you, even covering your shifts when you chase a dream of working with athletes in Philly—Jim. But good friends also explain that you’d be an idiot to throw away your corporate job to chase superstardom on America’s Next Acapella Sensation—Andy.
The support and the challenge come from the same place—love. Love believes the best in others. And love is willing to get uncomfortable. A good friend does both.
What? There’s a Proverb that speaks to that? No way.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
But an enemy multiplies kisses.
FRIENDS ARE DIFFERENT
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about the friendships in The Office is how different each and every person is. Kelly is an air-head. Ryan is a brown-noser. Jim is a lovable prankster. Pam is the girl next door. Meredith is that aunt you avoid at Christmas. Oscar is the voice of reason. Darryl is everyone’s favorite. Dwight means well. And Michael is… well, Michael.
On paper, these people don’t have enough in common to be friends. In fact, there’s only one thing they can all agree on—selling paper. That’s literally it.
When making friends, maybe we don’t need to agree on all the finer points of life—maybe we just need one thing. You like hiking? Me too, let’s go do it. You like Wes Anderson? Me too, let’s go to a movie. You like Guinness? Me too, let’s go to the pub.
In fact, our lives will benefit if we have friends who don’t share all our beliefs. Do you have a friend who votes differently than you? Do you have a friend who is in a different life stage than you? Do you have a friend who is a different race than you? A different faith outlook? A different socio-economic standing?
Your friends round you out. They bring experiences to the table you’ve never had. They bring perspectives you’ve never seen. They bring wisdom you haven’t gained.
Proverbs says it best—the more and varied people speaking into your life, the better.
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers, they succeed.
Get some friends that aren’t like you. Your life will be better for it. And definitely find a Kevin… that guy is hilarious.
I get it. Making friends as an adult is hard. It takes planning and calendaring. It takes intentionality and saying “no” to something else. It takes bravery to put yourself out there and potentially face rejection. But hear me out, from someone who still has a hard time making friends himself, it’s all worth it.
Michael Scott just wanted a family. He tried with Jan. He tried with Carol. He tried with Helene and Donna. But even before he got married to Holly, he’d found that family. In fact, he created it himself. It was around him, every day, just outside his office door. His laughter; the way he always showed up; they way he forgave (except Toby); the way he supported and challenged. It created an environment where people who had only one thing in common became friends—but a family.
I believe God does that for each of us. In Psalm 68, it says that “God sets the lonely in families.” That’s the potential your friendships have. It’s worth fighting for. It makes your life more enjoyable. And they can be one of the most profound ways you feel God’s love.
Who knows? The right people, in the right place, and you just might feel God inside a Chilli’s.
Need people? Now is a great time to find them. Check out crossroads.net/groups to start finding yours. Don’t be discouraged if your first one isn’t a hit. Great community takes time, and it’s worth the wait.