Building Friendships During the 2020 Holiday Season
It is going to be different this year as there have been so many new pressures and demands on relationships as we have navigated social distancing, closed churches, universities, and entertainment venues. Some friends wear masks, some don't, some friends go out to eat, others only take out, some friends will travel, others will insist on staying home. Some people are thankful for the election results, some are upset. The political issues that divide us are many.
With so many differences, how can we stay connected and on the same page with friends?
1. Accept that Different is Good
Colossians 3 suggests, when we live in the knowledge of our Creator, we realize that in Him there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scuthia, slave or free but Christ is all and is in all. Difference is created by God and difference is part of our human experience. As we learn to accept that others may either be different or have a different opinion, it allows us to feel peace when we don't agree. We need to begin to learn how to listen to others, learn from them, and share our own thoughts calmly and clearly. Just because someone has different beliefs or understanding, does not mean we can't have a relationship with them.
2. Realize Stress is Prominent
During this holiday season, many, many people will be feeling stress either from illness, disappointment, loss of jobs, experiences or other sources. Galatians 6 encourages us to bear one another's burdens which in this case means understanding people might be on edge or suffering from grief or hardship. If you sense a friend is struggling because they seem distant or not engaged, ask them what hardships they are facing or if everything is okay. Don't just exclude them or get upset because they seem irritated or distant.
3. Rely on Memories to Bring Closeness
Because friends may not connect in person this holiday season, it is a great time to relive some past experiences to remind others how good the relationship has been. Share pictures, videos, or music that brings up fun and pleasant memories. Tell someone how something they said to you in the past has changed your life. Remind someone who reached out to you when you needed someone to support you how much they have helped you. In scripture, the Psalmist encourages us to enter into his courts with thanksgiving and praise. Remembering who God is and what he has done for us strengthens our spiritual relationship. The same principle applies to our relationships with our friends. Remember what is good!
4. Look for Ways to Make Others Smile
Proverbs tells us that a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person's strength. Laughter and smiles are contagious. During this holiday season, it will be important to acknowledge peoples' pain, but equally as important, to help people smile. Buy someone their favorite candy bar, encourage them to go on an outdoor adventure with you, watch your favorite Christmas movie together or make a list of fun things you want to do when COVID is over. Friendships that get through hard times together will become stronger. Keep fun in your relationships to keep them growing.
The answers to many of the problems our society faces such as loneliness, anxiety, addiction, and depression can be helped by connections to good friends. As we face what could be one of the most challenging holiday seasons in our recent history, know that reaching out and continuing to build friendships can bring light into a dark time.
May you bring light to others in your life.
- The Boone Center for the Family
Learn more about navigating communication & conflict, technology & relationships, and intentional friendships with the Relationship IQ Curriculum.