Twenty-five year-old me pulled into the garage, chattering on the phone with an old college roommate. I shifted to park and we kept talking for another hour.
“You know what I’ve realized?” I said. “I don’t need any more new friends. All I need to do is take care of the trustworthy friends I’ve already got.” She enthusiastically agreed, and our conversation flowed on. That epiphany is one I've never forgotten.
I grew up a missionary kid, always on the move. Then I was a pastor's wife. Every two years, we just kept moving. My entire life I’d felt this intense need to make new friends in every location. This pressure to fit in, to find my niche.
But I was chasing phantoms. Stressing myself out, trying to connect with people I had little or nothing in common with — simply because they were local. I became frustrated and disappointed when those interactions lacked depth and authenticity. Even worse, I’d over-extend trust to people I didn’t know well, and then feel utterly betrayed when they let me down.
It finally dawned on me that I was going about this friendship thing backwards. Maybe you are too?
Why should we assume we are likely to find genuine connections in every new town, just because we happened to live there? What if, instead of pouring ourselves into forced shallow local relationships every time we land in a new place, we worked extra hard to maintain quality relationships with friends we already know we could trust — even if they live far away?
It might be a turning point in how you approach female friendships.
Take mental and emotional inventory of the women you’ve known long enough to deeply trust and admire. Ask yourself:
Who are my people?
Which girlfriends do I want to still be going on vacation with when I’m sixty?
Who could I call at 3am if I need to cry my heart out?
Who is comfortable enough to call ME at 3am and know I would listen?
Once you’ve figured out who those women are — and to be honest, they might not be very many, but that's okay — start pouring yourself into those friendships.
Next, stop worrying about new girlfriends. Instead, focus on the trusted friends you already have. If you discover a kindred spirit along the way, treat her as a delightful bonus. Don’t be unfriendly, but let your desperation go.
In the years since, I’ve never regretted making that choice. Instead of losing friends, the opposite happened. When I set a personal standard to surround my heart with quality God-fearing women, my life began to gradually fill with women of all ages who are truly my people. Once, I had very few deep female connections, now I treasure a rich and meaningful variety.
When I set a personal standard to surround my heart with quality God-fearing women, my life began to gradually fill with women of all ages who are truly my people
My #girltribe ranges from writers to lawyers to nurses to missionaries to full-time moms to midwives to professors to models. Some are ten years younger than me, others are twenty years older. We all love Jesus, although we don’t hold identical points of view. Each one is driven by her own unique passion to change the world for good whether through health, or case law, or abuse advocacy, or parenting, or story-telling or helping refugees.
We snort at sarcastic jokes, we shed mutual tears, we show each other our sore spots and vulnerabilities. We pray relentlessly together. Some live on opposite continents. Few of us share time zones. We loudly lament how rarely we see each other in person. But, our hearts are knit together for life.
I wish someone told me sooner that my best friends might be surprises. They might look nothing like me, or be my mother’s age, or we might cross paths in a foreign country and then not meet again for a year.
I wish someone had told me that I shouldn’t feel obligated to settle for shallow connections just to feel less lonely. Told me it was okay to hold out for my people, for the women who challenge me to grow and change and improve and love more deeply. To wait and watch for the warrior women who feel the same wild call to faith that resonates in my own heart.
So that’s why now, I’m telling you.
Sarah McDugal is a branding strategist, abuse recovery coach, homeschooling single mom, and author. She loves strong coffee, great books, globe-trotting, making her kids giggle at fake British accents, and texting faraway girlfriends non-stop. Check out her stuff at www.sarahmcdugal.com.