5 Ways to Cultivate Authentic Friendships

Out rowingKatie Morford and I have never met. It’s possible I’ve seen her, probable in fact. But she’s an introvert, and I’m an introvert, and we’ve never had an actual face-to-face conversation. That said, Katie is one of the people I consider a friend. We’ve worked on a project together, I’ve seen her work on others. She’s funny and interesting, and every time we chat online, I walk away thinking she’s someone I want to know better because she has integrity. When I asked her to guest post for me, Katie was in immediately, and she sent a lovely long-ish post accompanied by some of her photos (do visit her travel blog. She has a great eye). We chatted and agreed to feature her today and Wednesday.  Thus, today, is part one of 5 Ways to Cultivate Authentic Friendships, from my globe-trotter friend Katie. She’s a lady who’s had to work at it. Read on, and you’ll see why.

by Katie Morford @KLMorford

I believe we live in the loneliest generation the world has ever known. We are more “connected” than ever, but only on the surface. We crave true friendships that last a lifetime. To be seen. Known. To reveal our real selves and cultivate authentic friendships.

If that’s you, you’ve come to the right place. Sit down. Let’s have a chat. If you want more real friendships in your life, the first thing you have to do is…

Be real.

Gulp. This is the point where most of us stop reading, get up to brew our morning coffee, start spring-cleaning closets we haven’t touched in years—all to avoid the single most frightening—and most important—aspect of any relationship. We want to be known, but are afraid to reveal ourselves to others for fear of rejection. We are all too aware of our own faults or inadequacies.Cousins and friends

Here’s the deal. There is no real relationship without a real you. It’s terrifying, I know. But you can do this. And being brave enough to reveal the real you—even for a moment—is usually the key to discovering a depth to your relationships you never thought possible.

Don’t believe me? My turn to be real. I’m a media missionary living in England who travels the world writing and producing incredible stories about what God’s doing in places I can’t begin to pronounce. Sounds glamorous, right? Right.

So, I’m talking to friends or family back home and inevitably this question comes up: “How are you doing? That sounds amazing.” Now, it’s decision time. I’m a people-pleaser. I know what they expect to hear. And believe me, I’m tempted to take a pre-packaged spiritual answer and slap some details on top.

“Oh, it’s great! Amazing people. Amazing experiences. It’s a joy to serve God and do what I love.”

That’s the truth. But it’s not the whole truth. The whole truth is that my dear friend is dying of cancer and I can’t be there because I live on the other side of the ocean. The whole truth is, I’m 27 and can’t get a driver’s license because I can’t be without my passport for the time required to apply for the permit.

Real life is messy. But remember—there is no real relationship without the real you.

Extend the hand first.

One day it dawned on me that relationships don’t magically appear. Growing up, friendships develop naturally through school, sports teams, or neighborhood play dates. But as you get older, these pre-packaged opportunities to develop friendships tend to fall into the ditch beside the highway.

I began to realize I would have to “extend the hand,” as it were, and initiate a relationship.

Yikes! Is there anything more terrifying for an introvert? The very thought of inserting myself into a circle of conversation at a social event makes me break out in hives. But here’s the deal. If everyone waits for the other person to make the first move, you’ll spend your whole life staring at each other when you could be experiencing a genuine connection.

I’m not saying to walk up and introduce yourself to a perfect stranger (though, by all means, go for it). Start small. Bake cookies and take them to your neighbor. Write an encouraging note and leave it on a co-worker’s desk. Smile and attempt conversation with the waitress at your favorite coffee shop.

We can’t all be Miss/Mrs. Popular. But we can all smile and say hi.

Come back on Wednesday to see the rest of Katie’s post.

Whirly and DuckyKatie Morford is a globe-trotting missionary journalist and travel photographer who’s secretly a homebody, fiction writer and book nerd. She travels the world creating short documentary videos with a Christian media team. You can follow her adventures on her travel photography blog

In her spare time, Katie writes space opera and action-adventure novels (pick up her latest release, Kenanunder pen name Karis Waters) and is an editor for Crosshair Press. Once a month you’ll catch her on the CP blog, waxing eloquent on life, travel, and living a great story. Katie lives in northern England despite disliking both rain and milk in her tea. 

11 thoughts on “5 Ways to Cultivate Authentic Friendships

  1. Katie,
    I appreciated your post and your view of moving towards authentic relationships. I totally agree with your point of being real. But sometimes when we are real we also find those who would not be a good fit. And it feels pretty much like rejection. I remember poor George Castanza and Ray Ramano who felt everyone should like them, I think Frazier also had a big streak of that. But the truth is, we do want others to like us and when that’s too important, it’s also hard to bounce back from when you do find someone who is indifferent. Of course we read that as not liking us.

    I’ll be looking forward to your next post.

    1. Hi Anne,

      Thanks for reading!

      I think the hazard of being a real and authentic person will always be that there are so who just don’t care to know you, or are indifferent. That’s why it takes tremendous courage to be authentic. If it were easy, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? We want the blessing of authentic relationships without the risk and potential cost of rejection. But it just doesn’t work that way.

      And yes, it does hurt when we’re vulnerable and other people reject us. Of course! How can it not? But there will always be people different from us. People so caught up in themselves and their own problems that they don’t have an interest in someone else. But we can’t let them keep us from the joy of strong, authentic friendships.

      Ultimately, the key comes down to our relationship with God and security as a person in Him. In Him, we are loved. In Him, we are always accepted. In Him, we are secure in who we are. When we’re at that point (it’s an on-going process) then we come from a position of strength to extend the hand of friendship to others, focusing not on what they can do for us, but on how we can love them. Which really is at the heart of any true, authentic friendship.

      1. Katie,

        I loved what you wrote… “When we’re at that point then we come from a position of strength to extend the hand of friendship to others, focusing not on what they can do for us, but on how we can love them. Which really is at the heart of any true, authentic friendship.”

        That is so true. And when we are walking with the spirit and listening to his voice this works well. But unfortunately, sometimes one of us may be in a place of need and instead of going to the one who can meet those needs, we look to another person. I speak from experience. Oh to go to him first. It sure would save disappointment and the need to rebuild the relationship.

        1. Yes, it’s definitely a challenge for me when I’m in an insecure or needy place to remember to go to God first, and let Him comfort and fill us up with His love. Then the love and encouragement of others becomes a blessing and a gift, instead of just being a source of more pain and frustration because they can’t make us happy. Living in community – open, healthy, honest, giving community – is so important. But it can’t replace God in our lives. And we can’t love others well until we have received the love of the Father.

  2. I love both of your comments. I’ve found sometimes, that I’ve been so busy worrying about people liking me, I didn’t realize they did–they were just different from me. What I took as rejection was engagement, what I took as indifference wasn’t so much about me as it was about them. Once I learned to look more outside myself–and this didn’t happen until I knew I needed to change everything about my life–I was able to see that people would like me if I’d let them, but that was the key. I had to LET them. For a long time, I wouldn’t. I was so afraid they would reject me, I’d look for evidence they were, or to make sure it would happen. There was a certain level of control in that.

    As Katie said, I needed to have more security in God, and who I was as a person before Him. That came with time…and continues to come. I’m loving this engagement here!

    1. I like what you said Crystal and I’m sure I have also projected onto others what I thought they were thinking. Some of them might have then gone along with it. Others said, “That’s you, not me.”

      I call it script writing. And I’m guilty of it, as I said. I also agree that the answer is to be more secure in ourselves. And if we were to go to God for our needs, as Katie suggested, we would be more secure in ourselves, because we would not worry that our needs would go unmet.

      1. Yeah, it’s a difficult thing, isn’t it? Because God created us with a need for community. Isolation is so dangerous! (Just watch National Geographic!). But at the same time real community only happens when we are filled with the love of Christ and not looking for people to fill that bottomless hole in us and make us happy. It’s a constant struggle for me!

  3. Someone left a comment on my blog the other day which mirrors something you said – extend the hand first. If you envision everyone you encounter as a potential friend, why would you wait to meet the person who could become the next great relationship in your world? Granted, we are not going to get along with everyone who crosses our paths. But we can learn from everyone’s story if we take the time to listen. Looking forward to tomorrow’s conclusion!

    1. That’s exactly it, Denise! And as an introvert who loves people, but finds starting a conversation very intimidating, remembering to think about making the other person comfortable and considering how they might be feeling (scared to death too!) helps me take that first step!

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