In a world overwhelmed by technology, one thing that often gets lost in the shuffle is true connection. Loneliness and a lack of meaningful friendships weighs heavily on the hearts of many, leaving them feeling isolated and alone.
Most of us have very few people in our lives we could call on in a crisis. The problem of loneliness and isolation continues to grow; in fact, it’s not uncommon to feel alone despite being surrounded by people. So how many genuine, authentic friends do we actually have?
Well-known author and speaker Sheridan Voysey is spearheading a new initiative called The Friendship Lab. Sheridan believes that adult friendships can help decrease anxiety and depression, raise our lifespan, act as buffers against addiction and increase feelings of overall well-being.
‘The word lab has been chosen very intentionally,’ says Sheridan. ‘Because one of the best things we can do to make and deepen friendships is be intentional and do some experiments. Trying new things and not having a succeed/fail mentality, but rather a try/learn/try again mentality is the language of the lab.’
Sheridan recommends giving ourselves some time and space. It can be hard to make friends today, and we need time to try something new. This is an experiment we can do when we’re feeling lonely to help get our friendships flourishing again.
‘It’s not just about social skills, it’s actually about busyness,’ says Sheridan. ‘It’s about rebuilding trust after a friend let us down. It’s about shyness and mobility. This experiment is trying to help empower people to form deep and enriching friendships.’
The Facebook generation has defined a friend as somebody who will accept our friend request. But do we have people we could call in a crisis at 2 a.m.? Sheridan says this question has become a catalyst in defining what a true friend really is.
‘In terms of a definition,’ says Sheridan, ‘a friend is someone I can talk to, depend on, grow with and enjoy. Probably the one major thing that binds two people together is a shared sense of worldview. That helps you to have something in common to connect over.’
Another important question to ask is, what does Christian faith tell us about friendship? Christianity comes with a set of values to live by. It’s a major relationship where friends share an allegiance to God. Christian friends help each other live the life that Christ has called them to.
‘We have someone to talk to,’ says Sheridan. ‘Not just about we experience day to day, but the deep aspects of life. Someone to depend on when we’re called to encourage each other and carry each other’s burdens. Someone to grow with.’
We develop into the very image and character of God when we are friends with fellow believers. We can share that gift of joy that the Holy Spirit brings us. But we have to be intentional. It won’t happen just by joining a church. Many people have been part of churches for a long time and still wrestle with making friends.
‘We’ve got to create a culture in our churches that is very much about friend-making,’ says Sheridan. ‘Not simply community building.’
‘Community building is a good first step, but we need to help people find someone they can really count on when everything falls apart at 2 a.m.’
To get involved in and participate in The Friendship Lab experiment, click here and listen to Sheridan’s full interview on 20Twenty below: