The Art of Slow Friendship – Nurturing Meaningful Relationships in a Fast-Paced World

True friendship is a plant of slow growth.

George Washington
The Art of Slow Friendship

Nurturing Meaningful Relationships in a Fast-Paced World

A huge contributing factor to our well-being and overall holistic wellness is the strength and quality of our relationships. It has been proven that fostering deep and meaningful relationships are key to our health and longevity.

But despite our world being more connected and “social” than ever, it seems to create and nurture high-quality friendships that are as challenging as ever.  A study published by Cigna, one of the U.S.’s leading insurance providers, found that 58% of the 10,000 people in the study are considered lonely. There is a strong correlation between loneliness and poor mental health, and modern psychologists are proving the truth in what the Psalmist said long ago:

“Ointment and perfume delight the heart,

And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by [a]hearty counsel.” Psalm 27:9 NKJV

But why is nurturing these essential connections harder than ever? Our modern world has made seeking out and investing time into friendship harder than ever, historically speaking.

In older times, community and close friendships were built in as people lived and worked in close-knit, smaller villages. Everyday tasks like baking bread, washing laundry, and caring for children were more often a communal effort than an individual one. This community environment left time for fellowship during work. 

But in this digital age of instant connection on smartphones and social media, it’s increasingly easy for us to slip into superficial connections. In such a fast-paced world, we now have to make time for friendships and be intentional with how we view and interact with others. 

It’s not so much the technology itself. Social media and connection is a wonderful things when used intentionally. I’m so grateful that I can facetime with my parents and sisters who live three states away. Even some of my dear friends are those I’ve never actually met in real life!

The problem comes, in my opinion, when we’ve increased the quantity of our so-called friendships (social media connections, for example) and decreased the quality of genuine fellowship and connection. When a like or single-emoji response is the primary mode of checking in with people as we scroll past 100+ posts in a few minutes, we’ve lost the deeper connection that more traditional friendship habits allowed for. 

Add to this the fact that most of us are rushing about our days and lives with so little spare time, and it’s no wonder we are struggling with loneliness and poor interpersonal connections. Being extremely busy as well as being constantly connected to our phones is a challenge for slow living and an even greater challenge for slow friendship. 

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Even if we have time to hang out with friends, most of us aren’t fully present when we are together since our attention is so fractionated by the vibrating device in our back pockets. A recent study by Microsoft found that the human attention span has shortened by 25% in just a few years. 

Choosing quality over quantity is something I talk about quite a bit on our blog here, and it’s a value I am constantly striving to embody in my own life. I admit that social media has its benefits, and I’m not here to vilify it as the sole evil that has cheapened friendship for all of us. Instead, I’d prefer to simply bring awareness to the potential pitfalls and instead focus on how to slow down and savor life by investing in meaningful friendships in an intentional way. 

Here are things I’m doing to try to slow down and invest time and energy into building meaningful relationships with those around me. My hope is that they may be helpful to you, too.

  1. Cultivate a genuine interest in other’s lives. More than a like button, true friendship requires real investment of interest and genuine care on both sides. Having an interest in someone does not equate to being nosy. Rather, it’s the opposite of selfishness as we genuinely invest our interest in others’ loves, hopes, dreams, and experience.
  2. Practice deep listening. Most of us know to avoid interrupting others and all of the tenets of basic listening skills like making eye contact, using body language to show our engagement, etc. But to go a bit deeper, try to listen without making any judgement on what the speaker is saying. Learn to ask better questions to make the speaker feel heard, and then listen to understand (instead of respond) to make them feel seen. Deep listening is a skill, and practicing will improve your connection and communication with your loved ones.
  3. Revive the art of letter writing. “Real stamps” leave an impact. Do you remember the last time you got a card or letter in the mail? Such a small bit intentional act of taking time to write an actual bona fide letter will leave an impression on the receiver. It says you value them enough to go out of your way to sit down and compose a message by hand.  Additionally, the act of writing forces you to slow down and truly be present while thinking about your friend. (It’s also somewhat meditative and therapeutically nostalgic!)
  4. Cultivate yourself as a good friend. To have a friend you must be a friend. As Proverbs 18:24 states, “A man who has friends [a]must himself be friendly” (NKJV) If you struggle to connect with people, seeking out, working with a pastor or mental health counselor may help you to unpack the reasons you may find it difficult. Don’t be afraid to work on yourself!
  5. Pray that the Lord leads people into your life to fellowship with and offer encouragement to each other. And then watch for the opportunitoes He puts in your path. God knows our needs and desires before we even know them ourselves. And He made us for fellowship with others. He wants us to have a rich life and be created us to need companionship. 

A word of caution is to surround yourselves closely with others who share your values and can encourage you and draw you deeper in faith rather than away from it. We are commanded to love all people and live out the love of Jesus in a fallen world. But our closest friends, those with whom we do life with and share our most intimate relationships should be built around people who encourage us in our faith and shared values rather than distract from them. 

Studies have shown that we mirror the behaviors and values of those we have the closest connections to. According to this research, choosing our friendships wisely is very important. God cares about every area of your life, so of course He cares about your friendships. Ask Him to help you cultivate relationships that will be mutually uplifting and He will.

  1. Take small steps to offer the first invitation to friendship. Most of us today don’t go out of their way to meet new people or extend an offer of friendship, unless circumstances  (like working together) create an environment that makes it easy. It’s not that that we’re unfriendly. It’s just that we’re all very busy. But taking a moment to offer a kind gesture can open up the door to cultivating a friendship with someone new. 
  2. Revive the habit of inviting friends to do simple things together. It doesn’t have to be a full-fledged dinner out at a reservation. Plan a picnic, visit over coffee, or even get together to play board games or pursue a shared hobby. (Apple picking, anyone?) Finding friends who are willing to just spend time together, especially enjoying slower activities that don’t require elaborate plans or expenses is invaluable. It may feel strange at first, but the reward is certainly worth it. (And this is coming from an introvert!)

Finally, my hope is that you’ve left this article encouraged to seek out and pursue quality relationships in an intentional, God-honoring way. If you have some ideas for fostering slow friendships, please take a moment to join the conversation below. 

Until next time!

April

Did you know? I’ve teamed up with Olivia over at Girl From Cedar Hollow to launch a podcast all about holistic living, nourishing food, parenting, the art of Homemaking, and more. Listen in to our conversation on the Art of Slow Friendship wherever you get your podcasts. We dive into this topic even more, and we elaborate further on our experiences in cultivating meaningful relationships. See (err… hear?) you there!

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