Monday, April 30, 2012

What Women Tell Me: The Need for Connecting in Community

By Anita Lustrea

If you polled a group of women to find out their deepest needs, I can almost guarantee that longing for deeper friendships would rank near the top of their list. A little more than a year ago the radio program I host, Midday Connection, conducted an online survey to determine women’s points of pain. Over 2,300 women responded and, of the macro themes in the survey, relationships were in the top three. As we drilled down to the most common sub-themes of pain, the longing for deeper friendships was number one across all demographic lines. Women are desperate for female friendships and often don’t know how to initiate or develop them.

The fix might seem like a no brainer—go to a women’s ministry meeting at church, join a small group, or take an art class. Go places where women go and get to know them. But unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy. One hindrance to closer relationships is the masks we wear. We are afraid to let others get too close. “Surely they wouldn’t like me if they really knew me,” we often say to ourselves. But we need to move past these thoughts and live into who God created us to be instead of living into the expectations of others (which is often what we choose).

Another barrier is that many of us have been burned by relationships that were choked with too much responsibility, maybe even ones that were co-dependent. Sometimes we’ve not seen friendships modeled for us in our family of origin, or we’ve lost a spouse due to divorce or death and we are afraid to try again. Whatever the reason, we need to pay attention to the risks of living without community. The Harvard Medical School Nurse’s Health study that reported those who had the most friends over a nine year period cut their risk of early death by 60%. Yes, you read that right….60%!

In addition to simply finding friends, however, we need to find safe people to be in community with. Henry Cloud and John Townsend give a great grid in their book Safe People.  A safe person, they say, has three characteristics: they draw us closer to God, they draw us closer to others and they draw us closer to our authentic selves.

Here are some practical steps on initiating and developing friendships:

1.      Invite 1 or 2 women to coffee. If they say no, ask someone else.

2.      If you have younger children, invite someone to a play date in a park.

3.      Don’t judge a book by its cover. Get to know someone’s story. You will be blessed and might be missing a gem of a friendship otherwise.

4.      Start praying for God to provide a friend. I’ve talked to countless women who have seen God answer this prayer.

5.      Look for “safe people” and run yourself through that same grid. Are YOU a safe person?

6.      Sometimes when we are desperate for a friend, we “throw up” all over them the first time we get together.  Friendships need to be mutual, and if they are to be a two way street, we need to slowly allow someone to get to know us—not tell all in one sitting. 

We are created for community. We are made in the image of a Trinitarian God. The pursuit of God and the pursuit of friendship go hand in hand. The two greatest impulses of our souls are upward and outward because we simply reflect the design of God. It’s no wonder that we are craving a deeper experience of friendship. And friends are essential to life and growth. Yes, reaching out can be risky, but my guess is that the person you reach out to is also in need of a warm smile and a future friend!

Anita Lustrea is the Executive Producer and Host of Moody Radio’s “Midday Connection”. She has authored, What Women Tell Me, available in the FullFill Store.


  1. I was thinking I was the only one feeling these things. Thank you for your timely and much needed comments.

  2. Anita,

    I couldn't agree more with everything you bring up in this posting! In particular, you mention the masks we wear being a hindrance to developing deep relationships... something interesting to think about is WHY we wear those masks in the first place. We generally put them on for self-protection during our school years, when we learn the rules of the social jungle. These include:

    * Your place on the social ladder is based upon shallow externals (looks, clothes, who you hang out with, boyfriend, what others say about you, etc.).
    * Know your place on the social ladder and stay there, or you will be punished/socially ostracized in some way.
    * Remember that quantity and social status of friends trumps quality of friends.
    * Herd around with as many other kids as possible, because being alone means you're a loser.
    * Being different is bad, so stifle your God-given uniqueness.
    * Don't reveal weaknesses, because they can and will be used against you.

    These rules get ingrained in our thinking and lead to self-protective behaviors that, while helpful for survival during our teen years, become detrimental to the development of meaningful relationships during adulthood. For this reason, I believe that doing away with the habits we developed through childhood social conditioning is very helpful for those interested in mask removal and deeper relationships.

    By the way, some great resources for better understanding the social jungle include Rosalind Wiseman's "Queen Bees and Wannabes" and parts of Donald Miller's "Searching For God Knows What"... the social rules listed above are drawn from a combination of their observations, plus my own personal experiences in the social jungle. Again, great posting!

  3. Thank you so much for this email.I recently have experienced 2 woman friendships.One is a young woman I just love dearly for her acceptance of me.My children Kelly and Dustin have really betrayed me in the past two years.This young new friend has been such a joy to my heart,she made me an Easter basket this year!What a wonderful surprise!I believe God has put us together for many reasons.I have been praying for God to send spiritual friends to me.Looks like He has answered that prayer.The second woman,I just met once,she lives in my apartment comlex.I can't wait to get to know her better,I think we might be close in age.I've been praying for God to send a spiritual friend in my complex to me.Yep,He has!I believe true Godly friends are so important to us.Guess what? I am healther already.Our God is so beautiful,I LOVE HIM!Thank you Jesus!!!Keep praying ladies,God answers! GOD BLESS,love,Marge Dixon