How to fight back against doubt and fear when forming friendships and community

How to make friends as an adult

Doubt comes when you begin to seek new friendships and build community:

You’re working on finding community, connecting with “your people” and forming authentic friendships, but it’s hard, awkward, and excruciating at times, isn’t it?

You don’t know where to start. Who to approach. Where to find these kindred spirits.

Once “prospective friends” are on the roster, opposition comes. You’re scared to invite them over. Worry they’ll turn you down. You’re afraid everyone’s too busy.

You wonder if these people will get along with those people if you host dinner.

Maybe you’ve moved past the initial fears of invitation, shared a few fun meals and evenings of camaraderie, but things have fizzled. You feel like a pest starting things up again and wonder if these people just aren’t into you.

Wisdom for the journey ahead:

Nehemiah Chapters 1- 8 has wisdom to offer. Nehemiah was a high official in the Persian court who was called to a great project. He was instrumental in rebuilding a wall and the city of Jerusalem that sat in ruins following the Babylonian exile.

In Chapter 1 Nehemiah hears of the destruction of his city and wept, mourned, fasted, prayed (day and night), praised God, reminded God of His covenant, “…hear me God”, confessed, prayed scripture, pleaded for the people of Jerusalem, and asked God for favor and success.

Have you been there? Facing sadness of the heart because you lack community? Shedding tears because it sits in ruins?

Nehemiah started his building project with prayer. As you journey toward community, press into prayer and ask God to establish what he desires in your life, that he’d usher in authentic friendships and community.

And God will.

But what I’ve learned from these chapters in Nehemiah — it’s wise to prepare yourself for resistance. Nehemiah faced opposition at every turn.

You’ll face opposition and feel like giving up on friendship:

Here’s the deal. The bad dudes in the first six chapters of Nehemiah were unrelenting toward Nehemiah and the Jewish people who were rebuilding the wall.

When you’re building something good and meaningful, like friendship and community, there’s a strong chance you’ll face opposition. Whether it’s internal, external, or both.

The bad dudes? They taunted, opposed, mocked, and ridiculed the Jewish people. They plotted to attack and stir up trouble, sent four intimidating letters, hired men to intimidate Nehemiah, and sent an aide to deliver an intimidating invitation to Nehemiah. (References here: Nehemiah 2:10, 2:19, 4:1-3, 4:7-8, 6:3, 6:8, 6:10-13, 6:19.)

Even after the wall was rebuilt, the project finished, Tobiah sent letters to intimidate Nehemiah.

Taunts rise in the mind and heart while you’re longing for community and forming friendships.

  • I hope they like me. Are we a good fit?
  • Did they have a good time at the park with us?
  • That was awkward. Thought we’d hit it off…but no. Back to square one.
How to fight back against doubt and fear when forming friendships and community:

When the bad dudes started mocking Nehemiah, he answered them, “The God of heaven will give us success.” (Nehemiah 2:20)

When fear cries, ‘This friendship thing is impossible…’ — repeatedly discredit the doubt with truth.

  • God will give us success.
  • I was made for community.
  • God hear me. Erase these fears.
  • There are people in this town waiting to know us, longing for friendship.

When the bad guys threatened to attack the Jewish people, Nehemiah placed guards at all the “exposed places” along the wall. Where or when are you most tender about building friendship?

Is it before an invitation goes out? Is it during a get-together? Is it after a gathering? Weekends? Weeknights? Children’s school events? At the book club? When do the doubts and fears overwhelm you?

What can you do to be proactive and protect those areas in your life?

Remember that forming friendships is a process and journey. One that goes a lot like this:

Pray. Decide to build. Face opposition, doubt and fear. Replace doubt with truth. Pray. Keep building. Face mocking, taunting, intimidation. Pray. Keep at the good work. Repeat. Friendship comes one day at a time.

How can I support you on the journey?

If there’s anything I can do to help you as you erase loneliness and seek to foster fellowship and friendship in your life — let me know in the comments below. Share your experience with the other Kitchen Fellowshipers here.

7 comments… add one

  • Darcy Wiley May 26, 2016, 10:02 pm

    I haven’t been on the internet much lately, but I’m so glad I clicked over from email. Your space and words are always refreshing. You’ve got me looking at the Nehemiah story with new eyes. I never thought about that story in the smaller scale of our little pursuits in community, but there’s so much to glean through that filter. I think I struggle with a lot of the areas you mentioned. I often wonder if people are too busy, and I feel like a bother. When I reach out and am turned down, it increases my doubt about whether it’s worth it to try again with that person in the future. I know I need to work on exercising my “emotional core,” to get strong and centered so that I can reach out for the relationship I want with a friend/family member and not spend so much time wondering what’s going on in the other person’s head. If I don’t get the response I want, I need to privately acknowledge my disappointment, let it go, and regroup. Other times, I’m the one who’s too busy and make myself unapproachable. I need to remember that, too. I’ve been paying attention to my neighbor, a fellow mom of young kids, who always seems to be the life of the party (her porch is where we all congregate). I think a big part of what makes her so magnetic is that she doesn’t have many pursuits besides that of just connecting with people. As a creative, I have too many ideas to be as un-busy as she is, but her way of life is definitely inspiring me to consider what I can scale down to make more room for connection.

    • Alysa May 27, 2016, 7:45 am

      Darcy! Your comment and thoughts add another layer of depth to this post. Grateful you shared what was on your mind. The “turn down” does increase our doubt, doesn’t it? Love that you mentioned strengthening your “emotional core” in order to release the doubt/fear and reach out to others from a place of hope and resilience. Briefly acknowledging the disappointment is key. And like you said, move on and regroup!

      Such a sweet peek into your neighbor’s life of magnetic community. I’m right there with you on the creative front, so many ideas. Glad you’re looking for ways to scale down in a few areas to make room for fellowship.

    • Trina May 27, 2016, 11:06 am

      Oh, I can so relate to this, Darcy: “As a creative, I have too many ideas to be as un-busy as she is.” Add in the guilt of not just hanging out with the kids at the park all day and I feel like a relationship-wreck!

      Thank you for this, Alysa. It comes at a good time, as I was just telling Daniel yesterday that I have the incredible ability to be in a group of people and still feel lonely. For some reason it’s hitting especially this week with lies popping out of nowhere that I annoy people and I just need to stop trying. Funny thing is, when those thoughts come into my head as that almost sound hissing, which helps tag them as attempts from a sneaky snake trying to knock me down. The not so funny thing is that it too often works at knocking me down.

      Thank you for creating this safe place of honest communication. And I’m so glad you chimed in, Darcy :)

      • Alysa May 27, 2016, 4:37 pm

        Trina! Big hugs. Know — that in your moments of relational doubt I’m praying for you! You’ve been on my mind since I sent you that card a while back.

        I have that same ability (feeling lonely in a group of people). Introverts unite. 😉 But I also think that comes down to shifting our mindset to: we are lovely people, we are enjoyable, we are loved and valued. Oh friend, I’ll pray against those lies for you.

        Thank YOU for speaking up in this safe place. I appreciate your honesty. You’re awesome.

  • Amber May 27, 2016, 9:41 am

    I find that I’m drawn most towards people who love me without judging and hold space for me. These people are good at listening! So I’m trying to consciously offer that to new friends, because I feel it’s a beautiful gift.

    I could use help with courage inviting people over when my house is not as nice as theirs.

    • Alysa May 27, 2016, 4:28 pm

      That’s wonderful Amber! Love that you’re consciously offering your heart by listening to new friends. It’s what we all need.

      As far as courage to invite folks over no matter the condition of your home — I love this post from The Nester.

      The size or niceness of your home won’t inhibit you from loving people well, and that’s all that really matters. You can still be hospitable, welcoming, whole-hearted. Would it help to move away from the ‘entertaining’ mindset into hospitality? Your casual get together isn’t a ‘parade of homes’. It’s caring for, being interested in and fully present with the people who grace your home. It’s about making space in your heart and home for others to feel welcomed, known, and enjoyed.
      You have the ability to do that!

      If people get judgey about the size or niceness of your house… they’re not your people. <3

      You can do this! Let me know after you host your next gathering. Would love to hear how it goes.

  • Amber May 29, 2016, 8:27 pm

    Thanks darling! I appreciate the pep talk. Yes, I can offer hospitality instead of entertaining. Thank you for the perspective shift!

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