Community Series Q&A: Going deeper with friends

Question: I’m wondering how to take friendship to a deeper level—from casual friendship to deep friendship.
Answered by Allie de Graaf

I like things to be deep—colors, flavors, songs, thoughts, emotions, friendships, you name it—I  want it deep. I think sometimes the depth of me has scared away some potential friends, but it has also allowed for some incredibly special relationships.

Deep relationships involve vulnerability. While any of us can feign perfection, or at least an image that doesn’t have too many ugly edges, I know that for me, that would be a facade. I know all too well the parts of me that I don’t want just anyone to know—insecurity, fears, doubts, bitter thoughts. I could go on. But if I want a truly intimate friendship, I must risk exposing those places. Not only that, but I must be a safe place for my friend to reveal ugly places they might prefer to hide, since more than likely, I am not the only one who has them. That level of relationship involves humility, grace, mercy, and certainly, risk. Yet it is also a setting for the Gospel to flourish as we live it out for each other.

But how do we get there? As in every area of our life, we must start with prayer, asking God to guide us in this journey. The roadmap for you will look different than for me, since God has great creativity in how He designs us as His masterpieces. But I will share some of the principles that have helped me.

Since I am introverted and more reserved, I thrive in a one-on-one setting, whether it’s a conversation over a cup of chai, or a hike through a park, I find that rich engaging often happens when I can focus on a single person. That allows for my relationship with that person to be unique, since I share different parts of my life and heart depending on the person and where we relate. I feel great freedom to navigate a relationship when I am one-on-one, so I can read the person and disclose my heart appropriately. Others, like Kara, thrive in gathering groups of people around them. Consider your personality and how God wired you to flourish in relationship.

Another step on the path to intimate friendship is the art of question asking. I have had great models of asking revealing and grace-filled questions that create an opportunity to share on a deeper level. A well crafted question can cut past platitudes and allow your friend to step into an authentic place of vulnerability. In asking these questions, I consider the level of relationship. In a newer friendship, I offer a question that allows my friend to reveal more if she chooses, but that leaves her an out if she is not ready to go there. We also must be willing to be vulnerable ourselves. Sometimes making the first move towards vulnerability gives our friend a sense that they can share on a deeper level, since we are honest about our own brokenness. Further, it is imperative that we create a safe space for our friend to share. We must respond with understanding, compassion, and grace as we encourage them in the truth.

Building deeper friendships requires discernment and risk. It is wise to be cautious in friendship. I choose to go deeper with people whose lives reveal the work of the Spirit and who also desire depth. When I find those people, I pursue, even knowing the friendship might not blossom.

When you find someone you want to befriend, how can you create opportunities to get to know them? Can you ask that co-worker to take a walk on your lunch break? Or the young mom at church to have a play date? Then, listen well to their story. Engage their heart with thoughtful questions. Share your heart appropriately. And of course, allow the Holy Spirit to love that person through you as you treat them with kindness and gentleness. You have already begun this journey of sweet friendship!