Nurturing My Nest Blog

Routines and Rhythms of Homemaking
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The Friendship Recession

For the last few years the topic of a loneliness epidemic has dominated much of chatter in interpersonal news. Recently, my article and podcast on “I See You – The Epidemic of Loneliness” garnered a flurry of responses and shares. Friendship continues to be a topic that invites discussion and thoughtful planning. In staying aware of the topic of friendship as well as always keeping my eyes open for new friends, it seemed alarming when I heard someone mention that our society is in a friendship recession. (As we explore this topic, don’t forget to look at the end of this blog for a list of more practical blogs on the topic of friendship.)

According to Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, discusses the importance of friendships and the potential “friendship recession.” He notes that loneliness can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, but measuring and quantifying friendships is difficult. According to Reeves, an ideal number of close friends is around three or four.

As I think about my life as it relates to friendship, I am grateful to have a great deal more than 3-4 friends. However, I do believe it is important to identify the rings of friendship in a healthy life.

Without going into a long discussion on each of these subjects I believe that our addiction to screens, our increasingly lack of loyalty to family (immediate and extended) and other reasons for crippling isolation are marching us headlong into this friendship recession epidemic. I love the picture above because it represents some of our friends in our immediate family and extended family!!!

Before we go any farther, let’s break down these words. Friendship is a mutual trust and affection between people or “a state of enduring affection, esteem, intimacy, and trust between two people” according to Britannica. Friendship is not obligatory, but one of choice. Affection is reciprocated. Recession is usually associated with financial topics. However, the sense of this word is applicable to friendships as well. When in a recession opportunities and profits are reduced. Thoughts of a slump, a downturn, a slow down, a decline and even a stagnation dominate. This experience is weakened or negative growth. A friendship recession is a time of lessening relationship value in our everyday. The joy and fulfillment that God intended in the gift of friendship he created as he crafted us into relationship craving creatures is lessened or eliminated completely. Granted, all experiences in friendship are not rosy, but the work and hardship leads to growth and deep satisfaction.

The deepest part of us longs for friendship. God created you and me for first a relationship with our Father God and then a lifetime of healthy relationships with others. The book of John in the New Testament is full of language that communicates God’s desire for a relationship with His most prized creation…man. The entire Bible is a love letter to you and to me. Even John 17:3 reminds us that our Father God deeply desires to know us. We long to be seen and heard and known. Those instincts are inborn. When we acknowledge these natural urges and lean into the heart of our Father God, we discover the most fulfilling and beautiful everyday living with joy. To know more about this deep and meaningful relationship, read What is a Christ Follower?

Friendships formed throughout our lives with family and others are the most significant experiences outside of our relationship with God.

Some of the most impactful statistics that I read on loneliness came from Scientific American July 27, 2020.

61% of Americans feel lonely regularly.

Alarmingly, self-reported loneliness is highest among young adults. Equally alarming is that loneliness literally shrinks the size of our brains.

So, what should we do about this epidemic of loneliness? Open your eyes. Look for people who are sad, alone or struggling.

Read the blog or listen to this podcast for indicators of lonely people, how to help lonely people and general ideas for combating the epidemic of loneliness.

To avoid being in a friendship recession, consider these ideas:

  1. Pursue healthy every days personally so your focus will be on others instead of yourself.
  2. Develop hobbies and interests. Find things you can share and give away such as pottery, music, metal working, wood working, fresh bread, cinnamon rolls, cookies, lasagna, flowers bought or grown, a hand written note and more. What do you love to do? What can you share with others. Join a class.
  3. Work on your own social skills such as conversation, life-giving words, influence, forgiveness and emotional intelligence.
  4. Volunteer. Some of the best friends are made when you come together to do something altruistic and close to your heart with others of like compassion. Try something new.
  5. Invite a near neighbor, friend in your church community or a family member over for coffee, tea or a meal.
  6. Think through your immediate and extended family group. Decide on one or more people that you would like to know better or who can benefit from your attentiveness.
  7. Identify one lonely person in your sphere. Make a plan to do something regularly with that person.
  8. Girls need girlfriends. Guys need guy friends. If you are married, encourage your spouse to spend time growing these friend times.
  9. Plan. Plan an hour. Plan a half day. Plan a whole day. Plan an overnight. Plan a week. Plan, just plan. Intentionality. Just yesterday I was looking up flower farms and berry picking farms. While I did not formulate full plans yet, I started by texting my sister to see when she wanted to go strawberry picking. Next week strawberry picking with my favorite sister is happening! (She is my only sister, but is just sounds more endearing to call her my favorite sister. I also have a favorite daughter-in-law who loves to plan adventure days with me when she is off work from her nursing job.)
  10. Invite. Don’t wait to be invited. It is very human to long to be invited. God made us with this desire. However, we can wait forever or we can create our own party and our own community. I love that song by Cody Johnson “Til You Can’t.” “If you got a chance, take it, take it while you got a chance. If you got a dream, chase it, ’cause a dream won’t chase you back. If you’re gonna love somebody, hold ’em as long and as strong and as close as you can ’til you can’t.” Make a list of people that you would like to spend time with and then create plans to be with them. Maybe you need to walk into their world and come beside them as they work. Maybe you need to actively listen. Maybe you need to create a meal or a day of fun. In my day planner every week there are 3-5 people that I will contact. It might be a coffee date, or taking an older friend a favorite smoothie or just dropping by with some fresh bread or flowers. Ideas are limitless.

Choose to bypass any friendship recession in your life. The Bible speaks highly of friendship by examples like Jonathan and David, Ruth and Naomi, and Paul and Timothy. Just like HOME, FAMILY and MARRIAGE are God’s ideas, I think that FRIENDSHIP is God’s idea. Think about this. For example, “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:2224) and “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). Throughout the scripture we read of humans who chose to have a faithful, lifetime relationship with God. While we have mostly explored the human relationships that develop in healthy relationships, the friendship with can enjoy with our Father God is initially the best model for friendship. To explore this idea more, read What is a Christ follower?

In conclusion, please recognize that friendships can also be painful and unfulfilling. This conversation has focused on healthy friendships. In life, we often have to walk through the exploration of meeting a number of acquaintances in order to find true friendships. This growth mindset might even lead us to look inward and develop the qualities of a healthy friendship in ourselves. Check out What NOT To Do When Making Friendships and How to Make Friends and Keep Them.

So, here’s to avoiding the friendship recession by being a quality friend and surrounding yourselves with health friendships!! Relationships are the gold in your everyday!! Embrace your everyday!!

More on this conversation on the Embrace Your Everyday podcast:

More thoughts on FRIENDSHIP:

I See You – The Epidemic of Loneliness


Emotional Intelligence

20 Social Skills to Improve Your Sociability


The Strength of Influence

Hope and Forgiveness with Dr. Brenda Caldwell

What NOT To Do When Making Friends

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