(Photo by Selma Komisky and art by @tenhun at tenhundredart.com)
Steps to Build A Bridge of Friendship
By Jasmin Patterson
Right now, our culture is having conversations about racism, racial division, and injustices in society. So many are grieved and looking for solutions. In this season, I think it’s worth chatting about how to take steps toward friendship with someone who is different from you. It’s a simple action we can each take to help be the change we want to see in the world.
Yes, the concept of building a bridge of friendship applies to doing so with people from a different race or cultural background than yourself. But it can also apply to growing a friendship with someone who’s different from you in a variety of other ways too: different socioeconomic statuses, different age groups, different interests, different denominations, etc. Whatever the case, we can learn to see our diversity as beautiful, as a means of bridge building, rather than a means of division.
I did a faith-based internship several years ago where interns from all different backgrounds and nations came together to pursue Jesus in community for six months. During that season, one major thing I learned was that it’s not weird to ask someone out to coffee and ask to hear their story. Because so many of my fellow interns extended that invitation to me and I learned to do the same for others, I got to know so many people and made friends with interns that I may not have naturally been drawn to without that intentionality. Many of them are still good friends of mine to this day.
Don’t underestimate the power of inviting and listening. Who are the people who are different from you in your sphere of influence? Classmates, co-workers, neighbors, people from church? Maybe take a step to get to know some of them. Invite someone to coffee or over to your place for dinner. Invite them to play sports with you at a park. As you spend time together, ask them about their story, their upbringing and family life, their passions and dreams, or their faith journey. Open up and let them get to know you as well. Those are the first steps to building friendships and the steps to sustaining them.
Sometimes our differences cause us to have different experiences and perspectives in life. They impact how we view the world, how we are perceived and treated by others, and how we perceive ourselves.
This is a major area where people miss each other, and division has an opportunity to creep in. I believe it’s an opportunity, though, to humble ourselves and learn from each other – especially when we may have experiences that are painful or challenging, which profoundly impact our lives.
I’m thinking of situations like being treated unfairly because of your race, having to overcome financial or educational disadvantages to establish a life for yourself, having a difficult family life, and more.
It’s important for all of us to know that just because something hasn’t been our personal experience doesn’t mean no one has experienced it. When we come across someone with a different experience, we have an opportunity to extend grace, empathize, and connect instead of dividing.
When we invite others into our lives, taking time to listen, share and learn from each, we often find out that we have more in common than expected. We learn that our differences are something to cherish and celebrate, not separate over. We find friends in unlikely people and places.
As we grow new relationships, we have the Bible to teach us how to practically love and relate to each other. We see it in all the “one another” verses in the New Testament. Extend hospitality to one another. Have genuine affection for one another. Take delight in honoring one another. Strengthen and encourage one another.
In a season where many are longing for unity, let’s follow God’s path for pursuing friendships and come together because of our diversity.
Find out more about Jasmin by visiting jasminpatterson.com