“Need True Friends? Here Are Six Unique Ways to Find Some,” Ensign, December 2019
If you’re reading this article, then you’re probably on the market—the friendship market, that is. Maybe you’ve just moved to a new place. Maybe you’re starting college or a new job. Maybe you’ve decided to change your lifestyle for something better, and you’ve had to leave behind some not-so-great influences and friends. Maybe you’re newly married and have realized that you still need to be friends with more than just your eternal bestie.
Whatever the reason, welcome!
As a young adult myself, I want you to know that you’re not alone in the struggle to find genuine, uplifting friends. Friends who are fun! Friends you can go to dinner with or to the movies, or even to ceramic painting. The friends who will listen to you when you need to talk, or who can lean on you when they need help. True friends who, in the words of Elder Robert D. Hales (1932–2017) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, ”make it easier to live the gospel of Jesus Christ.”1 Having good friends does so much to keep you happy and healthy—emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Your Father in Heaven loves you and wants you to find this happiness. He’ll often work through the kindness and love of those around you to answer your prayers and needs and vice versa. We have been taught to “bear one another’s burdens” (Mosiah 18:8), to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39), and to have our “hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21). And friendship is a perfect way to do these things. By letting good people into your life, you are also inviting Heavenly Father into your life more too.
So, whether you’re extroverted or introverted, there are wonderful friends out there just for you. And you have the power to find them. Here are a few ideas for how to find your diamonds in the rough.
1. Be on the lookout. This might seem like obvious advice, but many people feel alone even when they’re surrounded by others. Notice those you talk to; memorize their faces and names. Pray for guidance in finding true friends. When you have righteous desires, the Lord has promised, “For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened” (3 Nephi 14:8).You’ll be surprised sometimes by who stands out to you.
After I graduated from college, I moved to a new town—new ward, new stake, new faces. I found myself at a stake choir practice sitting next to a girl I had never met. While the men were singing their parts, she turned to me and made a funny comment. I laughed (quietly, so I wouldn’t incur the wrath of the choir director), and we continued to chat and share knowing looks throughout the practice. Afterwards, she told me her name was Jenny, we hugged, and I went on with my life. But as the next choir practice got closer, I started to hope that Jenny would be there. Sure enough, when I walked in to choir practice that Sunday afternoon, she was sitting with the altos. I immediately went over and sat next to her. We survived practice together and laughed (not so quietly) some more; she even remembered my name! We’ve been close friends ever since, and I never saw her coming.
2. Leave the house. We live in an age where streaming movies and TV shows online is our best friend and sushi can be delivered to our door. Add an extra dose of introversion and you have a recipe for isolation. We’ve all learned that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). The same goes for friendship! Sometimes you have to take action to bring good people into your life. Start small: go to the grocery store and talk to the other person eyeing your favorite ice cream. Friends can be found almost anywhere.
Here’s a classic example: I was on Facebook one Friday night, when I saw that an acquaintance from church, Alyssa, was hosting a big social—games, pizza, movies, the works. I had just gotten home from work and school that day, and all I wanted to do was grab takeout and curl up in my bed to binge-watch my latest show. But once I saw her post, I felt prompted to go for at least 30 minutes. When I knocked on her door, I was immediately greeted by the biggest smile. Alyssa gave me a hug and pulled me inside. Four hours later I had eaten enough pizza to burst, I had played tons of card games, and I didn’t want to go home. I felt great the entire weekend and closer to my friends at church. All because I left my house.
3. Shake up your routine. If you feel like you’re not meeting new people, then try doing something different: study somewhere new, eat lunch near other people rather than at your desk, sit next to someone you don’t know at church, hang out at the public library. Or take this advice literally and join a Zumba class.
One day, I literally shook up my routine and joined a dance class. I convinced myself that dance is the most entertaining form of exercise and got a pass to the local recreational center. I committed to go to at least three dance classes a week and loved it! My dancing may have been atrocious in the beginning, but I kept going. And I started to notice some familiar faces. My instructors would say hi to me, and my new friends would save me a spot next to them. There’s nothing like feeling absolutely ridiculous alongside friends. (In case you’re wondering, my dancing is significantly less awful now.)
4. Embrace who you are. Has anyone ever called you weird? Well, guess what—we’re all weird. Use what makes you different to your advantage. Your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes will attract the right kind of friends to you. Whoever you are, just own it! Uniqueness is not a weakness.
If you’ve ever played the roommate lottery, then you know that it can either be the best thing that ever happened to you or the reason you immediately sold your contract and moved far, far away. My last semester of college brought the gift of Hannah into my life. She is the sweetest and weirdest (in the best way) roommate I’ve ever had. She introduced me to the world of Korean dramas, and I showed her the joys of Korean barbeque. We spent many hours feeding our weird obsession, together, and laughing enough to earn us six-pack abs (just kidding—we ate too much Korean barbeque for that).
5. Love what you love. We all have something we’re passionate about—books, TV shows, movies, hiking, and so on. When you overhear someone talking about your favorite something, join in! And don’t be afraid to bring up whatever you love in conversation too. Trust me, hobbies and interests bond us.
If I told you that I landed my first job out of college because of Star Wars, would you believe me? OK, maybe it wasn’t just the Star Wars, but even before my first day I was the girl “who is really into Star Wars and sci-fi fantasy stuff and is super cool!” Not a bad way to make some new friends. My interests helped me have something to talk about with my coworkers; it broke the ice. I got to know how awesome the people around me were and felt comfortable enough to ask them questions when I wasn’t sure what to do. I looked forward to work every day because I could be myself around people I felt connected to.
6. Be genuine. Here’s the truth: sincerity attracts sincerity. “To have good friends, be a good friend.”2 If you want a friend who will be there for you and uplift you, then you need to be that kind of person—truthfully and from the heart. Really, it’s the oldest advice in the book: be yourself.
After my mission, I worked at a pizza place for over a year (which is a miracle, considering how much I complained about it). The saving grace of this enterprise—besides paying for college—was Kenzi. I didn’t know it when I met her, but Kenzi would soon become one of my closest friends. Besides our shared trauma of working in the food business, Kenzi and I connected on a lot of different levels. I knew she would listen when I was struggling with something, and I learned to listen in return. Kenzi has a gift for understanding people and genuinely caring for their well-being. Just being around her has made me a better person. She’s my sage of sincerity.
If this list seems overwhelmingly impossible, that’s OK! Start small. Pick one of these that you feel most comfortable with and slowly start to reach out to those around you. Rather than focus on all you’re not doing or all that you have to do, focus on why you want to do this—why are you reaching out for good friends? Remember what President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, taught: “All of us need true friends to love us, to listen to us, to show us the way, and to testify of truth to us.”3 Heavenly Father is rooting for you. You are an amazing human being with so much to give. Be brave; be yourself. And go get ’em!