My company hires and onboards big groups all at once, and in my group, I quickly learned that the people I work with are really different from me: at first, it seemed like I was the only person not looking to go out drinking and get messed up every night.
I did not want to abandon people, so I went out with them, but that led to several awkward moments: how do you explain that you’ve reached your limit and just don’t want another round? Not fitting in was hard. It had been a long time since I had felt so much on the outside with no community.
The first thing that helped was finding a couple of friends at work who were on the same page and through one of them, finding the Austin Navigators 20s group. The people who came each week changed some, but the conversation was always deep (we were going through the “Five Marks of a Disciplemaker”), and the group was just really attractive.
The second thing was learning that I could be myself. I’m not a “frat bro,” and pretending to be one isn’t a good idea. One mistake I have seen other Christians make—and have made myself—is trying too hard to fit in and chucking out basic wisdom (especially, around drinking). This leads to all kinds of trouble, and in the end, just doesn’t work. There is nothing attractive about being fake.
On the flip side, being honest really does work. Saying “No thanks, I’ve had enough” has never caused much trouble. And being really honest—“Sorry, team, I messed that up! Let me make sure I don’t do that again”—opens all kinds of doors. Most of the time, when I’m vulnerable, other people are, too, and as the walls come down, I have discovered that my co-workers and I are looking for many of the same things. Many of those people going out every night are simply lonely, just like all of us. We are different, but not so different.
For a good book on seeing how God loves everyone, Allie recommends Gentle and Lowly.