One of the things I have struggled with immensely this year is making and maintaining friendships. And not just any friendships but the kind that mean something, the kind that last, and the kind that glorify God. I’ve been doing a lot of studying about what it takes to be a good friend, and what should be expected of the friends you keep. I know that I would not consider myself a good friend based on these standards and it made me realize that many of the people I’ve considered my friends weren’t really that great at all, and that I am mainly surrounded by a sea of acquaintances and lack the kind of bond I have been searching for with my friendships for quite a while now. I am aware that this post may be offensive to some and I want to begin by saying that it’s not intended to be that way. My purpose of this post is simply to encourage you to look into your own friendships and realize where you may be the problem and what you can do to fix it, or if it’s a relationship even worth saving.
as iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend
I have been studying many sermons, for which I will include the links below, about friendships that have helped me to come to an understanding of what God intended our friendships to look like. In a sermon by Rick Warren, I was really encouraged to dig deep into my friendships and discover which of those were worth saving, and how I should make steps toward making amends. I’ve learned that we need friends to encourage spiritual growth, for emotional support, to lead healthy lives, for social enjoyment, and to help us reach our goals. Friends are important in all of these areas as they are meant to be people for us to lean on when we would otherwise try to do something alone. The bible tells us in Proverbs 27:27 that “as iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend”.
We as humans are not meant to go through life alone. We were made to build relationships and connect with other people. Unfortunately, because of our sinful nature, this also means that in those relationships built, conflict is 100% inevitable. How can you be sure that your friendship is worth fighting for? How can you be sure that you and your friend are in it for the long haul? How do you know that this conflict you’re in is something you’ll come back from? And how do know when to finally stop beating the horse? Well, you’re in luck because the Bible gives us plenty of insight to how we should maintain our relationships, how to fix them when they’re a little broken, and how to let go when necessary.
Selfishness is one of Friendship’s biggest killers
I mentioned earlier that I myself would not say that I have been acting like a good friend. I have been very absorbed with myself and my own life’s happenings that I have cared very little about those around me. And that right there is one of friendship’s biggest killers. Selfishness. We live in a culture today where we are so obsessed with our own selves that we cannot be bothered with the lives of our friends. I, for example: recently married, just bought a house, started a new job this year, etc. Big things happened in my life. And of course I have shared it all on social media, timed carefully for optimal likes. And sad as it may be, social media has created a platform for us to think that people actually care about what we’re doing. But with all the attention we’re getting online, who needs real relationships right? WRONG. Relationships are 100% necessary for healthy living.
When was the last time a friend reached out to you to talk about something they’re going through? For me that was last night. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have to fight the urge to say I’d call her later. It was Friday night, I was watching a show with my husband and making him dinner. The last thing I wanted to do was ignore him to sit on the phone. But boy was I glad I did. I ended up on the phone with my friend for about an hour just talking about what it was she was going through. And it reminded me just how important it is to be able to rely on our friends when we’re hurting. It helps us to feel like we matter to someone and to validate how we’re feeling. It also helps us to view a situation from another perspective and gain insight on how to handle it, when maybe we weren’t so sure ourselves. When I got off the phone I got to thinking about how much I would have loved to have someone, other than my husband, to talk to about what I’ve been dealing with. For a while I honestly felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone, which is why I was inspired to dig deep into my friendships and find out what I’d done wrong. I’m obviously still working on improving in this area of my life.
a friend is someone who supports you, loves you, and trusts you
So what exactly is a friend? The dictionary tells us the following definitions: 1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts. 2. A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. 3. A person who gives assistance; patron; supporter. Think about these words, trust, affection, support. A friend is someone who is there for you when you need them most. They should be someone you trust enough to share your life with. They should be someone you love enough to put your own feelings aside to help them in their time of need. They should be someone who you know would turn around and do it all for you if the role was reversed.
Maybe by now you’re reading this and you’re realizing you don’t really have anyone like that in your life. Maybe you’re wondering what happened and why you feel so alone. Good news is, there is always something you can do to fix it and you don’t have to stay where you’re at. So what does that mean? How exactly do you repair your friendships or build new ones that are going to last? Well I’m glad you asked, it’s actually pretty simple. Invest your time. Earn their trust. Listen with empathy. And accept their flaws.
It is so very important to invest your time in your friendships. Life can get away from us before we know it and the next thing we know we’re apologizing because it’s been months since we’ve even seen or talked to someone we call our friend. It’s just common knowledge that the more time you spend with someone the better you get to know them. The better you understand them. And the better you begin to trust them. You can earn the trust from your friends by being reliable. If you’re a flakey friend who always makes plans and then cancels them, is never there when they need to talk, or isn’t available when they need help, then you’re going to end up being the last person they call. In order to be a good friend you need to be someone they can count on. You also need to be loyal. There is nothing more heart breaking than when a friend is gossiping about you behind your back, or is doing something that they know is going to hurt you. A loyal friend looks like someone who is going to defend you when others are talking bad about you. They’re there even when they don’t agree with you. And they’ll keep your secrets. Trust is important in any relationship and friendships are no different.
We all need someone to talk to sometimes. And often times, we don’t even want advice, we just need to talk. Being a good friend is always having a listening ear. Be willing to just listen to your friend, validate their feelings, and offer advice when necessary. It is so annoying to talk to someone who always has the answer and never really hears what you have to say. Just take a moment and stop trying to fix your friend and just hear what they have to say. Give them a hug and try to understand where they’re coming from. And, arguably the most important thing to do is accept your friend, including their flaws. We are all seeking acceptance from someone. We all want to feel like we’re part of something. And none of us are perfect. We are all sinners and we all have flaws, and we all make mistakes. Accepting your friend even at their worst is the best thing anyone can do.
Be mindful of toxic relationships
We’ve covered what you need to do in order to be a good friend, but how should you know what kind of friends you should seek to spend your time with? That’s simple. You want people who are going to bring you up and not tear you down. Be mindful of toxic relationships. If you are spending time with someone and you feel worse off after than before you did, then odds are this person is not your friend. Things to be mindful of, whether it’s you who’s feeling this or if it’s your friend, are jealousy, negativity, anger, or persuasion to go against your morals.
If your friend is only inviting you to go to parties or bars knowing full well that you will be uncomfortable, that person is not being your friend. If your friend is influencing arguments in your relationship or brings up topics like divorce, or cheating, that person is not being your friend. If your friend is only coming to you when they are angry or frustrated with literally everything in their life, this person is a complainer and will find the negative in every situation. Proverbs 22:24-25 warns us “make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare”. If you are constantly trying to “one up” your friend like “keeping up with the Jones’s” then odds are, one of you (or both) are green with envy and you’re not actually being good friends. A friend should be wanting to see their friends succeed. Not succeed as long as you’re still doing better.
whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools suffer harm
One thing that the Bible mentions is that our friends should be bringing us closer to God. If your friendships are pulling you further away from Jesus, you should reconsider the time you’re spending with them. We want to choose friends that are going to encourage us and lift us up spiritually and draw us closer to the love of God. You want friends who are going to point out when you’re falling away and pull you right back in. 1 John 4 warns us “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world”. Be careful to not believe everyone who claims to be good. You want to stay away from anyone who desires the things of this world over the things that God has to offer. In Galatians 5:17-18 it says “ For the desires of the [world] are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the [world], for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do”. Our Christian friends will be able to lead us in the ways that God intended and will forgive us when we fall astray. Be mindful of those who encourage you to do that which is considered evil, sinful, and wrong.
I hope all of this has encouraged you to take the next step in bettering your friendships and creating bonds that last a lifetime. All of this has helped me to start improving my own friendships, though I still have a ways to go, but I can only pray the same will happen for each of you.