Friends. They give life texture and meaning. Friends are the building blocks out of which we develop social awareness and empathy and discover relational boundaries. The meeting of people and the development of friendship is the oil for the machinery of life. Many of my closest friends I met through the church, school, and the neighborhood. College friendships have survived the passing of decades, and when I reconnect with them, it is as if we have never been apart from each other. I pastored in three states and have relationships with folks all over the country and the world. I just spent a week in which I could visit with folks who I had been in relationship with at college, my pastorates and colleagues in ministry. One word comes to mind, ‘community.’ I discovered that though there are a lot of essential things in life, friendship, and relationships create the sense of belonging and connection. Seeing friends this past week was like a tonic for my soul. God has created us for community. We are meant to live in relationship. It could well be that discipleship is the laboratory out of which our faith is to be lived and developed. We hammer our faith out on the anvil of life and life is much better with friends. It is much easier to say what we believe from the quiet solitude of our favorite chair, where we read the Bible and devotional literature. Life is not to be lived in loneliness, our family, neighbors, co-workers, and our world needs us involved and engaged. To be salt and light has little meaning except in community. I can say that ‘I love people.’ It is not proved by merely saying it, but the way I treat others confirm it. For some, it is easier to make friendships, yet some struggle with building and maintaining friendships. What are some ingredients for making friends and being a good friend?
- Start with being yourself. No one wants a friend who pretends to be something or someone that is not them. You encounter enough inauthentic people we all want our friends to be genuine.
- We want our friends to be honest. In a friendship, not only do we want someone to believe in us, but we also desire a friend who tells us the truth. It is much easier to receive the fact from a friend who has our best interest at heart than to be criticized by strangers. Authenticity is an overlooked important component of friendship, but we need someone close to us to help us by telling us the truth lovingly.
- Friends are good listeners. If you are struggling with making friendships, start by listening when others speak, try to understand and empathize with their situation. Understanding is what each of us needs in a friend. Someone who hears us, a person we can be open and transparent with knowing they understand us.
- Be confidential. A friend is someone who knows your secrets and does not betray your trust. Confidentiality is a critical two-way street in friendship. I must do the same for my friends.
- Friends work through disagreements. No two people agree on everything, not couples, not parents and indeed not friends. Differences are a part of that laboratory I mentioned at the beginning of this article. We stretch and grow by working through problems. Friendships are the raw material from which we build our people skills. When there is a problem or disagreement, do not run away, rather stay and work through the issue.
- Encouragement. The vitamin for the soul is encouragement. Who needs support? Anyone who is breathing. If you need to be encouraged the best way to find it is to genuinely set out to be an encourager to everyone, you meet today. A friend is one who offers encouragement regularly.
- Loyalty. One crucial part of friendship is that fact that our friends are loyal. They know us better than most, and they still love us and defend us and stand by us regardless of what is happening. To model, friendship, be a loyal and trusted friend.
For the Christian Jesus addressed the issue of friendship: John 15:12-15 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.