How many really good friends do you have?
Think about the people you’d consider your closest friends. What is the quality of those friendships?
How do you feel around your friends? Do you feel comfortable and accepted? Do you feel they like the real you? Or do you feel you’re not good enough, or you have to put on an act?
How do you deal with differences of opinion? Do your friends listen to you and treat your thoughts and opinions with respect?
Are you able to share your heart with them—your innermost thoughts and feelings?
Are you able to rely on them for help when you need it?
Do your friends respect the things you tell them in confidence? Can you trust them to keep things confidential that you don’t want spread around?
Are you honest with each other? Does your friend help you recognize your personal faults when he or she feels you need it? If you pointed out a problem to your friend, would he or she accept it?
Do your friends help you to be a better person? Do you feel they’re behind you when you try to improve your life? Do they make it easier or more difficult for you to grow and change?
Now think about this: How would the people you consider your closest friends answer those questions about you? What sort of quality friend areyou?
We All Need Friends
We all need contact with other people. We crave it—even the shy person who finds talking with people excruciating. God created us to be social beings. He says it’s not good for a man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). We need companionship. We need to feel understood by other people. We need to be able to share ourselves openly.
Our Creator’s way of life is the way of give. Christ encapsulated this way in two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). That means we have to be around people.
Perhaps you’ve never thought of it this way: People need people in order to learn how to love! How could you really learn the give way of life if you were stranded on a desert island with no one to give to?
Consider what a genuine blessing the people in your life are. Where would you be without them? Each one presents you an opportunity to exercise love.
What can you do to increase your bond of friendship with all those around you? And what about those you consider your closest friends—how can you mine those relationships for more of the enriching benefits they offer?
Aristotle once said, “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit.” Yes—friendship takes effort to fertilize and nurture, but it is worth the effort. How valuable is a friendship with real roots that will last your whole life long.
You may not realize it, but God’s Word supplies us with instruction on maximizing our friendships. It speaks of the qualities we ought to strive to cultivate in our friendships. These qualities will both increase what you have to offer to your friends and will likely inspire greater desire within your friends to feed your friendship.
These principles would also apply to the marriage relationship. Ideally, one’s mate should be one’s closest friend.
All your friends are sinners, and so are you. The question is, how good are you at loving people despite their faults?
Of course, we should not compromise with God’s law or tolerate lawlessness—we should hate sin. But we also must be skilled at loving sinners.
With every friend and acquaintance, take a moment to ask, Do I think, deep down, that I am better than this person? If the answer is yes, whether you realize it or not, it will show in your actions. Vanity and self-righteousness are great barriers to true friendship. You’re never going to give much of yourself to a person you look down on.
Consider: God called Abraham His friend (James 2:23). God spoke to Moses “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). How much of a gulf was there between God and those men in terms of righteousness, spiritual maturity, intellect and so on—yet God didn’t consider Himself above those men, in that sense. Christ was perfect, yet He didn’t go around condemning people all the time. He mixed so well that He was accused of being a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19).
This gives a good indication that no differences between two people who are trying to obey God should present such an obstacle that you couldn’t have a solid friendship. That bond of brotherly love with another person will grow if you get rid of vanity and base that relationship on mutual humility and respect.
Accepting your friends means listening to them; giving them sincere compliments. Accepting them means seeing the positive big picture—not letting a mistake get in the way.
Being a true friend means not being negative and critical of the other person. Unless criticism is handled carefully, it never gets good results—it just creates bad feelings and sore spots. God and Jesus Christ would be perfectly justified in criticizing us every minute of the day, but they choose the moments to give correction; the rest of the time, they are remarkably encouraging to us!
Elbert Hubbard said, “Your friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you.” Bernard Meltzer said, “A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.” James Boswell said, “A companion loves some agreeable qualities which a man may possess, but a friend loves the man himself.”
True friends do not feel threatened by each other’s achievements. They are not in competition with one another, trying to be on top. They genuinely desire each other’s success—they want for each to reach his or her full potential.
Being a friend means giving the other person room to change and grow; wanting him or her to become a better person. Even more—it means helping your friend grow. Friends help each other overcome and solve problems.
A tremendous biblical example of friendship is that of Jonathan and David. Jonathan, the son of King Saul, was 20 years older than David. He’d been married, raised children, and had considerable accomplishments in his life. When David came along and it became clear that God had selected him to be the next king of Israel, Jonathan realized he’d been passed over for the kingship.
Nevertheless, rather than feel threatened, “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1). When Jonathan realized David had been selected as king, he was the first to congratulate him. He promised to back David all the way.
On the other hand, when Saul realized that his kingship was going to be passed on to David, he became so jealous he sought to kill David!
When you see a close friend succeed, do you act like Jonathan, or Saul?
True friends share of themselves. They can have a good laugh or cry in each other’s company. They can honestly exchange ideas, opinions and feelings. They can even disagree without hurting each other.
Do you feel you must appear perfect around others? Friends should not be afraid to appear weak—even ask for help when necessary. It’s not that we want to go around telling people about our deepest sins; but neither should we remain so bottled up that we have to suffer our battles entirely alone.
People need to be needed. It can make someone feel special when you open up to him or her.
Disclosure probably requires that you test the waters first to see how the other person will respond. You may find someone more sympathetic to your troubles than you would have thought! Sometimes it’s amazing how quickly you can bond with someone when you are really sharing yourselves with each other and drawing strength to deal with some difficulty you’re experiencing.
Christ revealed how intrinsic disclosure is to true friendship: “Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you” (John 15:15).
Do you always try to put your friends in the best light around others—or do you gossip about them? Friends should never talk behind each other’s backs or spread unfavorable information. “He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends” (Proverbs 17:9). For the relationship to grow, you must be able to trust each other.
We are to show our friends the courtesy we would want them to extend to us. “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). To have good friends, you must be a good friend. All that you want from your friends, you must give as a friend.
The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states of this proverb, “Friendships must be cherished by mutual conversation and kindnesses, without which their beginnings are soon dissolved. ‘If you wish to be loved, love’ (Seneca). He who is friendly will have friends. There is no feeling which more exacts reciprocity than love.”
We can all get off track and at times do things that are wrong, self-destructive or hurtful to others. Happy is the man who has a true friend, who is willing to deliver a “faithful wound” to set him straight. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6, Revised Standard Version).
It is difficult to exhort someone, but a true friend is up to the task—and a true friendship will grow stronger as a result.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton said, “One of the surest evidences of friendship that one individual can display to another is telling him gently of a fault. If any other can excel it, it is listening to such a disclosure with gratitude, and amending the error.”
Correcting someone in love requires meekness, tact and wisdom. If you love someone enough, you will diligently seek God’s help to discern when it needs to be done and how to do it correctly. What positive fruit such love produces. If, for example, you fulfill the process described in Matthew 18:15-17 successfully, “thou hast gained thy brother”—you grow closer as a result!
How true is the wisdom contained in Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
Being dependable means helping when a need arises.
Scott Adams said, “Needing someone is like needing a parachute. If they are not there the first time you need them, chances are you won’t be needing them again.”
Companionship is wonderful during good times, but it is essential during tough times! “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). It’s when we fall that we really need that person beside us to help us up.
How dependable are you when someone beside you falls? That’s when the quality of your friendship is really tested. Call or send a card; check up; make sure they know they’re loved. If you can provide more help, do so. Visit. Bring a meal or some groceries. Spend time.
Genesis 14 tells the story of Lot being taken captive by some Gentile kings. When Abram, his uncle, heard of this, he quickly put together an army of 318 people from his household and went after the captors! He chased them down and retrieved the family, along with all the possessions that had been stolen. This is a great example of tremendous loyalty and willingness to personally sacrifice for the sake of a friend.
What a gift a true friend can be! It is a relationship worth cultivating. Maximize your opportunities to let the roots of your friendships grow into something that will endure for years to come.