My friend Amy has a great saying… “If you want to have a friend you need to be a friend.” Her point is simple: if you’re looking for friends and longing for connection the ball is in your court. Reach out and be the one to make the first move. Initiate the play-date, coffee-chat, or family dinner. We make friends by being friends first. I have to confess that I’m not great at this, and I haven’t always been a very good friend. I’m still learning and growing and I’m ever thankful for grace and forgiveness.
- I’m learning that being a good friend means listening. When my friend is talking I need to listen with my whole body – look her in the eye, nod with her, and keep my lips shut. Because so often I interject my own thoughts or ideas and miss what’s really important. Or I distractedly listen while thinking about my response or what I want to tell her next. But when I fully listen I learn … I learn about her and I learn about myself.
- Being a good friend requires honesty. Part 1: The people-pleaser in my doesn’t always share her true feelings. Sometimes I feel hurt, or frustrated, or tired, or something… but I don’t share it because I don’t want to hurt feelings or let people down. Then it all builds up into a big pile of avoidance and awkwardness. If I had just told my friend what was bothering me at the beginning we could have talked through it and worked it out, instead she’s left wondering what’s wrong and I’m avoiding contact. Part 2: I don’t want people to see my icky sides. I don’t want them to see that I get snappy with my husband or frustrated with my kids. I don’t want them to see my piles of laundry or the stains on my carpet. I don’t want them to see my deepest fears or my prideful thoughts. But good friends let each other in to see their real selves. They welcome each other into their homes with piles in the corners and crumbs on the table. I want to be better about keeping the door to my home and my heart open.
- Being a good friend means laughing and crying together. My oldest friend and I have the gift of making just about anything into an inside joke. It’s ridiculous, but probably happens because we’ve been friends since we were fifteen and prone to silliness. I love that about us. I laugh more with her than any other friend. But if that was all our friendship consisted of it wouldn’t be complete. We’ve cried together too, and those times are every bit as important. Just know which one the situation calls for.
- Being a good friend calls for forgiveness. Because we’re all human we’re going to make mistakes. We need to own them and apologize and then leave it on the table. We can’t control who chooses to forgive us, but we can control whether or not we’re humble enough to ask for it. True friends will hurt each other along the way… but true friends will forgive and restore that relationship.
- Being a good friend involves selfless celebrating. Sometimes your friends will have successes that you wish were your own. A good friend is able to rejoice anyway and know that it doesn’t reflect on her at all. My friend’s success isn’t my failure. Struggling with infertility has been a good lesson in this for me. Friends all around me get pregnant and while my heart stings a little wishing it was me, I’ve learned that the feelings of joy for my friend and sorrow for myself aren’t mutually exclusive.
- Good friends are patient. Sometimes we find ourselves in a different season of life than our friend. Maybe you’ve become a mother and she isn’t yet. Maybe she stays home and you work full time. Maybe you’re getting really involved in your church or in some cause, but her heart just isn’t in it. We go through seasons and if you leave your friends when their season doesn’t match yours you’ll miss out on getting to be in the front row when something amazing happens in their heart and life. Then you’ll look back and wish you’d been there to share it together.
- Good friends aren’t “fixers.” There’s a time for advice and encouragement and there’s a time for simply sitting together in the silence. I read an article a few years ago by a woman fighting breast cancer. She said the really special people in her life were the women who had gone through the battle as well, come out the other side, but then came back to walk with her. I love that. You see, real friends don’t pull you up out of the pit… they get in the pit with you and hold you while you sit there. Then, when you’re ready to stand they prop you up. And when your shaky legs are ready, they hold your hand while you walk out out of that pit together. Beautiful.
- Good friends can disagree and still be friends. Maybe you feel passionately about homeschooling and your friend sends her children to public school. Maybe you’re an anti-vaxxer and your friend gets her kids shots on schedule. Maybe you’re vegan and your friend loves cheeseburgers. Maybe you’re a Christian and your friend is Jewish or Agnostic. You can disagree and love and learn from each other. Life is more fun lived along side all kinds of people. Different worldviews and perspectives are good for us to be exposed to. They help us understand why we believe what we do, and challenge us to live in harmony and love with all people.
- Being a good friend means releasing expectations. My friend Beth says, “Expectations are pre-meditated resentments.” When we expect our friends to act a certain way it pushes aside grace and opens the door to frustration and anger. My friends are perfect and neither am I.
- Good friends don’t give up. People come in and out of your life. Some are there for a little while and fade away, others are there for a specific season for a specific reason and then leave, and some need to be weeded out because they cause destruction. But real friends… true friends… will always be in your life. They don’t give up on you when you’ve messed up terribly. If you’re out of each others lives for awhile you miss each other and find your way back to the friendship. Good friends are worth fighting for.
I have a handful of good friends who I don’t deserve but am so grateful for. My life is richer because of them, and I am learning by their example. I want to be a better friend and I’m thankful for patience while I grow. What about you – how can you grow to be a better friend?
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”