One of the problems with social media is that it messes with our understanding of friendship. We interact with hundreds of people daily, but we often still feel lonely. Have you ever had a Facebook friend who you feel pretty close to online? You’ve prayed for her, thought about her often, and know a lot about her. But then you see her in the grocery store, and you find yourself making a beeline to another aisle, because you’re not actually an “in person” friend with her. Anyone? Hopefully that’s not just me.
I've come up with a list of things good friends do. Have grace with yourself as you go through these. I simply looked at my best friendships and these things were present. This list works for spouses too. Do all these things in your marriage and you will be happier together, but for sake of simplicity, I’m addressing female friendships today. That doesn’t mean you can’t use these with your spouse or male friends.
1. Make time for her.
People (especially women) need good friends. This has always been true, but since we fill every minute of our day with things like work, taking care of kids, meetings, church, driving people places, and other obligations, friends often take a backseat. If you’re thinking, “When things slow down, I’ll make time for friends,” think again. You won’t because things will always be busy and unless we prioritize friendships, they will fade away. A few months ago I wrote a blog post with ideas for making time for friends. Check it out. You may have more time than you think if you prioritize properly.
2. Take an interest in what she likes.
Remember in junior high when your friend tried a new sport and that’s all she talked about? Wasn’t that annoying? This isn’t something we outgrow. Maybe it’s her new job, or something her kid is into, or a new diet. You don’t have to be an enthusiast to be a good friend, but a little research will help you understand why she’s so excited about it.
3. Pray for her.
Good friends pray for each other. Daily. Pray for her kids, her heart, her relationship with God, her marriage, her health. When conflict comes up (and it will) you will have more patience with her because you are allowing God to be a part of your friendship.
4. Be real with her.
I dated a guy in college who was always honest. People would come to him for advice because of his honesty. Then they would complain to me because he’d say things like, “You need to stop doing that. It’s going to hurt you.” I’d be thinking, “You went to him because you knew he’d be real with you and now your mad because he was real with you?” I married that guy by the way. Surface friends tell you what you want to hear. Good friends are honest. These conversations will cause friction, but your friend will probably come back for your advice later because she knows you’ll tell her the truth.
5. Encourage her other friendships.
Back to junior high. Your best friend isn’t just into that new sport, she’s making all kinds of new friends on the team. You can get jealous and flee or you can be confident in your friendship and encourage her to make new friends. I wish this wasn’t something that follows us to adulthood, but it does. It’s healthy for your friend to have other friends. It’s healthy for you to have other friends. Don’t let jealousy keep you from being a good friend.
6. Celebrate her.
People go where they’re celebrated. When something great happens to your friend, celebrate her. What if it’s something you’re wishing for your life and she has it? Celebrate her. This one may be a “fake it ‘till you make it” scenario, but your heart will follow if you truly celebrate her.
7. Serve her.
If she doesn’t care if her house is messy when you stop by, you’re probably in her inner circle and you can serve her in ways others can’t. Let’s say she just had a baby or started a new job. You can go clean her house or take her kids for a few hours and she won’t be stressed about you seeing her mess or worrying about whether or not you can handle her kids. Anyone can bring her meals, but only close friends can clean her toilet.
8. Be patient with her.
People are people, and even good friends have flaws. She may have an annoying habit or maybe makes the same mistakes over and over again. Check the mirror before losing your patience. Chances are, she’s putting up with your stuff too.
9. Forgive her.
If you never have conflict in your friendship, it’s probably not a good one. Even great friends will not see eye to eye on everything and sometimes that will cause you or her to say something hurtful. Forgive her and pray she forgives you when you mess up. If you split every time you feel hurt, you will never have meaningful friendships.
10. Be Constant.
Are you the kind of person who acts differently in every social setting? The person you present at work looks nothing like the one at church or book club or on the sideline at your kid’s ballgame? If you’re a social chameleon it will put a strain on your friendships. Your friends aren’t stupid and they can see your inconsistencies. People don't have confidence in things that aren't constant. And your friends can’t be confident in their friendship with you if you’re wishy-washy. I’m not saying you need to be perfect, but be the same imperfect person no matter who you’re with.
There are all kinds of reasons to make friendships a priority. Good friends make you healthier, happier, and more able to deal with problems in life. We are called to love like Jesus. And that means being a good friend.
Just because I wrote this doesn’t mean I have this down. Trust me, I don’t. But it’s something to work toward. My prayer is that your friendships are meaningful and beautiful and reflect the heart of your Heavenly Father. Friendship is a gift from Him and it’s time we celebrate that gift.