Relationships are the marrow of life, and friendships being a very important aspect.
Seems to me though, maybe we throw the term “friendship” around a bit too freely. Just about anything qualifies for the term, “friendship” these days. The person who knows a person who knows a person that you know… boom, that’s a friend. The person on Facebook who you can’t even remember how you were “friended” in the first place… there you have it, another friend. The term “friend” could mean just about anything today and describe a wide variety of levels of intimacy between people. Nothing necessarily good or bad about that, just our cultural reality. We all want to be “friend” heavy.
Yet, though we may know a lot of people, call a lot of people friends, and love to increase our “follower” and “friend” totals on our social networks, I would venture to say we are a culture lacking in “true friendships.”
The truth is, especially in our culture today, that over a life time you may have only 1-5 true friendships. And after reading further, you may realize you only have one or two, if that. The irony is deep as like never before we have so many ways to connect with people, but yet we lack true friendships in our life.
This is not anything necessarily new I guess, Jesus (while on earth) only really had three (Peter, James, and John). Yet, I would say we are less prepared as a culture to develop and maintain true friendships, not because of a lack of ways to connect, but rather because of a kind of aversion or maybe even inability to connect at the level of true friendships.
What are the hallmarks of a “true friendship?” Here are 5 ways to know if you have one…
1) You don’t have to inspire nor solicit them to be interested or engaged in your life- If you have to be the primary one to keep a true friendship going, you don’t have one. In a true friendship, you don’t have to work to keep them interested and interacting with you. They have their own energy to be consistently interested and involved in your life. It’s never a one way street. You don’t have to drag them along into having a genuine care, concern, and consistent investment in your life. It’s not a “we only talk when I am the one to call” deal. Both of you are holding up the relationship, not just one of you. If you feel a consistent imbalance in the shared energy towards the friendship, you don’t have a true friendship.
2) They are with YOU- If a person is merely “with” something about you, you don’t have a true friendship.
The foundation of a true friendship is to be “with” that person, for life. Most people with whom we are friends, though they may be “with” something about us (our vision, cause, opportunity, shared interest, work, children, neighbors, project, etc.) that is shared in common, they are not “with” us. Given the removal or diminishing of what they are “with” about us (vision, cause, job, opportunity, or benefit we bring, etc.) they would likely not be truly be “with” us.
In a true friendship, there is a deep loyalty to be with YOU above all else. By your side (where possible), on your side, with you. This is true whether you are right, wrong, up, down, or somewhere in between. Whether circumstances, settings, locations, etc. remain the same or change. It is an unconditional devotion to be with YOU. All relationships have ups and down and times where things are going well and when they are perhaps not, but a true friendship always lands “with you.” Any moments of tension are few, and that, quickly remedied. Oh, and by the way, you can be by somebody’s side and on somebody’s side without agreeing with them. This is a special dynamic, nuance, and skill of true friendship.
3) They have your best interest at heart- Because they are “with you” they want what is best for you. They rejoice when you rejoice, and mourn when you mourn, not the opposite. They want to see God’s work in you come to completion to the point they highly invest themselves into you that you might be blessed. Theirs is an investment of themselves into yourself. And if ever push comes to shove or a crossroads is met, they put your best interests even above their own. They have your back, your best interests, and will protect what God is doing in and through you at all costs. They are givers in the relationship, above and beyond being a taker. This is a cornerstone of true friendships.
4) They speak the truth in love- These are not people who are playing you, saying what you want to hear, or flattering you because of what you bring to their table or can give them down the road. These are people who speak truth into your life. When they do, they wrap it in love. You can trust that what they are saying, however hard to hear, is coming from a pure place and a pure agenda. They show up for the relationship with openness and honesty, always chasing any darkness in the relationship out of the shadows and into the light. They are willing to confront you when you are wrong, and willing to confess to you when they are. They don’t let things fester or go underground, bur rather value having a clear and clean atmosphere in the relationship. They don’t just tolerate you, they love you.
5) They believe in you- They are your greatest fans and encouragers. They assume the best, not the worst. And when you fail, their hope remains. They do not give up on you. No, they may not believe in everything you do or don’t do, but they still believe in you. There is a loyalty to you that is unbreakable. They want to lift you up, not bring you down, cheer you forward, not gloat when you fall backwards. They believe in you. They see God’s divine hand upon your life and the Master at work. They see you as God sees you, like only a true friend can and would. They love you, like you, and believe in you. They bring out the best in you, and call you away from the worst. They aren’t perfect, the relationship isn’t perfect, but they are a true friend.
That being said, a couple questions…
Who are you true friends?
To whom are you a true friend?