For those who don't follow the national days calendar as religiously as I do (any reason to celebrate!), yesterday was Friendship Day.
Whether your friends group is large or just a handful, you know that real friendships are rare.
Ultimately, how we choose our friends, and the kind of people they are, says a lot about us.
Most people know Andrew and I started talking after I asked this question on my Instagram stories a few years ago:
"What is YOUR definition of a true friend?"
Every answer I received was woven together with similar threads. Essentially, a recipe for a real friendship at least requires loyalty, reciprocation, empathy, and acceptance.
Let's be friends
I've said it before. As we get older, as our priorities shift and our goals are narrowed down, it's hard to make new friends.
Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, though, we all crave friendship. We desire closeness and meaningful connections.
In fact, an 80-year Harvard study proved that real relationships are the key to happiness.
Unfortunately, we often try to secure these relationships through shallow sources.
Social media is an obvious one. We hear how people become obsessive about "likes" or how large their following is, often becoming depressed when neither meet expectations.
But, in general, our search for friendship falls short whenever our intentions are corrupt to begin with.
The Friends You Keep
Iron sharpens iron. And one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, ESV)
I could probably say a lot more about what friendship isn't than what it is.
If we are looking for a friendship to stave off our loneliness, to make us feel special and admired, then our definition of friendship is all wrong.
Friendship isn't a selfish ambition: a stepping stone to popularity or keeping up with appearances.
Friendship isn't just about common ground, either.
Sharing similar interests worked well in high school and college years, when you played the same sports, listened to the same music, or shopped the same style.
Don't get me wrong, we naturally gravitate to people who think like we do. We all love saying "me too!" That's how a lot of great friendships start.
But as we mature, having a broad range of friends who challenge us to see things differently is necessary for our personal growth.
Often, though not always, being a good friend is the surest way to build new friendships.
While it seems simple enough, not everyone knows how to be a good friend.
A Real Friend...
A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:17, ESV).
Really? Yes. Think about it.
Anyone who admits to a fault or shares a personal testimony is instantly easier to relate to.
When someone opens up, expressing their feelings and exposing their humanity, you are more likely to trust them with your own quirks and wild thoughts.
A vulnerable friend means a non-critical, empathetic friend. They aren't expecting you to be flawless because they know they aren't, either.
Thus, they have grace to spare for your imperfections.
A good friend meets you halfway. They'll even come all the way to you if you can't do that. Despite a busy schedule (because who isn't busy these days?), they will create time for you.
A real friend makes an effort that is equal to or greater than your own. But it's not simply to be fair or just to return a favor.
They want to spend time with you as much as you do them.
Shows genuine interest.
It doesn't matter if they know what you're talking about or not. A real friend shows real interest in what interests you.
They listen attentively as you passionately discuss the latest book you read, song you heard, joke that made you laugh, or circumstance that brought tears to your eyes.
A real friend asks questions, not just during the conversation but days or weeks later. They remember your favorites, your dislikes, and what is going on in your life.
They ask how your interview went. They inquire about your dog's surgery or your child's first tee-ball game. Personally, they might be neutral about all of those things, but because you care, they care.
Isn't just there for the good times.
And they aren't just there for the tragedies and trials, either.
Life is a roller coaster, teetering from one extreme to another. We all need friends to laugh and party with. We need shoulders to cry on, too.
However, real friendship endures through the dry and mundane moments. A true friend is present when life is neutral, when you're just coasting.
They aren't just looking for gossip or emotional stimulation. You know they're in it for the long haul when they coast along with you.
Gives their honest opinion (sensitively).
Someone who truly cares about you as a person will want you to grow and achieve your potential.
They understand this cannot happen with mere flattery.
No one wants a friend who ignores the broccoli stuck in our teeth. We want them to tell us it's there so we can take care of it!
Between my husband and I, honesty is the best policy.
We never intend to hurt each others' pride, of course, so we treat lightly. But we give honest feedback and advice because we both want the other to succeed.
A real friend would never allow someone to tear down your character or harm you in any way.
Whether it's in your presence or when you're away, they will stand up for you. They will disquiet any disrespectful, slandering, or incorrect conversation about you.
Anyone who allows negative words to be spoken against you is not committed to the friendship. Period.
To be clear, I didn't write this to discourage anyone from using social media or to convince you to cut people off in your life.
On the contrary, use whatever facets you have to reach out, be friendly, and attempt to make a real connection. My husband and I technically met virtually from mutual friends, after all.
Remember, friendship takes work. Just because one might be off to a slow start doesn't mean it isn't worth pursuing.
No, you can't be best friends with everyone you meet. And that's perfectly normal.
But for everyone reading this, I hope you realize you have at least one true friend in your corner. And I pray you step out in faith to build even more real friendships.
Type that text. Send the invite. Make the call. Ask meaningful questions. Plan that date night (see ideas here).
Trust me, they need you as much as you need them.