How to be a good friend (Happy birthday, Janae!)
Today I am celebrating my lifelong friend, Janae. We have literally been friends from birth, as our parents and brothers were friends before us. As I perused through some old photos, I kept thinking how there’s just nothing as precious as an old friend, one who knew you during your awkward stages, poor choices, victories, and everything in between. But the only way to have an old friend is to spend a long time with a new one.
So here’s a few ideas — learned by watching the wonderful friends around me — for forming great friendships. (And a few fun photos for celebrating Janae! Yes, that’s us as cheerleaders. Oh dear, I love you Janae!)
- Be DAILY filled up by God. We all know it’s true. Needy people make others run for cover. No one wants to be sucked dry, and when we aren’t filled up by God we automatically turn our straws to someone else and get our fill. People full of God’s presence and joy are attractive to others.
- Be mindful about first meetings. How sensitive are you to those you meet for the first time? Do you ask, when you meet them, whether it could be that God has a reason for bringing this person across your path? Also in first meetings, consider for a moment your own person and presence. How do you carry yourself? Does your body language say, “Welcome!” Or “No, thank you.” At church, sitting in an empty seat, do you keep your head down, studying the bulletin, or do you look up and around, watching for anyone who needs a place to sit. When you see people, do you smile? Do you look them in the eyes? Do you use appropriate touch and warmth? Proverbs 18:24 says, “he who has friends must show himself to be friendly.” Seems common sense, yes? Are you friendly? Ask a friend (hopefully you have one!), Am I friendly?
- Remember names. Our own name is the most important word in our vocabulary. Remember Hagar? God spoke to her by name, and often that is all women need to know they are accepted, remembered, included. Remember names. 3 John 15 says, “Greet the friends, each by name.” Say your friend’s name. Write it out when you type her an email. If you do forget someone’s name, stop and ask her name again instead of just ignoring and not using it. (And while you’re at it, help a sister out and if you’ve met recently, offer your name again for her so she’s not embarrassed if she forgot yours. That’s part of loving her.)
- Be careful who gets a straw. Remember “that post about milkshakes”? Some of us already have too many friends and may need to scale down to make sure our families are thriving as well.
- Be honest. (In love!) Proverbs 24:26 “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” Maybe this is a given, but no one wants a fake friend. Perhaps I’m a bit sick in this respect, but I’ll admit there are times I’ve literally wanted to stop someone and say, “Ok, please just tell me you have some area of weakness or struggle because otherwise I’ll never want to hang out with you again.” On the flip-side, we also don’t want loose-cannon friends who blab every dark thought that comes through their mind, yes? Dear me, discretion is godly!
- Be vulnerable. This is certainly related. Now, I do not mean we all have to hang out our dirty laundry the first time we meet someone. But vulnerability is very attractive. At the root of this is humility and confidence. When we’re humble we can be confident and when we’re confident and secure we have the courage to be vulnerable. Sometimes the best gift you can give a friend is sharing a piece of yourself with her, seeing and recognizing when our friends need to be needed. If you’re the one always giving, listening, loving, think about opening up and being vulnerable in appropriate ways.
- Be careful. That said, be very very careful. Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” THINK. True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Kind?
- Listen. We’re all terrible listeners. I’d argue that the single best way to bless those around us is to listen. Note: The goal isn’t to “be a great listener” the goal is to listen. Check out The Lost Art of Listening!
- Be reliable, dependable, loyal, faithful. Simply treat them the way you’d want to be treated. Be on time. Return phone calls. Do what you say you will do. Believe the best. Forgive. (Ugh, I’m starting to feel convicted …)
- Be purposeful. This is the best way to decide who to be friends with: Who makes you love Jesus more? Who makes you want to be like Jesus more? Who leaves you feeling full, inspired, courageous? Or, conversely, who sucks you dry and leaves you feeling negative?
Choose friends who are full of faith and who will always carry you to Jesus when you’re weak and in need. Like the paralytic man in Mark 2, let’s surround ourselves with people who recognize that Jesus is the answer to every need. Reading this makes me realize how much I need to grow in being a good friend! I pray you all are blessed with faithful, filling, Christ-honoring friendships. And thank you, Janae, for being that friend to me for all these years. Happy birthday. Thanks for reading.