Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What Makes a Good Friend?

This is a question that comes up throughout your life's journey, no matter how young or old you are.  Being in the ministry, I have had numerous people ask this, from teens to young married, to talking with my 7 year old as well as someone in their late 30's.   It is one that is pretty universal.  We all need friends and desire a close friendship.  My first question usually is, "what do you see as a good friend?"  That is usually followed by things like,  someone who accepts you for who you are and doesn't judge you, or someone you can go to for anything, or someone who wants to hang out with you and just enjoy company, or someone who will listen to you and keep it to themselves.  The list goes on and on.  The truth is, we all have expectations of people we call our friends and if they don't follow those, we get hurt or frustrated.

My next question when talking about friendship is, "what kind of friend are you?"  I have seen it over and over again.  Those who feel like nobody wants to be their friend, do not attempt to "be" a friend to others.  Our expectations in that case, are that others are just going to be drawn to us and go out of their way to befriend us.  That happens, I believe, but rarely.  I am a very quiet person, I don't draw people to me, so making friends is a lengthy process.  I have to be trustworthy.

I read a passage today about this called, What Makes a True Friend by Alex Lickerman, M.D.  from his book Happiness in this World

  1. Common interests. This probably ties us closer to our friends than many would like to admit. When our interests diverge and we can find nothing to enjoy jointly, time spent together tends to rapidly diminish. Not that we can't still care deeply about friends with whom we no longer share common interests, but it's probably uncommon for such friends to interact on a regular basis.
  2. History.  Nothing ties people together, even people with little in common, than having gone through the same difficult experience. As the sole glue to keep friendships whole in the long run, however, it often dries, cracks, and ultimately fails.
  3. Common values. Though not necessarily enough to create a friendship, if values are too divergent, it's difficult for a friendship to thrive.
  4. Equality. If one friend needs the support of the other on a consistent basis such that the person depended upon receives no benefit other than the opportunity to support and encourage, while the relationship may be significant and valuable, it can't be said to define a true friendship.
  1. A commitment to your happiness. A true friend is consistently willing to put your happiness before your friendship. It's said that "good advice grates on the ear," but a true friend won't refrain from telling you something you don't want to hear, something that may even risk fracturing the friendship, if hearing it lies in your best interest. A true friend will not lack the mercy to correct you when you're wrong. A true friend will confront you with your drinking problem as quickly as inform you about a malignant-looking skin lesion on your back that you can't see yourself.
  2. Not asking you to place the friendship before your principles. A true friend won't ask you to compromise your principles in the name of your friendship or anything else. Ever.
  3. A good influence. A true friend inspires you to live up to your best potential, not to indulge your basest drives.

I completely agree with this.  He went on to talk about how to attract others.  Honestly, this is where I think we lack, or at least I do.  He says this:

  •         HOW TO ATTRACT TRUE FRIENDS       This one is easy, at least on paper: become a true friend yourself. One of my favorite quotations comes from Gandhi: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Be the friend you want to have. We all tend to attract people into our lives whose character mirrors our own. You don't have to make yourself into what you think others would find attractive. 

So, I have found, that to gain good friends, I have to first, be a good friend.  That is not to say that I am a perfect friend who will never let anyone down. We are not perfect people, so our expectations will be crushed from time to time.  The truth is, God created us all for relationship.  He wants a relationship with us and wants us to have relationships with one another.  Genesis 2:18....

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."  New International Version

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