I have learned more about friendship and loyalty in the last two years than probably my whole life combined. Well- okay maybe that’s an exaggeration. BUT- I have learned an awful lot and I know that God has blessed me tremendously.
As a single person it is so easy to feel lonely, to feel alone, to feel like something is missing. I look at those around me and I see so many of my friends who have a spouse, who have started a family, who have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins that they are super close to. It’s easy to feel jealous. It’s easy to feel left out or like God has forgotten me–like he’s forgotten my heart’s desire.
I remember several years ago when I found myself in a place, in a season of life when I had few close female friends. I longed for that so much. I wanted the same kinds of friendships I had in college. I wanted best friends that I could be 100% myself with; friends who understood me, who embraced me, who would encourage me. I longed for a deep friendship like the one that Jonathan and David had in the Bible. One that ran so deep that we’d be willing to walk through fire for each other. I wasn’t sure if that kind of friendship existed anymore or was possible for me.
Fast forward a few years and I find myself with not just one, not just two, but multiple of those friendships. God has blessed me with women who have come alongside me and who I get to “do life” with as it were. But these friendships haven’t just existed, they had to grow. They took work. They took effort. In reflecting on the things that God has taught me these last couple years, here’s a list of the things that I have found are necessary for healthy and successful friendships.
1- EMBRACE THE DIFFERENCES
It is easy to find the commonalities and bond over those in a friendship; doing things that both or all the people like to do. It can be difficult sometimes to see the differences in your friend as a good thing. BUT, the differences are what push and challenge us. Other people’s differences often compliment us making us better people and making our friendship fuller and more complete.
2- FORGIVENESS & GRACE ARE ESSENTIAL
This is a big one. Too often we approach friendships with an attitude of what does this do for me? How will I benefit? What am I getting out of this? We naturally think of ourselves first. Even when we’re pouring out to the other person we can have that kind of attitude. Approaching friendship that way makes it VERY easy to want to walk away when the other person does something that hurts or upsets you. Relationships CANNOT survive if we don’t show each other grace and forgiveness. And forgiveness means not bringing up the offense every once in awhile whenever you feel justified to remind them of what a great friend you are because you forgave them after they did or said that thing. Which leads to my next point.
3- COMMUNICATION IS KEY. TALK IT OUT!
When there’s an issue, talk it out! Work through it. If they did or said something that hurt your feelings or whatnot, tell them…lovingly, but tell them. You may need to take some time to cool off, to get your emotions under control, get your thoughts together, etc. but bottom line…talk it out. Don’t let your hurt/anger fester so you are getting snippy and negative with them. Be honest and talk it out.
4- APPRECIATE THEM
Tell them what they mean to you. Give them positive acknowledgment. It doesn’t have to be super gooshy if that’s not your style. But let them know what they mean to you–encourage them. Find out what their love language is (gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, touch, or acts of service) and be intentional about speaking it to them every once in a while.
5- BE TRANSPARENT
I get that for most, transparency comes with trust and trust must be earned. BUT when we are transparent with our close friends- they can help us! They can help keep us accountable with our struggles and temptations. They can pray and cry with us when we’re hurting. They can encourage us when the enemy speaks lies to us about who we are.
And as an aside, you may have a friend who might not understand what you’re going through or may not do well with knowing particular details of a situation and that’s okay! BUT I can say, personally I have 3-4 friends that between them, they know literally all about me. Or should I say between them I tell everything to. Which leads to the next thing…
6- ACCOUNTABILITY MEANS ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS & HONESTY
When you ask your friends to hold you accountable for whatever it is that means them asking you the hard/embarrassing questions and you being completely honest about the answers. Or, if you are the one asking– be bold in asking the hard/embarrassing questions. Then refrain from judgement if their answer isn’t favorable. Speak truth in love and pour out grace on them.
7- ENJOY THE SIMPLE TIMES
Not everything or every time in a friendship has to come from some planned out trip or constant nights out. Enjoy simple, spontaneous moments. Appreciate the small/simple things about each other.
8- LAUGH. LET GO AND LAUGH
9- BE INTENTIONAL
For me, this is huge. One of my dearest friends got married over 2 years ago. We went from being roomate/best friends and seeing each other every day to living across town & never seeing each other. We have to be intentional with reaching out, spending time, checking on each other.
Friendships of convenience (when you see each other at work, church, dorms, etc) are easy. When circumstances change and life goes on- you have to be more intentional. Two of my best friends- they live 4 doors down from me in our apartment complex and there are times when weeks can go without us seeing each other or even talking sometimes if we are not intentional. Be intentional.
10- DON’T QUIT–KEEP FIGHTING
There are friendships that are only meant for us for a season. They are people who are only meant to be in our lives for a short while. However- there is a difference between moving on in life according to God’s timing and things getting hard so you just give up. The BEST relationships, the BEST people are worth fighting for. Even if you go through seasons of pushing someone away, trying to run away, feeling weak, whatever… don’t give up! And if you feel them doing that to you — you hold on! That’s how unconditional love works. That’s what makes the sweet times even sweeter, is looking back at all the hard ones and seeing how you came out the other side stronger!
I have learned so much about true friendship because for a single woman who has very, very little family close by…so many of my friends are my family! We’ve spent time and energy pouring into each other’s lives, making memories, pushing and challenging each other, supporting each other…getting on each other’s nerves LOL. I look around at other people’s lives filled with shallow, surface level friendships and it makes me feel so incredibly blessed about the ones I have! God has been good to me! That is not so say that I haven’t had my seasons of loneliness and feeling totally not missed by people because I have. But the work and time I have spent pouring into the people in my life instead of pouting and waiting for them to see me has so had it’s rewards! And I can say that true friendship, no matter what you have to go through for it, is ALWAYS worth it!