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According to a study at Oxford University, the average Facebook users have 155 friends, but would only trust 4 in a crisis. While social media friends and followers might be increasing, meaningful friendships are more difficult to come by. An article in The New York Times entitled, “How Social Isolation Is Killing Us,” states that: “A great paradox of our hyper-connected digital age is that we seem to be drifting apart. Increasingly, however, research confirms our deepest intuition: Human connection lies at the heart of human well-being.”
One of the best ways to find good friends remains in the disciplines of being a good friend.
Moral of the story? Life-giving friendships are essential for our health as human beings.
Certainly, there are dozens of characteristics of a good friend, but rather than simply searching for these traits in a person, one of the best ways to find good friends remains in the disciplines of being a good friend.
King Solomon is known as one of the wisest leaders to have ever lived. Interestingly enough, he had much to write about friendship and the benefits derived from such relationships. We are still learning from his wisdom today, and I appreciate the counsel he provides in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,
“I turned my head and saw yet another wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness: a solitary person, completely alone—no children, no family, no friends—yet working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering to ask, “Why am I working like a dog, never having any fun? And who cares?” More smoke. A bad business.”
He says in verse 12, “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst.”
Friendship is powerful. A good friend can help us through adversity and even provide what riches and success cannot.
7 Characteristics of a Good Friend:
1. A Good Friend is Available.
It probably goes without saying, but a good friend aligns their schedule with the priority of friendship. Developing meaningful, lasting friendships is not a by-product, but is built through intentional, purposed time and energy. Thus, the starting point for any ongoing friendship will simply be time invested into the relationship.
According to Robert Rowney, D.O., a certified psychiatrist and director of the Cleveland Clinic mood disorder unit, “One thing that really gets in the way of these bonds is when people don’t make time to truly be with their friends…if you don’t purposefully make time to see them, it can really hinder the friendships overall and it’s one of the main reasons why friendships fall by the wayside.”
2. A Good Friend Listens.
According to listening expert Paul Sacco, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, the basic key to a balanced conversation is actively paying attention to the other person. “People who are good listeners validate other people’s feelings… It shows that what they’re saying makes sense.”
In fact, studies show that even the presence of a phone has the ability to take away from personal connection.
You’ve probably heard the analogy that God created us with two ears and one mouth, therefore we ought to listen twice as much as we speak. James 1:19 tells us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak…” A good friend is one who has the ability to listen more and talk less.
3. A Good Friend tells us what we NEED to hear not simply what we WANT to hear.
There is no doubt we love to hear what we want to hear. We like our ideas to be validated. We want friends to laugh at our jokes and to affirm our decisions. But a true friend doesn’t simply support our every action, but will challenge us to greater ways of thinking and action.
This means there will be times for tough conversations. Proverbs 27:5-6 tells us, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”
In other words, a good friend will provide sincere criticism regarding areas of your life that might have veered off track. Whether it’s spiritual, physical, emotional or attitudinal, better to receive correction from a friend who has your best interest and future in mind than simply surround yourself with people who will tell you what you want to hear.
Who you allow to speak into your life and the voices you limit are the single most important influence on your future.
4. A Good Friend Makes You Stronger.
Proverbs 13:20 (MSG) says, “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” No one sets out to establish a life that “falls to pieces.” But the reality is that the friends we choose dictates the direction of our lives. It’s the old adage “show me your friends, I’ll show you your future.”
Friends have a significant role in the shaping of your life, values, goals and even aspirations. When you run with people who are committed to building a life on the wisdom of the Lord, the likelihood of your future being strong significantly increases.
The words you speak into a friend’s life and the words you allow spoken into yours have incredible impact. Who you allow to speak into your life and the voices you limit are the single most important influence on your future. This thought alone should cause us to seriously consider those we allow to have significant influence in our lives and consider how our words are inspiring others forward.
5. A Good Friend Forgives.
Just because you are close with someone doesn’t mean you’re going to see everything eye to eye. It’s the idea that the closer a person is to you, the more likely they are to step on your toes. Every lasting friendship will necessitate times where repentance and forgiveness are willingly exchanged.
There are no perfect friendships and we should accept the fact that there will be times when things are done that will require our seeking forgiveness or extending it.
Proverbs 17:9 (MSG) says “Overlook an offense and bond a friendship; fasten on to a slight and goodbye, friend!” Sometimes it’s just better to overlook an offense. When appropriate, choose the path of peace and trust the Lord with the outcome.
6. A Good Friend is Trustworthy.
Trust is one of friendships most important values.
Proverbs 11:13 tells us, “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” Trustworthiness is essential to a healthy, lasting friendship. One of the simplest ways to know if you’re trustworthy is to evaluate what you tell others. Are you a person who reveals information someone has placed confidence in you to keep? Do you find people telling you the “secrets” of others?
If your desire is to be a good friend, be a person of trust. Trust is one of friendships most important values. Trust is extended to a friend and either strengthened or diminished based on our stewarding of it.
7. A Good Friend Values the Spiritual Growth of Their Friends.
Perhaps the greatest service a good friend can provide is a continual encouragement to become more like Jesus. For believers, this ought to be the single most important goal in life. A good friend is committed to encouraging the faith and spiritual growth of their friends.
Jesus asks the question, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36 ESV)” While we are encouraging our friends in their marriage, career endeavors and financial goals, we must not neglect the far greater goal of living a life that realizes the eternal weight and significance believers are called to strive toward. We can make much of our name on earth that can result in little or no eternal value. Therefore, a good friend focuses on the ultimate things and not simply the temporary.
Friendship is a gift from God. He wants you to experience life-giving, soul-strengthening friendships that will inspire and encourage you to be your best. As you consider these seven characteristics, ask yourself, are my actions and commitments developing me into a good friend? And have I surrounded myself with people that are speaking life and growth into me?
There are few things more important than who we choose as our closest friends, which is why King Solomon encourages us in this way in Proverbs 12:26 (NKJV),
“The righteous should choose his friends carefully…”