“You will not make it in life unless you are really good at choosing, forging, and keeping terrific friendships.”
Timothy Keller, a well known and respected pastor who hails out of New York, stated this in a video I recently watched for a church leadership class. It’s fitting, really, that for the whole month of May our training devoted itself in the art of relationships. Questions that stirred included, “What makes a friend? How do I choose them as an adult? Am I a good friend?”
Keller went on to explain that “Friendship is the only love that is absolutely deliberate. It will not push itself upon you.”
That makes me stop and think–I need to choose well in regards to my friends, but how do I chose well? What are the characteristics of a friend that I should seek after? Or vice versa, the characteristics that I must display that will make me an affectionate, loyal, loving friend?
The video progressed to explain four things needed to create a friend: constancy, carefulness, candor, and counsel.
I must be faithful and dependable. Proverbs 18:24 challenges us with these words: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” To me constancy means I am that faithful friend, one who can be called (or texted) in the middle of the night. I come over when you’re overwhelmed with a pick-me-up coffee and a smile. I show up, time and again, without question. I let you in, all of you, and don’t shy away when life gets particularly hard or messy. A true friend sacrifices their time in order to be there for their people. I am determined to be a constant friend.
To be a faithful friend I need to be aware of my friend’s well-being and emotional state. This is the second aspect of a good friend. When friends are walking through perilous times in their lives, I am sensitive to their needs. I am unable to rejoice in my life when my true friend is unwell. On the contrary, when my friend is rejoicing, I am celebrating with them. I am acutely aware of their emotional and mental health, and display empathy. I am determined to be a careful friend.
I will be a truth-teller. I speak into my friend’s lives with frankness and honest expression. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” I know someone is a true friend when they are not afraid to share with me things I need to hear, but might not want to hear. Do I wield the truth to my dearest friends, even if it’s uncomfortable? Am I speaking God’s Word into their life when lies deceive and they are lead astray? I also recognize their giftings, remind them when forgotten, and spur them on in serving the Kingdom of God. I am determined to be a candid friend.
Lastly, as a true friend, I am to counsel those I love and have chosen to be in my life. James 3:17 shares, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” When I am counseling a friend, I am first seeking after truth from Scripture. I am always ensuring that my counsel is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and finally, sincere. If my counsel does not align with these characteristics, it is unwarranted and therefore not useful. I am determined to be a counseling friend.
In my lifetime, I have encountered many a friendship. Some friendships turned out to be more seasonal, some have lasted over half of my life. The beauty of a friend is that they are irreplaceable, and a gift from God. C.S. Lewis beautifully sums up friendship in the Four Loves.
“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”
As I am reminded of Keller’s four characteristics of a good friend, I am also reminded that God is always at work, even in our friendships. He knows that in order to make it through life, we need friends to cleave to in adversity and to rejoice with in happy times. Friends are a reflection of God’s goodness and faithful love toward us.
Sarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Twitter.