by Leslee Stewart
For many years I thought the more friends I had in my life, the better my life must be. I spent most of my teens and 20s collecting as many friends as possible. I treated my physical life like a Facebook life – the higher the number of friends I had, the more social invitations I received, the more gossip I was privy to, the more “fun” I seemed to be having. But despite having lots of friends in my life, there were still times I felt very alone, like I didn’t have anyone I could really be myself around. It’s a strange feeling to be surrounded by so many people, yet close to no one.
Then a job moved me away from all my friends, away from all that was familiar. It was actually a blessing in disguise because God used that time show me what His word says about being a friend, and how wrong I’d had it all along.
God’s not called you to be best friends with everyone.
The type of friendship God’s called you to is distinct from any other relationship in your life. It’s different than relationships with your family, your co-workers, a mother/daughter relationship, or even a mentor/mentee relationship.
In order to better understand what true Godly friendship is, it helps to understand the difference between friends and acquaintances. Acquaintances are usually socially satisfying. True friendships are emotionally satisfying. Think of it this way: acquaintances are head-to-head relationships, but true friendships engage the heart.
So true friends – best friends – cannot be all of your Facebook friends. It’s not possible to have the type of relationship God’s called you to have with a host of people. For me, there’s only about three or four people in my life who fit this description.
And why is that? It’s because there is a closeness involved with true friendships. The closeness is made in the day-to-day. It’s not dependant on a staged environment. I don’t have to get a coffee or go shopping with one of my best friends in order to have a good time. These are the ladies in my life who I don’t bother cleaning house for. They are welcome, no matter how much laundry is piled up.
We need to be careful about who we chose as our true friends. In this type of relationship you will be sharing your heart and hurts with one another. And you will influence each other – good or bad. Proverbs 22:24-25 says, “Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.”
Friends are either going to make you better or make you worse. You’ll be a better or worse wife because of your friends. You’ll be a better or worse mother because of your friends. You’ll be a better or worse Christian because of your friends. You’ll be better or worse at spending money because of your friends. You’ll be better or worse at taking care of your health because of your friends. Friends influence friends.
That’s why it’s so important to choose them wisely. As it says in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” A true, Godly friend will sharpen you, and vice versa. She’s not going to make you a duller person.
A friend loves at all time.
In the Facebook world of friendship, it’s very easy to hide or even delete someone who is bugging you. Maybe she shares a little too much personal information, or maybe she’s always pushing her politics on you. Whatever the case, Facebook makes it easy to put distance between you and a friend you’re not feeling so friendly about.
But in the real world, that’s not so easy, especially when it comes to best friends. What are you supposed to do when your true friend is driving you crazy?
My best friend, Kelly, and I have been friends for over 20 years. Despite the length of our relationship, there have been times when I haven’t been the most loveable person. And there have been times when Kelly’s tested my resolve, too. But our friendship has endured because we’re both committed to doing what it says in Proverbs 17:17: “A friend loves at all times.” Kelly knows that I’m going to love her whether she’s loveable or not, whether she needs me or not, whether we have the best time or a boring time, and I know she feels the same about me.
We need our friends to stick with us – especially when we don’t act like it. And we need to tell our friends, “I need you…and even if I don’t need you…I want you!”
Are you my friend or my counselor?
In true friendships, God’s called for counsel to be a two-way street. When you look at your group of friends, are they your friends or are they your counselors? Are you their friend, or are you their counselor?
In Proverbs 27:9 it says, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” Godly friendships shift counsel back and forth.
I can’t tell you how often I see people use Facebook to answer their problems! Should I date this guy or not? Should I change jobs or not? We love getting other opinions, but we need to exercise caution on what we reveal and whom we seek counsel from.
Last year my husband and I were considering moving our oldest to a new school. This is one of those things I could have posted on Facebook and asked for lots of ideas and opinions on where to go and what to do.
But instead I sought the counsel of my best friend, Amy. Amy’s a former educator with her own specific ideas and opinions on education. She very easily could have used that to influence me and the decision we were facing. But she didn’t. Instead she prayed with me and gave me good advice that wasn’t based on her own opinions and feelings on the matter.
Heartfelt counsel means my friend is going to speak to me from the heart, to the heart. It’s soul talk. She speaks to me from a place of counsel – from her own soul – it’s not from the top of her head. I don’t want someone who just speaks about the obvious things of my circumstances. I want someone who can speak to my heart.
I don’t have a single close friend who I don’t get good counsel from. It’s one of the most important hallmarks of my relationship with them. I don’t want someone to patronize me. I want them to tell me like it is, even when it’s hard to hear. We have to have someone in our life who gives us heartfelt counsel. And when friends come to us with their problems, we want to be able to have a word from our heart to theirs.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
If you’re going to have a Godly friendships – “iron-sharpening-iron friendships” – and you’re going to get close, then you’re going to get stuck with that iron from time to time. Wounds are going to happen. We are going to hurt those who are closest to us. It’s inevitable, especially in friendships where we are going to give and receive heartfelt counsel.
Proverbs 27:5-6 says, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love. Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” This verse says that a good friend is trustworthy, even with a wound.
In my relationships with my closest friends, there have been times that I’ve had to share something with them that I knew could potentially hurt them. And sometimes the truth I had to share could have ended our friendship.
Honesty isn’t easy, but God’s called you to speak the truth in love to those in your life that you care about. This isn’t about tearing down your friend or putting her in her place. This is about speaking from your heart to her heart, even if she might not like what you have to say.
And if a true friend ever has to come to us and “wound” us about something, we need to trust that it is meant to bring healing to our lives. We need to trust their good will, whether or not we agree with what they are saying.
Cover, counsel and pray.
Having these types of friendships comes with a risk – the risk of them betraying your confidence.
Proverbs 17:9 says, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter (gossips) separates close friends.”
Sometimes an intimate friend will share something big with you, and you just can’t quit thinking about it. You think you need to tell somebody – or maybe pray with somebody about it. But you know how that goes…you tell somebody, then they tell somebody, then they tell somebody…
When your friend tells you something big, go find someplace quiet and tell every single detail of it to God. Pour it all out to Him…”Lord, you’re never going to believe what she told me!”
You know what the strangest thing is? If you do this, you will have the same emotional satisfaction you get as when you tell a friend. Pouring it out to God will do the same thing. It’ll get it off your chest and you’ll feel more at ease.
Some of the biggest offenses and hurts some of us have been dealt have been at the hands of a friend. Instead of gossiping about a friend, we need to guard them and their heart.
I constantly have a problem with black pepper getting stuck in my teeth, so I always appreciate it when a friend will tell me about it and save me the embarrassment of blabbing away while all this stuff is in my grill!
We have the same responsibility to cover our friends when they’re showing a little too much emotionally. Instead of gossiping about her situation, we need to cover her, counsel her and most importantly pray for her. It’s what you’d want her to do for you.
Let’s commit to being better friends the way God intended for us to be.
- How to be a Best Friend Forever by John Townsend
- Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud
- Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & John Townsend
- “A Wise Friend” video message from “Wising Up” by Beth Moore
Leslee Stewart oversees communications for GFC Beautiful. She is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two boys and former communications executive. She openly admits she owns too many throw pillows, loves junky old furniture and can sing all the parts of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”